Newport, KY G. W. McBride Tugboat Crash, Feb. 22, 1942


Swollen Ohio Currents Dash Boat Against Pier in Ohio River

NEWPORT, Ky. - From the splintered tugboat G.W. McBride, rivermen sought today to recover 16 persons trapped when the swollen Ohio river dashed the boat against the stone bridge pier before dawn Sunday.

Two men in a johnboat rescued five crewmen who scrambled atop the portside of the towboat which broke in half against the pier and rolled on its side. One of those rescued Earnest Easter, 37-year-old Buena Vista, O., deck hand, said:

"She went down just as fast as it takes you to climb from the first to the second floor."

The bodies of 13 men and three women were believed still to be in the 170-foot boat that swirling channel waters pinned against the upriver side of the pier near midstream, leaving only a small part above the waters.

Ross Smith, a professional diver, volunteered help for today's renewal of an effort to recover the missing.

Rivermen recalled the tragedy as the worst on the Ohio in more than 20 years.

The victims were: Capt. Peter Oliver Lallance, 60, of Ashland, Ky.; Capt. Roy Edgington, 49, pilot, of Augusta, Ky.; James Crum, mate, of Catlettsburg, Ky.; Kenneth Pesk, 45, chief engineer, of Henderson, W. Va.; Charles Sayre, 38, engineer, of Henderson; Hurley Burchfield, 33, deck hand, of Henderson; Clarence James, watchman, of Huntington, W. Va.; Charles Medley, 42, and his brother, Sam, firemen, both of Huntington.

James Foulks, fireman, and his wife, Jessie, second cook, both of Huntington; Mrs. Arley Henderson, 40, and her sister, Mrs. Verna Conner, 38, cooks, both of Miller, O.; Hartzell Brown, fireman, of Buena Vista, O.; Robert Kinkaid, boiler deck hand, of Portsmouth, O.; Keneth McLean, deck hand, of Concord, Ky.

Joe Haas and Bill Pierman rowed from the Southern Ohio Yacht club through the hazy darkness to the wrecked boat and saved five crewmen as they huddled together on the side of the gunwale calling for help.

Rescued were Easter and George Harrison, 28, both of Buena Vista; Raleigh W. Hierman, 33, engineer, of Huntington; George Woomer, 30, engineer, of Henderson; and John W. Cain, 18, deck hand, of North Kenova, O.

The McBride, owned by the Ohio River company, approached the first of the five bridges connecting Cincinnati and northern Kentucky with four barges loaded with 1,000 tons of coal each and a fuel flat. This bridge, the recently toll-freed Louisville and Nashville railroad span, is in one of the most difficult stretches of the entire Ohio river to navigate, rivermen said, as the current shifts at high river stages and pushes boats toward the pier.

Making ready for this run, the McBride left five loaded barges a few miles upstream.

The McBride struck the pier broadside. Engineer Woomer said "five minutes before the crash we received a signal to back off. The boat backed full head, stopped right quick, changed rudder and was backing full head again at the time she broke in two."

Cut loose, the four barges floated downstream. One sank, two were picked up by the Union Barge line towboat "Peace," and a third was breached.

"A thorough investigation" was promised by E.J. Gutzwiller of Huntington, superintendent of the company. Arch L. Long, Cincinnati superintendent of the firm, estimated the destroyed boat's value at $100,000.

Source: "Boatmen Save Five as Craft Smashes Up." The Mansfield News-Journal. Page 3. Published 23 Feb 1942. Accessed on on 15 Mar 2013.

Also appears: "Seek Bodies of 16 Drowned in Ohio River: Towboat Hits Pier; Only 5 are Rescued." The Sandusky Register-Star News. Page 2. Published 23 Feb 1942. Accessed on on 15 Mar 2013.