Seattle, WA Gangplank Collapses, May 1912
COLMAN DOCK GANGPLANK FAILURE DUNKS PASSENGERS BOARDING STEAMER FLYER.
58 INJURED AND TWO DROWNED.
Elliott Bay, Wash. -- At about 11:00 a.m. the Flyer began loading for Tacoma. More than half the passengers had crowded onto the gangplank and then onto the steamer when suddenly the outer end collapsed, plunging more than 60 persons headlong into the water of Elliott Bay.
Captain Everett B. Coffin, seeing the mishap, immediately sounded the emergency signal. Then he ordered all hands to throw overboard life preservers, wooden deck chairs and anything that would float giving the victims something to cling to until rescued. Several of the Flyer's crew donned life preservers and jumped into the water to assist struggling victims. Meanwhile, help was arriving from all over the waterfront. Within minutes, Railroad Avenue was crowded with ambulances, police cars, taxicabs and automobiles.
The steamers Puget and Rosalie lowered lifeboats and began picking up survivors. The fireboat Snoqualmie, moored nearby, raced to the rescue as did the motor launch Skeeter and several other small craft. NEWTON JOHNS, bootblack at the Colman Dock shoeshine stand, jumped into the water and was credited with saving 10 lives. Bystanders on Colman Dock threw lifelines into the water and dragged survivors toward the end of the collapsed gangplank, enabling them to climb to safety. Several passengers clung to pilings while others held onto floating objects or tread water until rescued by the boats. Within 10 minutes, everyone had been fished out of the bay and rushed to nearby hospitals.
The official toll from the tragedy was 58 passengers injured and two drowned, who were:
MRS. FLORENCE E. LEARNERD, age 30.
GEORGE BRUDER, age 3.
The majority of the injuries were cuts and bruises. However several survivors arrived at City Hospital unconscious and had to be revived. A pulmotor had been rushed to the hospital from the mine rescue station at the University of Washington.
From www.historylink.us 1912-05-19