New Orleans, LA Steamer J. M. WHITE Burns, Dec 1886
BURNING OF THE STEAMER J. M. WHITE ON THE LOWER MISSISSIPPI.
SIXTY PERSONS BURNED TO DEATH, BUT THE WHITE OFFICERS OF THE VESSEL WERE NOT AMONG THEM.
New Orleans, Dec. 15. -- From interviews with men and officers of the ill-fated steamboat, J. M. White, the New Orleans States has collected the following details of the disaster.
The White was hauled up to the dock, and thirty or forty roustabouts were getting cotton seed aboard, when Watchman TOM MILLER began to ring the alarm bell and shouts of "fire" were heard. Great confusion ensued. Employes ran quickly about to wake up the sleeping passengers, who hurried out partly dressed and panic-stricken.
Second Engineer TOM BARRY was the man who first saw the fire. It was in a cotton bale amidship. He cried "fire" and MILLER at once began, ringing the bell and stayed at his post, until driven away by the advancing flames.
WM. McGREEVY, chief engineer, was asleep in the texas. Being awakened by the clanging bell, he sprang from his bed and groped his way through the smoke to arouse his partner, JOHN PALASIER, second assistant engineer. Meeting PALASIER about midway, the two men began a search through the suffocating smoke for others who slept in the texas. They were unable to discover any one and believing all had escaped, they crawled to the hurricane deck, from whence they climbed down on one of the stanchions to the right side of the boat and escaped to shore.
Two streams of water had been brought to play upon the fire, and the engineers fought the flames step by step, but were finally forced to deop the hose and save themselves.
The flames made very rapid progress, and in a short time the entire left side of the boat was a mass of flames. The railing of the cabin deck was soon on fire, and the entire boat was encircled in flames. The shrieks of the passengers and crew and the crackling of the fire caused great excitement.
Head Clerk McVAY was in his cabin when he heard the first alarm. He had barely time to secure some of the money from the safe and the most valuable papers, before the flames were upon him. He then ran out and devoted himself to efforts to save the passengers. He says there were fifteen or eighteen cabin passengers, of whom eight were ladies. He first awakened second clerk JOHN CALLAHAN, who did not stop to put any clothing on except his shirt and trousers. McVAY and CALLAHAN made a rapid tour of the rooms to make sure that no one was left unwarned of danger.
Among the passengers who crowded together on the deck, most of whom were clad only in night garments, was a gentleman who was recognized as the superintendent of the Vidalia Southern Railroad, who was traveling with his wife and two girls, nine and twelve years old. As the roaring flames drew near the group, the father, seeing that they would be burned to death if they remained, grasped his little girls, one after the other, and threw them into the water. He was urging his wife to take the leap when a burst of flames enveloped them. They soon fell, apparently suffocated by inhaling the fire, and were burned to death.
JOHN STOUT and BOB SMITH, the pilots on watch were in the pilot house and were compelled to jump into the river, where they were picked up. They had a narrow escape from death.
Continued on Page 2.