Asbury Park, NJ The SS MORRO CASTLE Disaster, Sep 1934
CROWD SWARMS OFFICES.
New York (AP) -- An agitated crowd of several hundred persons swarmed the Ward Line offices this morning begging news of the survivors of the burning Ward passenger liner the Morro Castle.
Line officers at Piers 13 and 14, East River, were able to say only that some survivors had been taken off the ship and that she was still afloat about a mile and a half or two miles off Spring Lake or Asbury Park, N.J.
SWIM TO SHORE.
Sea Girt, N.J. (AP) -- After nearly six hours in the water, MR. and MRS. ABRAHAM COHEN of Hartford, Conn., survivors of the burning steamship, Morro Castle, swam safely to shore today.
The couple had one life preserver between them. They were the first to land of a group of people seen swimming or clinging to pieces of wreckage near shore.
Coast guard put out two lifeboats in an effort to reach the rest of the swimmers.
The COHEN'S collapsed and were taken to a nearby hospital.
The Daily Messenger Canandaigua New York 1934-09-08
SHIP FIRE BELIEVED INCENDIARY ORIGIN.
DECLARES ATTEMPT MADE TO FIRE THE BOAT PREVIOUSLY.
SAYS FIRE DISCOVERED IN LOCKER WHICH BLEW OUT AT START; CREW HELD NEW AND UNDISCIPLINED BY REP. SUTPHIN.
New York (AP) -- Chief Officer W. F. WARMS told a federal Board of Inquiry today he believed the raging fire which early Saturday reduced the luxurious liner, Morro Castle, to a charred hulk and caused a loss of more than 116 lives, was of incendiary origin.
He said he based this belief on the fact that a locker in the writing room below "blew out" at the start of the fatal fire.
"I believe there was gasoline or kerosene in it," he said.
WARMS, who as acting master of the ship at the time of the disaster testified his belief that the disaster resulted from the work of an incendiary, was based also on the fact that during the previous voyage of the Morro Castle a fire broke out in the hold and charred paper was found in that hold.
WARMS broke down twice during his testimony, both times when he spoke of Capt. ROBERT R. WILMOTT, master of the ship, who died suddenly the night before the fire.
The chief officer described frantic scenes aboard the ship during the fire.
"I shouted orders to get the passengers in the life boats," he testified, "but the passengers were shouting and there was great confusion. Many of them wouldn't get in the lifeboats."
He testified the first word of the fire reached him at 2:45 E.S.T. An officer he sent to investigate turned a fire extinguisher on a locker and it "blew out" WARMS said. A few minutes before 3, he testified, he sounded a general alarm.
"I did all I could," he said. He added he ordered the crew turned out and ordered tin cans be used if necessary to arouse the passengers.
Sent First Message.
The first wireless message, a "standby" signal, went out about 3:15, WARMS said, and the "S.O.S.," about a minute later. He said he delayed sending a message because he thought he could control the fire.
WARMS said there had been drinking parties in the lounge just before the fire, but as they were very common he thought there was nothing to be uneasy about.
WARMS denied reports that lifeboats left the ship without orders. He said panic was created by passengers, many of whom refused to get into the boats.
"I hollered 'For God's sake get into the boats' and I saw a steward pick one girl up and forcibly put her in," WARMS testified.
The inquiry, presided over by DICKERSON N. HOOVER, assistant director of the Bureau of Navigation at Washington, opened before a packed hearing room at the New York custom house.
The first witness was Chief Officer W. F. WARMS, whose lined countenance was mute and eloquent evidence of the horror of his experiences on the fire swept liner.
At the hearing table with HOOVER was MARTIN CONBOY, United States attorney, an "observer: JOHN L. CRONE, superintendent of steamboat inspectors of the 2nd inspection district: JAMES SMITH local inspector of boilers: and Captain CARL C. NIELSON, local inspector of hulls.