Dunkirk, NY (Lake Erie) Dredger GEORGE J. WHELAN Sinks, July 1930

The George J. Whelan.jpg

LOCAL SANDSUCKER SINKS WITH LOSS OF 15 LIVES; SURVIVORS TESTIFY STONE CARGO LISTED IN BOW.

SIX SAVED AS WHELAN TURNS OVER.

CREW HAD TIME TO MAN LIFEBOATS, INQUIRY REVEALS.

Erie, Pa., July 29 (AP) -- A cargo of limestone, absorbing water tossed up by high waves, first caused the listing of the ill-fated sandsucker, the GEORGE J. WHELAN, which tipped over and sank early today off Dunkirk, N.Y., with a loss of 15 lives, according to testimony given tonight by surviving members of the crew.
The testimony was given before Captain William P. Nolan and Captain James M. Todd, Federal inspectors, who began an immediate investigation upon their arrival from Buffalo.
The surviving crew members said that the high waves were tossed up after the wind suddenly shifted and that, as the limestone absorbed more of the water the sandsucker began listing to port.
The crew then was called on deck, the survivors related, and sat down on the right side.
They testified that there was ample time to get the life boats away after it became apparent that the boat would tip over but the captain did not issue the orders.
The survivors testified that the boat overturned so suddenly that they were thrown clear, thus accounting for their escape. They said the boat left Sandusky Monday morning and was headed for Buffalo.
The boat formerly was a freighter, but was transformed into a sandsucker this spring. The exact location of the sinking is believed to be 35 miles north of Erie.
The one body recovered was that of THOMAS PEARCE, registered as from Sandusky, O., found by a coast guard cutter out of Buffalo late today. Among the other victims was the captain of the Whelan, T. J. WAGGE, Cleveland, and a woman, MRS. CHARLES GODFREY, of Cleveland, a cook on the vessel.
The survivors declined to comment on the sinking of the craft until they had conferred with the owners. The Whelan was the property of the Kelleys Island Lime and Transport Company, a Cleveland and Sandusky concern.
Although survivors were unable to account for the boat's overturning in a calm sea, lake sailors hazarded the guess that the vessel's load of limestone must have shifted.
Included in the missing was Captain THOMAS J. WAAGE, Cleveland.
The woman drowned was MRS. CHARLES GODFREY, Cleveland, assistant steward. Her husband, steward, is also missing.
The rescue was made at 2:30 a.m. 22 miles west of Dunkirk by members of the crew of the freighter Amasa Stone. The six men were found struggling in the water. Only two had life preservers.
Survivors were brought, suffering from exhaustion, to the coast guard station here, where they were given clothing.
First Mate OHLEMACHER, only officer rescued, made the following statement:
"It is the custom of the sea not to make comment on what has happened until we have conferred with the owners of the vessel. We shall pursue the same course."
"There is nothing further to tell regarding what happened until official statements are made or until an investigation is made."
As OHLEMACHER said goodby on the dock to Captain W. H. McNeill, who supervised the rescue work he turned to him and said:
"I'll always remember what you did for us, Captain. You certainly saved us. I and the rest of these men owe you a lot and we certainly will not forget it."
The 200-foot stone boat, which was fully loaded, overturned suddenly just after midnight. Most of the men drowned went down at that time.
Survivors of the disaster swam about in the darkness until Captain McNeill of the Amasa Stone heard their cries.
The freighter put out a small boat, and six men were picked up in the darkness. Cries of several more were heard, McNeill said, but they could not be found. The Amasa Stone stood by until dawn but search then for survivors was unaviling.

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