Staten Island, NY Ferryboat Accident, May 1902


The heavy and rather unusual spring fog which enveloped bay and river to-day was responsible for two serious collisions in the harbor, in one of which one man was killed and in the other a hundred or more passengers were carried down with the tide on an almost helpless ferryboat, but were later rescued uninjured in a panic stricken condition. The crash resulting in a fatality occurred at a little before 11 o'clock between the steam yacht AILEEN and the Staten Island Rapid Transit Company's ferryboat, MIDDLETOWN. Near Governor's Island the yacht's bowsprit smashed the starboard side of the Middletown and J. C. ATTERBURY of Manor Road, West New Brighton, Staten Island, who was sitting in the men's cabin, was instantly killed.
The Middletown left St. George, S. I., at 10:20 o'clock for her slip at South Ferry. The bay was covered with a dense fog and her whistle was blown repeatedly. Everything went smoothly until after Bay Ridge was passed, when Captain CATTERMOLE noticed a steam yacht, painted white, coming toward the ferryboat.
The captain saw that the yacht was to cross the ferryboat's path and he signaled for her to pass astern. The captain says that no notice was taken of his signal, and the yacht came on until, with a terrific crash, she collided with the starboard side of the Middletown.
Luckily, most of the men passengers were on the front deck watching the movements of the yacht, leaving only a few in the men's cabin. MR. ATTERBURY was sitting in the center of the cabin at the point where the bowsprit of the yacht penetrated. The yacht tore a hole in the side of the cabin about twelve feet square, and after waiting a few minutes backed away and kept on her course.
MISS C. F. CROCHERON, of West New Brighton, who, with her mother, was a passenger on the Middletown, gave the following account of the accident:
“My mother and I were sitting on the other side of the boat when the collision occurred, and we thought something dreadful had happened. We all rushed to the other side to see what had happened, but I want to say that the women deserve great commendation for the way they behaved. There was no panic or confusion among them and they kept perfectly cool. Of course the sight of poor MR. ATTERBURY, who was a great friend of ours, lying dead among the splinters and wreckage was an awful shock, especially when it seemed to us as if we had only just been speaking to him. He had a son, who is employed by J. P. MORGAN & CO., and I presume he was on his way to see him.”
Captain CATTERMOLE, who was arrested, made a statement before he was taken to the station house, in which he explained the cause of the collision.
“In spite of the fog,” said the captain, “I saw the yacht plainly and she had plenty of time to change her course. As she was crossing the bay and I was coming on a direct course, I had the right of way. I therefore signalied[sic] to her to sheer off and pass astern, but she apparently took no notice and kept coming straight on.”
“ I at once gave the signal to reverse the engines, when I saw that a collision was inevitable, but we were going too fast and I could not stop my boat in time. The yacht was not damaged at all as far as I could see, but she backed away so quickly that I could not see clearly what really happened to her. Although I hailed to her to wait she again took no notice, but made off as fast as she could. The accident could not be avoided.”
“When the captain of a vessel refuses to take any notice of whistles or any other signals he is bound to get into trouble sooner or later, and I cannot be blamed for this unfortunate calamity.”
FRANK ATTERBURY, son of J. C. ATTERBURY, the man killed, left the office of J. P. MORGAN & CO. as soon as he heard of the accident, and went to the South Ferry. The body was placed in a back room of the ferry house, after being examined by an ambulance surgeon of the Hudson Street Hospital, to await the arrival of the coroner. MR. ATTERBURY was 54 years old, and was one of the best known residents of Staten Island.
The yacht Aileen is owned by EDWIN GOULD. She is of 17,800 gross tonnage, 10,000 net, 154 feet in length over all, 123 feet on the water line, 20.6 breadth of beam, 10.6 depth of hold, drawing nine feet of water. The engines are of the triple expansion type.

Brooklyn Eagle New York 1902-05-19