Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

Sixth Day

Quebec,
Monday, June 22, 1914.

 

The Commissioners appointed by the Honourable John Douglas Hazen, the Min­ister of Marine and Fisheries of Canada, under Part X of the Canada Shipping Act as amended, to inquire into a casualty to the British Steamship Empress of Ireland, in which the said steamship belonging to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company was sunk in collision with the Norwegian Steamship Storstad, in the River St. Lawrence on the morning of Friday the 29th day of May, 1914, met at Quebec this morning, the Twenty-second day of June, 1914.

Lord Mersey:
We will sit to-day until 11 o'clock; we will then adjourn for the reception to His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught. We will resume our sitting as soon as we can after the proceedings of the reception. The court will not sit between half past one, or twenty minutes after one, and a quarter to three, because some of us are engaged to attend a luncheon in honour of the Duke. To-morrow we propose to sit only until half past one and then the court will adjourn in order that those gentlemen who desire to pay honour to His Eminence, Cardinal Begin, may do so. Therefore, there will be no sitting in the afternoon.

Lord Mersey:
We finished the evidence of Syvertsen, I think, on Saturday?

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes.

Lord Mersey:
Who is the next witness?

Mr. Haight:
Call Einar Reinertz.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Newcombe, make arrangements for having, to-morrow, a life belt in the condition in which it is placed in the cabins and tied up so that we may examine it and see whether it is a handy thing and easy to put on.

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord.

WITNESSES.

Einar Reinertz - Second Officer - ss. Storstad.
- Testimony

Knute Tonder - Seaman - ss. Storstad.
- Testimony.

 

AAGE AXGESEN, was called and sworn.

[At 11 o'clock the Commission rose to attend the reception to His Royal Highness the Governor General in another part of the Court House].

[The Commission resumed at 11.40 a.m. after attendance at the reception to His Royal Highness the Governor General.]

 

WITNESSES.

Aage Angesen - Seaman - ss. Storstad.
Testimony.

Karl Jansen - Fireman - ss. Storstad.
Testimony.

Ludwig Larsen - Coal Passer - ss. Storstad.
Testimony.

 

Mr. Haight:
Mr. Aspinall, I have here the oiler who has been referred to as being in the engine-room. I don't think he remembers much, but I will be glad to put him on the stand if you desire.

Mr. Aspinall:
My Lord, Mr. Haight tells me that this man doesn't remember very much, so I do not suppose that he will assist us much.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Haight, I think unless you desire to examine him that we will not need him.

Mr. Haight:
Well, my Lord, he remembers he answered some bells, but he doesn't remember what the bells were, so I don't think his evidence will be of much value.

Lord Mersey:
Well, I understand that Mr. Aspinall does not want him.

Mr. Aspinall:
No, my Lord, in view of Mr. Haight's statement that he remembers very little.

Mr. Haight:
That, my Lord, completes the testimony of the officers and crew of the Storstad. There is one witness that we would like to examine later, on more technical questions.

Lord Mersey:
By technical questions I take it you mean as to the damage that was done to the steamer Storstad.

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord, I mean a naval architect, who has examined very minutely the stem of the boat, and who, by reference to the plans that have been submitted here, will be able to show the court the relative levels of the different decks. But I would like to put that on after Mr. Hillhouse has been examined, and after we have got a little more data than at present.

Lord Mersey:
That is convenient is it not, Mr. Aspinall?

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Then who will be the next witness?

Mr. Aspinall:
My Lord, I make this application. Your Lordships will remember that you desired Mr. Newcombe to put in the log of the Storstad?

Lord Mersey:
Yes.

Mr. Aspinall:
We have cross-examined the gentleman who entered up the enginer's log, hut I have not had an opportunity yet of cross-examining the gentleman who wrote up the ship's log. The ship's log, as I expected, is in general accord with the story told in the witness box, but still I think it is desirable to have the story of the log sifted in cross-examination.

Lord Mersey:
Very well - it seems to me that it was the first mate who wrote up the ship's log of the Storstad, am I not right?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord, Mr. Toftenes.

Lord Mersey:
Is he here?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord, I have kept him here.

Lord Mersey:
Very well, will you please let him go back in the witness box?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord, I will have him called. I might inform your Lordship that we have a translation of the ship's log which I think will be of help to your Lordship.

Lord Mersey:
Yes, Mr. Haight, I understand you are now handing in a translation of the ship's log.

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Do you agree, Mr. Aspinall, that we may accept this as a translation?

Mr. Aspinall:
My Lord, we have seen the translation, and I am told that we agree on its being correct.

Lord Mersey:
Very well, let this be marked as an agreed translation of the Storstad's log.

Mr. Haight:
That log will be exhibit No. 16 of the Storstad.

 

WITNESS.

Alfred Severin Gensen Toftenes - Chief Officer - ss. Storstad.
Testimony - Recalled.

 

Lord Mersey:
You have finished your evidence now, Mr. Haight?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord, barring the expert evidence.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Aspinall, you have finished your evidence with the exception of your expert evidence?

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes.

Lord Mersey:
I understand that Mr. Haight also has expert evidence?

Mr. Haight:
Yes.

Lord Mersey:
There is something I rather want you to do, Mr. Aspinall, - I do not know whether you can do it in agreement with Mr. Haight - that is to mark the courses of the two vessels according to the evidence as to their bearings. I do not know whether I express myself technically.

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes, sir, I think so.

Lord Mersey:
But you see what I want?

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes.

Lord Mersey:
I want to get the directions in which these two vessels were moving in order to show how far they were clearing each other.

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes.

Lord Mersey:
And I should like that done on a chart and done by somebody who is capable of doing it. I do not know whether I have explained what I want.

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes, my Lord, I think I understand. Mr. Haight, will you try and follow this? I think that what is in His Lordship's mind is this: His Lordship has asked if we can do this in conjunction and perhaps we may be able to do it in conjunction. If we cannot we must try and do it apart, but what His Lordship has asked is this -

Lord Mersey:
You will do that?

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes.

Mr. Haight:
I think that before we try to plot the Empress's course, we will need more information than the Empress witnesses have yet given us. There are differences in the times that are difficult to explain. We find the wireless man telling us that by exact time it was 1.45 and Capt. Kendall says that by his time it was 1.55. We have no precise statement as to exactly how many minutes she ran on her first course of N 47 E, and we have really no definite statement as to speed.

Lord Mersey:
Is there not a definite statement on either of these two points?

Mr. Haight:
You remember that the second mate in seniority said that he thought they ran about 18 minutes on the N 47 E course and then three or four minutes N 72 E. I thought they would have their throttle open then, but subsequently I found that they had not yet got their throttle open.

Lord Mersey:
Their what?

Mr. Haight:
Their throttle was not yet wide open. The chief engineer, or the engineer on the watch, states that he had not acquired speed enough to justify the opening of the throttle.

Lord Mersey:
I have no doubt he did say so, but I do not recall it.

Mr. Haight:
I thought that possibly we could put back Capt. Kendall and the engineer and have a little more accurate information as to the differences of time from the deck log showing that the clocks were changed at the same time, the change not having been explained. We have tried quite hard to plot their course from the evidence now on record and it is really largely guess work - it cannot be done accurately.

Chief Justice McLeod:
If you get the time when the Empress left Father Point, if you know the course she was heading and if you have it stated practically where the collision occurred, why can it not be marked?

Mr. Haight:
Capt. Kendall has run his line only a certain distance.

Chief Justice McLeod:
If you were told where the line is that would still be the course and it can be marked.

Mr. Haight:
But we do not know how far to run it.

Lord Mersey:
I do not think there is any difficulty in marking the course because we are told what the course was.

Mr. Haight:
But there was a change in it, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
There was only one change.

Mr. Haight:
It makes a great difference where that change took place.

Lord Mersey:
No doubt it does. If, as you say, you have not got his time right or the speed at which the vessels were going, that, of course, might make a difference. Well, I have indicated what the information is I would like to have. If it cannot be given to us I will tell you what we shall do; we shall do without it.

Mr. Haight:
We will do what we can to give it to you.

At 1.10 the Commission rose.

(The Commission resumed at 3.30 o'clock.)

Lord Mersey:
There is some witness, I understand, Mr. Newcombe, that you desire to call at once so that he may get away.

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord, there are two in that class.

 

WITNESS.

Michel Gagnon - Master - Dominion Government Steamer Druid.
Testimony

Mr. Newcombe:
We have a gentleman here from the Dominion Coal Company.

Lord Mersey:
What is he to tell us?

Mr. Newcombe:
I understand that my learned friends of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company wish to ask him a few questions with regard to the terms of employment of the captain and officers.

Lord Mersey:
I do not want to ask anything.

Mr. Newcombe:
I do not want to ask anything.

Lord Mersey:
Do you, Mr. Aspinall?

Mr. Meredith:
The only question I would ask him would be as to whether the officers on the Storstad received anything in the way of gratuities.

Lord Mersey:
We have been told that they did not.

Mr. Meredith:
I should like to ask Mr. McIsaac, who is the head of the Dominion Coal Company so far as shipping is concerned, whether that is correct or not. That is the only question I wish to put to him.

Lord Mersey:
The persons who would be interested in that would be the ship owners. Of course the Dominion Coal Company would also be interested in it; if you think it is of any importance, let the gentleman come to the box.

Mr. Meredith:
I think it is important; I wish to ask him only one or two questions.

 

WITNESSES.

J. R. McIsaac - General Traffic Manager - Dominion Coal Company.
Testimony

Captain Poulit - Master - D. G. S. - Lady Evelyn.
Testimony

J. R. McIsaac - General Traffic Manager - Dominion Coal Company.
Testimony- Recalled

Michel Gagnon - Master - Dominion Government Steamer Druid.
Testimony- Recalled

 

Chief Justice McLeod:
It is your contention that the boat was struck while she was moving?

Mr. Haight:
My contention is that the Empress was moving across our bow and that as they came together the stem was swung around and she disappeared off in the fog.

Chief Justice McLeod:
And you say she went to the bottom some distance from the place where she first struck.

Mr. Haight:
Yes, she got beyond our vision in the fog and I have cross-examined to see how quickly she disappeared with the view of satisfying myself how far she could probably have gone but we have not found a witness who was quick enough, no matter how much clothes he had on, to get on deck before the port side was practically impossible. I assume she ran therefore a few lengths only.

Lord Mersey:
Is there any other witness?

Mr. Newcombe:
To go back to the subject you mentioned the other day, there are three survivors of the night watch among the stewards - Morl, Powell and McDonald. These men might know something about whether the doors were closed and whether the ports were closed.

Lord Mersey:
Did you ascertain what they do know?

Mr. Newcombe:
I have not seen them; they are here.

Lord Mersey:
You should have done it. You do not know whether they can tell us anything or not?

Mr. Newcombe:
I do not know what they can say.

Lord Mersey:
That is not the way to bring witnesses into court. Some one ought to inform you what they intend to say. However, if you think they are of sufficient importance let us call them.

 

WITNESS.

William Morl - Night Watchman - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony

 

Mr. Newcombe:
Call Mr. Powell.

Mr. Morl:
(the previous witness). - Mr. Powell is not here; he is attending a funeral this afternoon.

Chief Justice McLeod:
Do I understand that Steward Hayes has been called?

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes, my Lord.

Chief Justice McLeod:
Then we know all that he has to say.

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes, my Lord.

 

WITNESS.

Michel Gagnon - Master - Dominion Government Steamer Druid.
Testimony- Recalled.

 

Lord Mersey:
Now gentlemen, will you put these charts away? Now is there any other witness?

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord, I will call Captain Walsh.

 

WITNESS.

John F. Walsh - Chief Marine Superintendent - C.P.R.
Testimony - Recalled.

 

Lord Mersey:
Now, gentlemen, I cannot wait any longer. The shorthand writers have to make their report, and we shall have to get fresh shorthand writers if we don't rise now. Would you like this witness to come back to-morrow?

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Very well, then you will come back to-morrow, Captain Walsh?

Captain Walsh:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
And it is suggested that we have not sufficiently examined the stewards as to the closing of the water-tight doors. Now there is one witness who is engaged this afternoon, apparently, and I will need him to be here to-morrow, and my colleague the Chief Justice suggests that we have back the chief steward, Gaabe, and Williams. Can you get them, Mr. Aspinall?

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Let them be here.

Chief Justice McLeod:
It occurs to me that they may know something more about the closing of the water-tight doors.

Lord Mersey:
Then we will rise and adjourn until ten o'clock to-morrow morning.

 

The Commission thereupon adjourned until 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 23rd.