Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

NINTH DAY

 


QUEBEC

THURSDAY, June 25, 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 enquire 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-fifth day of June, 1914,

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Aspinall, have you any additional expert evidence to submit?

Mr. Aspinall:
There are two or three gentlemen to whom we have been talking, but they add nothing to the evidence given by Mr. Hillhouse.

Lord Mersey:
Then, so far as you are concerned, we have heard all the expert evidence?

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes, it would be only quantity; I do not think they would add anything to what has been given.

Lord Mersey:
Then under those circumstances, Mr. Haight, will you call Mr. Reid?

Mr. Haight:
We have, my Lord, three witnesses from the Empress as the result of a little further discussion we had with Mr. Holden yesterday, and if the Court will allow me I will address four or five questions to each of them. We went over with somewhat more care after the discussion in the morning some of the statements that had been given.

 

WITNESSES.

Charles Burns - Assistant Storekeeper - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony

Miss Townsend - Passenger - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony

George McOnie - Engineer - ss. Empress of Ireland.
Testimony

 

Lord Mersey:
These are the three witnesses?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Now, do you propose to call Mr. Reid?

Mr. Aspinall:
May I apply on behalf of the sailors of the Empress of Ireland, who are very anxious, Mr. Gibsone tells me, to get away. I believe there is some boat that is sailing at three o'clock. My application is.

Lord Mersey:
Do you mean whether we can let these men go?

Mr. Aspinall:
I am told that those anxious to get away are not only the sailors, but the passengers and also the officers. Naturally, that does not apply to Captain Kendall. I do not know whether Your Lordship desires that any of the officers should remain; they are very anxious to go.

Lord Mersey:
What do you say, Mr. Haight?

Mr. Haight:
I think possibly that the court will wish to have Mr. Jones here, as well as Captain Kendall.

Lord Mersey:
I do not want Captain Kendall to go.

Mr. Aspinall:
No, I do not suggest that he should go.

Mr. Haight:
Mr. Jones, your Lordship, was the senior officer of the watch. Captain Kendall theoretically is always in command, but it was Mr. Jones' watch. As there will be questions as to his testimony, your Lordship may wish to have him here.

Lord Mersey:
I do wish Captain Kendall to stay; we may want to ask him some questions. Is there any objection to keeping Jones?

Mr. Aspinall:
No.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Aspinall, we think that Captain Kendall ought to be kept; we think that because Mr. Haight wants him Jones ought to be kept, and some of us think that perhaps it might be worth while to keep the chief engineer.

Mr. Aspinall:
I am sorry to hear your Lordship say that; he is particularly anxious to get away.

Lord Mersey:
Speaking for myself, I thought that we had all that we wanted.

Mr. Aspinall:
I am told that he and his wife have been very seriously disturbed by this catastrophe, and that he is extremely anxious to go; but if the court wishes him to stay, he shall stay.

Lord Mersey:
We are of the opinion that it is not necessary to keep him.

Mr. Aspinall:
May I remind your Lordship that he was not in charge of the engines. The man who was in charge was examined; we will keep him.

Lord Mersey:
I beg your pardon, Mr. Newcombe, I did not ask you whether you wished to ask the witness any questions.

Mr. Newcombe:
No, my Lord, it is not that. It was suggested by one of the members of the court that a navigator should be called to testify as to the usual course of proceeding to sea after putting down the pilot at Father Point. I have Captain Murray here; he is the harbour master at Quebec - a master of long experience in the St. Lawrence route - and has already testified. He has been with the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, although he has no connection with them now, and he is the only captain of his class available at the moment.

Lord Mersey:
Is that the best evidence that you have at present available?

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, it is the only sort of satisfactory evidence that we have at the moment.

Chief Justice McLeod:
I think the suggestion was mine; my intention in making it was to have the testimony of some independent captain who is not connected with the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Mr. Newcombe:
He was in command for two or three voyages, I think. Tomorrow we may be able to get a captain from the White Star Line in Montreal. There is a ship going out on Saturday, and we may possibly be able to get him here. There is no Allan line captain here.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Haight, tell me this: assuming that Captain Kendall did take the courses that he says he took, do you say they were wrong courses?

Mr. Haight:
I say they were wrong only because of the presence and the position of the Storstad.

Lord Mersey:
I think I understand that. You do not say that they were not the normal courses taken by ships of this class putting out to'sea?

Mr. Haight:
According to my judgment, my Lord, if the Storstad had been out on the Atlantic instead of coming up the St. Lawrence, he might have left Father Point on any course that he saw fit, so long as he steered clear of the rocks. The water is all his, and he may do as he likes with it.

Lord Mersey:
Yes, but that is not quite the answer that I want. Eliminating the Storstad altogether and assuming that there were no exceptional reasons for taking a different course, I want to know whether you think that the courses which he did take, if he is telling the truth, were proper courses.

Mr. Haight:
I see no possible reason for criticising the courses which he took, except with reference to the Storstad's position.

Lord Mersey:
Then I think you need not call this gentleman, Mr. Newcombe.

Mr. Newcombe:
Very well, my Lord. Perhaps I ought to mention, before Mr. Reid is called, that we have taken advantage of the recess to examine the statements which were handed in by my learned friends, taken from the crew and passengers who were examined, with regard to the question of watertight doors and port holes. We find no testimony there which is worth mentioning with regard to the doors, but three witnesses, passengers, referred to water coming in through the port holes. These witnesses are not here; two of them appear to reside in the West and the other one in England. As these statements were made with respect to the subject at a time when the witnesses had no interest in misrepresenting the facts according to their recollection, I thought that possibly it might be proper for me to read those statements.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Aspinall and Mr. Haight, have you seen the statements to which Mr. Newcombe refers?

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes, my Lord.

Mr. Haight:
I could not hear what Mr. Newcombe said, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Newcombe said that they have been seeking for information about water-tight doors and about port holes; that they have not been able to get any further testimony with reference to the water-tight doors, but that apparently some time ago three statements were taken with reference to port holes. Those are statements by people who are not here; two of them are in the West and one is supposed to be in England. Mr. Newcombe's suggestion is that their statements might be read for what they are worth and form part of the proceedings. Personally I see no objection to that being done, but we can only have it done by consent.

Mr. Haight:
I am entirely willing to consent, my Lord; I can see no reason why I should need to cross-examine.

Mr. Aspinall:
I had thought that Mr. Haight would take the course which he has taken, because it really does not concern him.

Lord Mersey:
Well, it does not, I think.

Mr. Aspinall:
No, this is a court of inquiry; I quite appreciate that it is not the best evidence, but it is some evidence, and I should submit that it would be right for Your Lordships, under the circumstances, to admit it.

Lord Mersey:
Very well, then; we are disposed to admit it; we will take it for what it is worth. Perhaps you will read them to us, Mr. Newcombe.

Mr. Newcombe:
I should think that it would not be necessary for me to read the entire statements, because, they are mostly concerned with matters not entirely relevant to the inquiry.

Lord Mersey:
Read the parts that appear to you to be relevant.

Mr. Newcombe:
James Ferguson Dandy, aged 47 years, residing at Pierson, Manitoba, being called makes the following statement:

'Examined by Mr. Holden, K.C.

Q. You were a passenger on the Empress of Ireland when the collision occurred?
- Yes, sir.

Q. Do you remember the number of your stateroom on the Empress?
- It was number 564.

No. 564 is on the starboard quarter.
- It is the aftermost room on the ship, on the main deck.

Q. Were you alone?
- There were three of us in the room.

Q. At what time did you turn in on the night of the 28th?
- I went to bed fairly early that night.

Q. Well, what woke you up first?
- I think it was the noise of the water coming in through the port holes.

Q. You did not feel the shock of the collision, did you?
- No, sir.

Q. Did you hear any signals at all?
- No, sir.

Q. Were you in the upper berth or the lower one?
- I was in the lower berth.

Q. You think it was the inflow of water through the port holes that awoke you?
- Yes.

Q. And then what did you do?
- I was sleeping very soundly, and the man who was sleeping on the other side said there is something wrong, and he jumped up and turned on the light, and my first thought was that we were out at sea, and that a storm had arisen, and I thought that it was worse than I ever thought it was. I then looked down and I saw somebody's grip floating along the floor. I saw the water quite well, and I jumped up and went up as quickly is I could, and I went up the first stairs and in the alley-way it was that steep that it was hard work to get along, and I had to hang on; to the wall. But, I then got out through the side.'

Then, passing on to another point:

'Q. You have told us that you were awakened by the water coming in through the port hole?
- Yes, sir.

Q. Well, how long was it after you were awakened by the water coming in that the Empress sank?
- I jumped out of bed and went on top, and I would think that it would be about three or four minutes.

Q. Of course, you do not know how long before you woke up that the collision occurred?
- No, sir.

Q. It was after the collision that you woke up?
- Yes, sir, it was the water rushing in through the port holes that awakened me.'

Lord Mersey:
The important part, from your point of view, of that testimony is that he was awakened by the water rushing in through the port in his cabin.

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord. That is what I understand it to be. Now then, Walter Erzinger, aged 42 years, residing at No. 290 McDermott Avenue, Winnipeg, being called makes the following statement: Passenger, Room 518. 518 is an inside room; it is in the middle of the ship, on the inside of the passage, slightly on the starboard side. He says:

'Q. You heard no whistles before the shock?
- No, sir. Right after the shock I did not hear anything around me, and I thought nothing was wrong, and I intended to lie down again to go to sleep but I heard somebody running along above me, and I felt the ship was already listing.

Q. Were you alone in that room?
- There was another passenger with me - I do not know his name, but he was from Western Canada. He was an old man - he was about fifty years of age - he seemed to me a man about that age.

Q. You do not know whether he survived, do you?
- I do not think so, because he had another friend on the boat and he said he did not see him any more. So when I realized that the ship was listing I jumped from my upper berth. I jumped down and put on my pants which were lying on my bed - I then took down the life belts and gave one to my fellow passenger and we ran out. The same moment we heard already the water rushing in through the windows and we had great difficulty in walking through the alley-way.

Q. You experienced this difficulty on account of the ship listing over, I presume?
- Yes, sir, because of the list.'

The other is James Walker, residing at No. 58 Derwent Street, Workington, Cumberland, England, teamsflsr, aged 26 years, who was called and made the following statement:

Examined by Mr. A. R. Holden, K.C.:

 

Q. You were one of the third-class passengers on the Empress of Ireland when the collision occurred?
- Yes.

Q. Do you remember the number of your room?
- I think it was No. 630. I am not sure."

No. 630 is on the. starboard bow of the main deck, pretty well forward.

Q. How many were in your room?
- Four.

Q. What time did you turn in that night?
- I turned in about half past ten or ten o'clock.

Q. Did you fall to sleep promptly?
- Yes, sir.

Q. What woke you up?
- The first thing that woke me up was the water coming in on the bed.

Q. Did you have a lower berth?
- No, I had an upper berth.

Q. Was your room on the starboard side of the ship?
- Yes.

Q. You did not feel the shock of the collision at all?
- No.

Then further on: -

Q. While it was still foggy, and before it cleared up, have you any idea how far you could see a light?
- You could not see very far when I came out.

Q. What do you suppose "very far" would mean? How near would the light have to be before you could see it?
- It would have to be very close, I think.

Q. As a matter of fact, the captain says it was fifty feet before it became visible. I suppose "very far" is as near as you can say?
- Yes.

Q. How long do you suppose it was from the time you were awakened by the water in your cabin until the ship sank?
- About seven minutes.

Q. Did you hear any signals at all of any kind after you woke up?
- No, I did not hear any.'

Another* question:—

Q. After you turned in, you did not waken until the water woke you up?
- No.

Q. When you woke up, did you notice whether the ship's engines were going or whether they were stopped?
- The ship's engines were stopped.

Q. They had stopped before you woke up?
- The ship was standing still.

Q. Did you see the Storstad at all at any time after the accident?
- I saw her after I was in the water.'

Mrs. Helena Hollies, residing at No. 10, Empire Street, West Derby Road, Liverpool, aged 34 years, being called makes the following statement: -

Q. What woke you up?
- The rushing of the water.

Q. You did not even feel the shock of the collision?
- No.

Q. Nor, I suppose, did you hear any whistle signals at all?
- No.

Q. Have you a room mate, or were you alone?
- There were three or four of us in the same room.

Q. When you say you were wakened by the rushing of the water, do you mean the rushing of the water actually into your room?
- Yes, into the room.

Q. Through what part? Through the port?
- I could not say whether it was coming through the ports; it was in the alleyways.'

Lord Mersey:
That does not refer to the port in her room?

Mr. Newcombe:
She does not say what her room is; that is the reference which is made to the ports in that case.

Lord Mersey:
There is one matter, Mr. Newcombe, to which you may direct your attention when you come to address us, and it is this: in ships such as the Empress, which have the apparatus for closing the water-tight doors from the bridge, whether it would be desirable or practicable in cases of fog to order that all the water-tight doors be closed; whether it could be done and whether it is desirable that it should be done.

Mr. Haight:
Is it practicable that I should supplement one of the statements read by Mr Newcombe by an additional quotation?

Lord Mersey:
Certainly.

Mr. Haight:
Is it to be marked?

Lord Mersey:
Certainly; I understand that the whole of the statement is to be marked as an exhibit. The whole statement is in evidence; therefore you would be entitled to refer to any part of it.

Mr. Haight:
Would it be of assistance if I made the reference now?

Lord Mersey:
I think you had better refer to it now.

Mr. Haight:
It is a statement made by Erzinger.

Chief Justice McLeod:
The same witness to whom Mr. Newcombe has referred?

Mr. Haight:
The same witness whose evidence Mr. Newcombe has already read. From pages 596 to 597. I take the following quotations:

'At first I did not see any lights at all around, but later on I saw appear two lights. These were the two lights of the collier that struck us.

By Mr. Pentland, K.C.:

Q. How far off were those two lights that you saw?
- It seemed to be quite a distance, and it was not right in front of us - it was behind.

By Mr. Holden, K.C.: .

Q. It was astern of you?
- Yes, sir.

Q. Were they white lights or coloured lights that you saw?
- They were two white lights on top of the masts.'

I have not had a chance to run through the other statements.

Lord Mersey:
If there is anything else, later when you come to address us, you may refer to it.

(Statements filed as exhibit G-l.)

 

WITNESS.

John Reid - Naval Architect.
Testimony

 

 

At 1.30 the Commission took recess.

 

The Commission resumed at 2.30 p.m.

 

Lord Mersey:
We shall, I hope, finish the evidence to-day. To-morrow, Friday, we shall hear Mr. Aspinall; I suppose, Mr. Aspinall, you will not occupy more than a couple of hours or thereabouts?

Mr. Aspinall:
It may be a little more; the maximum would be three hours, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Then we can hear Mr. Haight, and then I shall ask Mr. Gibsone if he desires to say anything. After that I shall ask you, Mr. Newcombe, to sum up.

Mr. Newcombe:
I may say, my Lord, that these dispositions are entirely satisfactory to me.

Lord Mersey:
I understand that you desire to sail for Europe, and I am very desirous that the arrangement should be such as to suit your convenience.

Mr. Newcombe:
I appreciate that, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
After the speeches are made, it may be that some of us will go to Montreal to see the Storstad. We shall not require the assistance of counsel for that purpose.

Mr. Newcombe:
In case I should be leaving before the report is prepared, if any further assistance or information from counsel is required, Mr. Belleau, who is with me, and who has followed the proceedings very carefully, will be available.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Belleau, if Mr. Newcombe finds it impossible to remain to sum up the case, perhaps you would be prepared to do it for him. If so, we should be very glad to hear you.

Mr. Belleau:
Yes, my Lord.

Mr. Haight:
Are the arguments to start the first thing to-morrow morning if we finish to-day?

Lord Mersey:
Yes, I shall begin with Mr. Aspinall.

Mr. Haight:
Would it be too much to ask that we might have a little more time to prepare for the argument?

Lord Mersey:
I am anxious that Mr. Newcombe, who has other engagements as I understand, should not be unduly detained. I am also anxious that you should have plenty of time to prepare for the argument. Could you give any opinion as to how long your address will be?

Mr. Haight:
I think, my Lord, that if I could have a little more time for the preparation of our argument, I ought not to take up more than two hours; I should say that two and a half hours would be the limit.

Lord Mersey:
If I felt satisfied about that, then I would not sit to-morrow morning, and, as Mr. Aspinall would not be called upon to address us until the afternoon, you would have considerable time to look around and get your argument into shape.

Mr. Haight:
I came rather late into the case and it has involved practically steady night work. I should like to avoid working all night to-night if I might have an opportunity of avoiding it.

Lord Mersey:
I think that is very reasonable. Then we may not sit to-morrow morning, Mr. Aspinall.

Chief Justice McLeod:
That may necessitate our sitting on Saturday afternoon.

Mr. Haight:
I am entirely in accord with that.

Lord Mersey:
I assure you that if we do not sit to-morrow morning we shall sit on Saturday until I finish hearing the speeches.

Mr. Haight:
If Mr. Aspinall should finish his summing up to-morrow afternoon, I am sure that I could finish mine before adjournment for luncheon on Saturday morning.

Lord Mersey:
After hearing Mr. Gibsone I should ask Mr. Newcombe to finish on Saturday. Would you try to do that Mr. Newcombe?

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Gibsone, I credit you with good reason for not taking up too much time, and I should like to know how long you think you will be addressing us?

Mr. Gibsone:
I do not think I will consume more of your Lordship's time than about ten minutes.

Lord Mersey:
All I can say is, Mr. Gibsone, that if you do not take more than ten minutes, I shall be most grateful to you.

Mr. Gibsone:
I shall be very short indeed.

Sir Adolphe Routhier:
It means great confidence in your case.

 

WITNESS.

John Reid - Naval Architect.
Testimony - Resumed

 

Lord Mersey:
That is an answer to the question. Have you any other witnesses?

Mr. Haight:
No, my Lord, our case is closed.

Lord Mersey:
Mr. Newcombe, have you any?

Mr. Newcombe:
No more witnesses.

Lord Mersey:
Do you desire to offer any other evidence?

Mr. Newcombe:
I wish to put in the report certifying to the Empress as an emigration ship.

Lord Mersey:
We have the emigration certificate in, I think.

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, and I have the report of the Board of Trade officer here signed by Thomas E. Thompson, one of the officers of the Board of Trade.

Lord Mersey:
Will you tell me the date of it?

Mr. Newcombe:
The date is the 15th May, 1914.

Lord Mersey:
Was it issued at Liverpool?

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes. I have here the original report of Mr. Thompson.

Lord Mersey:
What is the date of it?

Mr. Newcombe:
The 4th June last.

Lord Mersey:
That is after the collision?

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Under what circumstances is that report made?

Mr. Newcombe:
It says 'that on the 15th of May I conducted -.'

Lord Mersey:
I am not asking you what is in it; I want to know why it was made. Can you tell us, Mr. Vaux?

Mr. Vaux:
I think the circumstances are these: The officer inspected the boats and life-saving equipment for the purposes of the emigration certificate in Liverpool and after this collision the Board of Trade asked him to report to them as to exactly what he had done. He has made that report and he tells in the report exactly what he did in regard to putting out the boats and the other inspections that he made.

Chief Justice McLeod:
On the Empress of Ireland?

Mr. Vaux:
On the Empress of Ireland.

Lord Mersey:
Do you think we ought to have that? It does not affect the question of navigation in any way. It is a question more for Mr. Gibsone. Will you read it and then we will know wrhat it is we have.

Mr. Newcombe:
The report is as follows:

" Board of Trade Surveyors' Office,
Canning Place, Liverpool, June 4, 1914.

SS. Empress of Ireland

Off. No. 123972.

- Sir, - I have the honour to report that on May 15th last I conducted the clearance M.S.A. Part III of the above steamer.
- I inspected all the steerages, compartments 1, 2, 3 and 4 on No. 1 Passenger Heck and compartments 1, 2 and 3 on the lowest Passenger Heck, the total number of beds 802. In each of these beds lifebelts were laid out for inspection and they all appeared to be in good order; these belts are kept in racks overhead whilst at sea and are always handy.
- I also examined the fire appliances in these compartments and saw the water-tight doors closed as I passed from one to the other. All the ladder-ways, etc., were in order, direction (oil) lamps being placed where necessary.
11 On examining the crew who were mustered on the saloon deck I found that each man had a badge pinned to his coat with the number of his boat on it, and that the sailors were divided so as to provide at least two for each boat under davits.
- As soon as the muster was over the bugle was sounded and all hands repaired to the boat deck when the order ' out all boats ' wras given. All the boats under davits, sixteen in number, were at once swung out. Two sailors were in each and they shipped the thole-pins, passed the ends of the painters out and shipped the rudders, the rest of the boats' crews setting up the guyte and clearing away the falls. From the time the order was given to the time the boats were ready for lowering about four minutes had elapsed.
- Two of the Englehardt collapsible boats were also opened up, the canvas sides being rigged and all gear shipped.
- I then went round with the chief officer and inspected the equipment of all the boats and I found these to be in order and to comply with the regulations.
"After swinging in the boats the crew was called to fire stations by bell and bugle, hoses were stretched out and the water turned on, a number of stewards wrere mustered with buckets and blankets and provision men were told off to attend the boats. A number of Stewards were also told off to control the passengers in case of need. Two fire annihilators picked at random from the steerages were turned on and were in order.
- The Captain then took me through all the passages and showed me the fire appliances in the first and -second-class accommodation and as we came to each water-tight door it was closed to my satisfaction. Direction (oil) lamps were placed where necessary.
- I then went down the engine room with the chief engineer and saw all the water-tight doors in the engine room, tunnel and boiler room; these all worked perfectly.
- The second officer went with me to the signal locker and I found the fog and distress signals to comply with the regulations. The sounding gear also I found to be in good order.
"With regard to the boat and fire drill, each member of the crew appeared to know his duties and both were carried out quickly and without confusion.
- The life-buoys which were attached to the bridge and rails were in good order and easy to get at, floating lights being attached to half the number.
- The vessel cleared for Quebec her draught of water being 27 feet 9 inches F. and 29 feet 2 inches aft, Freeboard 12 feet 5½ inches.

I am, sir,
- The Principal Officer, Your obedient Servant,
Liverpool." (Sgd) Thomas E. Thompson.

(Report filed and marked Exhibit 'E-1.')

Lord Mersey:
Is there anything else you want to put in?

Mr. Newcombe:
I have a printed copy of the regulations to be complied with at the time the vessel was built and also the regulations to be complied with before the vessel last left Liverpool in May. If these are required we have copies that we can hand in.

Lord Mersey:
At present I do not see their significance and I do not like to encumber the case with things that are not necessary.

Mr. Newcombe:
I simply mention them in case they are required. At the opening of the case, your Lordship will remember that I read the questions that were proposed. These questions have been subject to two modifications. I hand up copies and I need not read these over again with the exception of the two which have been altered. An addition was required to one and details were asked for in the other which were unnecessary:

11. After the vessels had cited [sic] each other's lights did the atmosphere between them become foggy or misty, so that lights could no longer be seen? If so, did both vessels comply with articles 15 and 16, and did they respectively indicate on their steam whistles or sirens, the course or courses they were taking by the signals set out?'

I am going to hand in amended copies and I have signed a copy which I shall hand to your Lordship.

'17. Were any of the persons on board the SS. Empress of Ireland who lost their lives, killed or injured by the collision?

What number of passengers and crew left the ship in the boats which got away?

How many persons' were ultimately rescued, and by what means? What was the number of passengers, distinguishing between men and women, and adults and children, of the first, second and third classes respectively, who were saved? What was the number of the crew, discriminating their ratings and sex, who were saved?'

Lord Mersey:
You will hand up the amended copy of these questions?

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord. (Amended questions put in by Mr. Newcombe and marked Exhibit 'F 1'). I think thaf completes the case.

Mr. Haight:
Have you received from the chief gunner's mate the data that he agreed to give us as to the diving?

Mr. Newcombe:
No.

Lord Mersey:
What is that?

Mr. Haight:
The diver promised us a memorandum which has not arrived yet. Mr. NEWCOMBE.—It has not arrived yet but it may be handed to-morrow.

Mr. Haight:
I would like to have it as soon as possible in preparing for my argument.

Mr. Newcombe:
As soon as I get it I will send you a copy.

Mr. Haight:
Thank you.

Mr. Aspinall:
May I renew my application to call Mr. Hillhouse on the matter of the rudder?

Lord Mersey:
It is only on the question of the rudder?

 

WITNESS.

Percy Hillhouse - Naval Architect.
Testimony - Recalled

 

Lord Mersey:
I understand that with the exception of the statement which is to come from the divers, the whole of the evidence is in.

Mr. Newcombe:
I think so, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
I know you understood so, didn't you, Mr. Newcombe?

Mr. Newcombe:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
And you, Mr. Haight?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
And you, Mr. Aspinall?

Mr. Aspinall:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
And you, too. Mr. Gibsone?

Mr. Gibsone:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Very well, then, we have arrived at a stage when we may congratulate ourselves a little. Now, I am going to utilize the remainder of the afternoon by asking Mr. Gibsone to be good enough to say what he desires to say. I told him that he would not be called upon till later, but he is doubtless prepared to go on; therefore we will hear now from Mr. Gibsone.

Mr. George F. Gibsone, K.C.:
The first thing I should say is that any remarks that we may venture to address to your Lordships on behalf of the Union are not critical and are not directed against any of the parties to the case. Even supposing all our suppositions are well founded - which we believe they are - they would not impute any blame whatsoever to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, the owners of the Empress, or to the steamship Storstad. I should say, of course, that these remarks cannot apply to the Storstad, which is a foreign ship. The second thing I should say is that these suggestions are not new; they have been many times before urged by the Union, and if we are here before your Lordships on this occasion it is just to take advantage of a prominent occasion on which these suggestions can be submitted to a tribunal which is considering matters of the kind.

The National Sailors' and Firemen's Union consists of about 90,000 members, and probably 95 per cent - certainly between 90 per cent and 95 per cent of the sailors and firemen work on board ships belonging to the Union, and now respectfully make these suggestions to your Lordships. The Union constitutes itself the guardian of the good reputation of its members generally. Shortly after this accident happened, numerous reports appeared in papers alleging misconduct, cowardice and neglect of duty on the part probably of seamen, firemen and members of the crew of the Empress. I am glad to say - and I think your Lordship gave us the testimony earlier in the case - that nothing whatsoever in that direction has been made out. So far as that is concerned, our duty ended very early in this investigation.

By way of explanation, I may say also that when first we came into the case, we were not aware that the Canadian Pacific Railway Company had been so fair-minded and well-intentioned towards the crew of their boat as to designate counsel to look after their interests, and it is quite probable that if we had known that in advance, we ourselves would not have put in an appearance. My learned friends, Mr. Geoffrion and Mr. Thompson, have been considerate enough to allow that side of the case to be attended to more by us than by them, although they really were not bound to give way to us, as they very courteously and considerately did.

The considerations which we offer to Your Lordships are these. In the first place, we say that there were not enough able-bodied seamen on the Empress. I am willing to admit, and I myself believe, that the Empress complied in all respects with the Board of Trade rules, and all that we can ask from Your Lordships is, perhaps, a recommendation that these questions should be favourably considered by the Board of Trade when amending their rules in future. With regard to the number of able­bodied seamen, we ask attention to the fact that it has been proved that there were only 19 on board the Empress at the time of the accident. There were more seamen than that, but they were ordinary seamen, and the Union makes a distinction between able-bodied seamen and ordinary seamen. The Empress had on board 42 boats, and there were altogether 19 able-bodied seamen, presumably to look after those boats. Of course, it is quite true that there were firemen on board and there were stewards on board, but firemen and stewards, it is contended by the Union and has been contended by them for many years, are not primarily qualified or trained for boat work. What the Union has been asking for years and trying to persuade the owners' associations to accept is that the number of able-bodied seamen upon passenger ships should number two per boat.

Chief Justice McLeod:
Do I understand you to say that there were 42 boats on this steamer?

Mr. Gibsone:
Yes, my Lord, 42 altogether.

Chief Justice McLeod:
Then your suggestion is that there should be 84 able­bodied seamen?

Mr. Gibsone:
Yes, that is what we contend. There were 16 boats under davits on the boat deck, with 16 collapsibles, and then there were ten other boats, two of them under davits and eight of them collapsible.

Lord Mersey:
Do you suggest that there should be 80 odd able-bodied seamen in place of the 19 whom you say were there?

Mr. Gibsone:
Those are my instructions, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Suppose that were done; would you then decrease the number of ordinary seamen?

Mr. Gibsone:
Yes.

Lord Mersey:
Then your suggestion is not that there should be an additional number in the crew, but that the qualifications of the crew should be different?

Mr. Gibsone:
Yes, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Are you sure that is what you mean?

Mr. Gibsone:
I mean that, and I also mean that the crew should amount in number to two men per boat carried on passenger ships. I do not think that it is necessary for me to refer to evidence in support of the suggestions now made; the facts are before your Lordships and your Lordships will consider them in dealing with the other features of the case. I think I need not refer to any evidence that was offered, with one exception, and that is that out of the 42 boats that were on the Empress at the time of this accident, whether from the suddenness of the emergency or from other causes, it is known to be a fact that only three boats and one collapsible boat got away from the ship.

Lord Mersey:
Of course, you do not forget, Mr. Gibsone, that one-half of these boats became useless by reason of their being on the port side.

Mr. Gibsone:
No, I do not forget that, my Lord, but on the other hand, perhaps it might be said that all the crew that might have been directed to the port boats were free to attend to the starboard boats, and even in spite of that fact only three boats were got away.

The next point which my instructions are to submit to your Lordships, and it is very closely allied to the first one, is that boat drill, as carried on on board passenger ships now, is not effective. Boat drill consists just now of a full dress parade. The sailors, the stewards, and firemen, are all dressed in blue and turned up and stand by their boats, and as the captain passes by, the boats are swung out on the davits, and two boats are lowered into the water. It might quite well be - although of course I can only suggest it -

Lord Mersey:
This is the boat drill in port that you are speaking of?

Mr. Gibsone:
Yes, my Lord, it is the only boat drill I think that is carried on.

Lord Mersey:
There is no boat parade, or whatever you call it, when the boat is at sea?

Mr. Gibsone:
No, my Lord, this is what is carried on in port, and I don't know of any boat drill being carried on at sea. I have received no information about it, and I don't think there is any evidence in the record about it.

Lord Mersey:
There is none, Mr. Gibsone.

Mr. Gibsone:
I was going on to say that it might quite well be, and possibly would not be surprising from a human standpoint, if the two boats that were lowered were always the same two boats, and if the crew that were told off to lower the boats that were going to be lowered for the inspection were a picked crew.

Be that as it may, what the Union has been asking for is that boat drill should consist of a working dress parade, where the men can work about the boats without fear of spoiling their clothing, and that the drill should consist in putting all the boats into the water and not merely putting in two. In that way, all the men on board the ship, be they stokers, stewards, or seamen, would have the practice and experience of actually manning their boats and lowering them into the water.

The other point is a request on the part of the firemen of the ship that ships should be provided with floats or rafts, that is something floating, some floats or rafts. What the firemen feel is that with ships provided only with boats they are at a considerable disadvantage in case of accident, because they remain in the stokehold until the last moment. They are down there on duty. By the time they come up the presumption is that the boats have been lowered and have got away from the ship. I do not wish to exaggerate at all as to what would happen, and I will only say that presumably the boats would have got away from the ship, and then if the ship founders the firemen have to swim for it; because many ships now are not provided with rafts or floats of any kind. What the firemen particularly ask for is that boats should be provided with some kind of floats or rafts which would float away as the ship founders, if she does founder.

These are the only points we wish to submit to your Lordships and to ask you, if you think well of them, to report favourably upon the changing of the rules in such a way that ships should be provided as we suggest. These are all the remarks I have to make to your Lordships.

Lord Mersey:
We are much obliged to you, Mr. Gibsone.

Now, I propose to rise until to-morrow at two o'clock, and then we shall hear what Mr. Aspinall has to say.

Mr. Haight:
My Lord, may I ask that from now until two o'clock to-morrow the Exhibits be placed somewhere so that there will be free access to them by both sides?

Lord Mersey:
Don't you think they had better be here, Mr. Haight?

Mr. Haight:
I am afraid the guardian of the Exhibits would not like to stay here all night while we are working at them. But if there could be some room in the Chateau, I don't care where, under some guardianship, so that we could both get at them.

Lord Mersey:
I might put them in my room.

Mr. Haight:
No, my Lord, I would not trouble your Lordship in that way, but possibly we might, just for overnight, have a room, not an elaborate one, but one to which both sides could have access, and where the Exhibits might remain under key, each side having a key.

Lord Mersey:
What do you say, Mr. Newcombe.

Mr. Newcombe:
I have no objection, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Do you object, Mr. Aspinall?

Mr. Aspinall:
No, my Lord.

Lord Mersey:
Will you use the key much, Mr. Aspinall?

Mr. Aspinall:
No, my Lord.

Mr. Haight:
Then I will take them all to my room if no one else wants them. I would particularly like to have the charts.

Lord Mersey:
I am just informed by my colleague, Sir Adolphe Routhier, that it would be possible to have a room in this building.

Mr. Haight:
Could we get to it in the evening?

Sir Adolphe Routhier:
If you apply to the Sheriff for a room and for some one to take charge of them, I am sure that he will accommodate you in that way.

Mr. Haight:
My Lord, I have just been informed that the building is open all night, and that there are caretakers here, so it will suit me perfectly well to have the Exhibits left in this building.

Lord Mersey:
Very well. Then we will rise until two o'clock to-morrow afternoon.