Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

SIXTH DAY

 

EINAR REINERTZ,

second officer, Storstad,

 

Sworn.

 

Mr. Haight:
The witness’s English, I think, will carry him through. I will ask Captain Jensen to be there in case he needs help.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

4949. Mr. Reinertz, you were second officer on the Storstad at the time of the collision with the Empress of Ireland?
- Yes, sir.

4950. How long had you been on the Storstad?
- I joined in Sydney.

4951. When did you join?
- 29th of May - no, I am wrong; it was the 24th of May.

4952. How long have you been going to sea?
- About 12 years.

4953. What vessel were you on before the Storstad?
- I was with the same company on a steamship called the Mandeville.

4954. How long had you been on the Mandeville?
- Thirteen months.

4955. What papers have you?
- A master’s certificate.

4956. How long have you held a master’s certificate?
- Two and a half years.

4957. Where were you at the time of the collision?
- I was sleeping when the collision occurred in my cabin and I jumped up.

4958. It was your watch below?
- My watch below.

4959. Was it the jar of the collision that waked you?
- Yes.

4960. Was it a heavy jar?
- No, sir.

4961. Where did you go to when you felt the collision?
- I went to the boat deck.

4962. On which side?
- The starboard side of the boat.

4963. When you reached the boat deck could you see anything of the other steamer?
- Yes, sir, I saw the lights of the Empress going from the port bow and they went over to the starboard bow. It was moving fast too.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

4964. What?
- It was moving fast.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

4965. Am I to understand that this was after the collision?
- Yes.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

4966. According to your view, was the Empress carrying the Storstad along the water?
- I do not catch the question.

4967. As I understand, you say that when you came up on deck the collision had taken place?
- Yes, sir.

4968. Was the nose of the Storstad at that time in the side of the Empress?
- I could not tell you, sir.

4969. You do not know whether the nose of the Storstad was in the side of the Empress or not, but you do know that the collision had taken place?
- I knew the collision had taken place but I could not see which part of the ship it was; it was dark.

4970. I only want the best information you can give us. You saw the Empress was moving forward?
- Yes.

4972. And that was after the collision?
- Yes, but it did not take me a long time to go up.

4973. But the collision took place when you were in your bunk?
- Yes.

4974. You jumped up and ran on the boat deck?
- Yes.

4975. And you cannot tell us whether, when you got up on the boat deck, the two vessels were actually fast together?
- No, I cannot tell that.

4976. You do not know that, but you say that whether they were fast together or not the Empress was moving fast forward - is that it?
- Yes, sir.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

4977. Where is your room, Mr. Beinertz?
- On the port side of the ship, about midships.

4978. When you looked out forward from the starboard side were you standing about amidships?
- On the boat deck.

4979. When you stood on the boat deck how far were you from the bow of the Storstad?
- About the middle of the Storstad.

4980. About the middle of the ship?
- Yes.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

4981. You mean amidships of your own ship?
- Not exactly, but about.

4982. About amidships?
- Yes.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

4983. Could you tell anything about the angle in which the vessels were lying when you got up?
- No, sir.

4984. You were too far aft to see?
- Yes.

4985. Did you receive any orders from Capt. Andersen?
- Yes, to lower the boats.

4986. What did you do?
- I lowered them.

4987. What boats did you handle yourself?
- Starboard No. 2.

4988. Were the boats cleared and the men standing by before you received the order to lower?
- Yes, they were standing by. I was going down when I heard the cries of the Empress people and we lowered the boat at once.

4989. How long did you have your boats ready to lower before you ordered them lowered away?
- About four or five minutes.

4990. While you were working on the boats and while you were waiting to lower, did you hear any whistles blown by the Empress?
- No, I did not.

4991. Did you hear any whistles blown on the Storstad?
- Yes.

4992. What whistles did your steamer blow?
- They were blowing several whistles - I could not tell which blow it was; several whistles were blown by the Storstad.

Lord Mersey:
I do not follow what he says.

Mr. Haight:
He says they were blowing several whistles; he does not know exactly what they werebut they were blowing several whistles.

4993. (To witness.) What was it that first called to your attention the fact that you were near the Empress; what did you hear?
- Excuse me, I do not understand.

4994. What did you hear after you had been waiting three or four minutes which indicated to you that the Storstad was near the Empress?
- The cries of the people.

4995. Lord Mersey: Was near the Empress - do you mean in actual contact?

Mr. Haight:
No, sir.

Lord Mersey:
I do not know what ‘near’ means.

Mr. Haight:
She was in the fog.

Lord Mersey:
This man did not come on deck till after the collision?

Mr. Haight:
Yes, my Lord, and I am asking him how he knew when to lower his boats when the Storstad had worked back towards the Empress ten minutes after the collision.

(To witness.)

4996. You heard the cries of the people?
- Yes.

4997. How soon were your boats lowered after you heard the cries?
- Directly - at once.

4998. You were in starboard No. 2?
- Yes.

4999. When you lowered your boat into the water do you know whether the engines of the Storstad were still moving?
- The engines were moving.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

5000. Were not?
- Were moving.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

5001. How do you know that?
- I could see the propeller water.

5002. When you lowered No. 2 starboard boat, which way had you to row away from the Storstad?
- I had to go astern because the propeller took the boat a little ahead.

5003. When your boat dropped into the water the quick water from your propellers carried you forward?
- Yes, and I steered out to go astern.

5004. When you went around under the stern of the Storstad, was your propeller still moving?
- I cannot remember that.

5005. Did you see the Empress before she went out of sight in the water?
- Before she foundered?

5006. Yes.
- I did, I had one boat loaded with people before she went down.

5007. How far was the Empress from the Storstad as you rowed from your vessel toward the sinking steamer - could you tell?
- About two ship’s lengths.

5008. How many minutes did it take you from the time your boat was in the water to row up to the place where the people were swimming in the water?
- About two or three minutes - two minutes.

5009. How many people did you pick up in your boat on the first trip?
- I rescued about fifty people on the first trip.

5010. What is the capacity of your boat?
- 30.

5011. How did you get 50 people into a boat that accommodates 30?
- We were overloaded because we had to save as many people as possible; people were crying out not to take any more but we had to take as many as possible because there was not a moment to lose.

5012. You returned with your first load of people to which vessel?
- To the Storstad.

5013. Then, did you go back a second time?
- Yes, I did.

5014. Had the Empress gone down before you got back the second time?
- She had gone down when we came back the second time.

5015. Did you see her go down on your first trip or did she go down between the first and second trip?
- On my return from the first trip I saw her go down.

5016. When you left with the first boat load the Empress could still be seen?
- Yes.

5017. How many people did you get on the second trip?
- About 13.

5018. Why did you not get more on the second trip?
- Because we did not see any more alive.

5019. Where did you take these?
- To the Eureka.

5020. Did you make a third trip?
- Yes.

5021. Did you find any living passengers there?
- Yes, some were standing on a boat, and one man who was half dead was lying on the boat. He was picked up.

5022. Did you also pick up some dead bodies?
- Yes, we did, sir.

5023. Who were the men who were the crew in your boat?
- I do not know them by name; the cook is one - Jensen. I do not know their names.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

5024. Were they men from the Empress?
- From the Storstad.

 

Cross-examined by Mr. Aspinall:

 

5025. How many years have you been serving on colliers?
- About five or six years.

5026. When did you turn in on this night?
- 12 o’clock.

5027. Do you regularly take your clothes off and turn in?
- Yes I do, of course.

5028. I am not blaming you. If your, engines stop does that wake you when you are at sea?
- Not always.

5029. More or less?
- I cannot tell; I do not know much about these engines, because I am quite new on the boat.

5030. You heard the jar and you awoke?
- Yes.

5031. Have you electric light in your cabin?
- Yes.

5032. Did you turn it on?
- Yes.

5033. What clothes did you put on?
- I was naked when I went out.

5034. You went out as you were?
- Yes.

5035. You ran out from your cabin, which was lighted by electricity, on to the boat deck that would be dark. There was nothing to light that up?
- No.

5036. Do you think you really noticed much about the Empress?
- I saw her and noticed she was moving fast.

5037. I was wondering whether you had a good opportunity of witnessing really what she was doing.
- Yes, I had.

5038. You say you saw her moving fast and you ran to where - to the navigation bridge?
- No I did not; I ran to the boat deck as I told you before. I ran from my cabin to the boat deck and there stopped to get the boats ready.

5039. Did you get any order at once from the bridge?
- I got an order to have ready the boats and I knew, myself, what to do.

5040. When you got up and saw the Empress was she then at about right angles across your bows? You know what I mean by right angles?
- Yes.

5041. Was she about right angles across your bow when you got up?
- I could not say anything about angles, sir.

5042. But you say she was moving?
- Yes.

5043. I will not say anything about right angles - was she still across your bows when you got up?
- I could not tell what part of the ship I saw.

5044. I think you told Mr. Haight that when you saw her she was moving fast forward from port to starboard?
- Yes, I did.

5045. That is what you said?
- Yes.

5046. Does that mean that when you came up she was still across your bows. Here (illustrating) is the port side and here is the starboard side?
- Yes.

5047. Is that so?
- I do not understand you quite well.

5048. I will tell you what I have in my mind. You no doubt came up very quickly after the crash and you found her across your bows; my suggestion will be that she was not travelling fast forward because she would probably have been brought over there on your starboard bow?
- I saw her coming from port over to starboard and she was moving fast. I cannot tell any more.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

5049. But you must just try to answer the question.
- Yes, I am.

Lord Mersey:
Do not say you can tell us simply that and no more. Just wait till you hear the questions and say whether you can answer them.

 

By Mr. Aspinall:

 

5050. When you did see her, in fact, she was across your bows, part on your port bow and part on your starboard bow; is that right?
- Yes.

5051. At the time when you got up on to the boat deck do you know what was being done with your engines?
- No.

5052. Were they working ahead or astern?
- I cannot tell anything about them.

5053. You did not notice; I expect you had a good deal to attend to?
- Yes.

5054. However, I am right in this that, whatever was being done with your engines and whatever was being done with the Empress, the two ships remained pretty close to one another from that time until you got your boats out and began to save life?
- Yes, they were.

5055. After the collision happened you got up on deck and put your boats into the water to save life? From that time were the ships still close to one another?
- I did not see the ship then.

5056. You did not lose sight of it?
- I was in my boat then.

Lord Mersey:
He turns towards you and he talks in a manner that is not intelligible. I do not hear what he says.

 

By Mr. Aspinall:

 

5057. Will you try and talk just a little slower and turn more that way (pointing towards the bench)? I know it is very difficult. When you did put your boat into the water to save life did you find that these people who were in the water weire quite close?
- They were not far off us.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

5058. From the time that you got on deck until the Empress disappeared how much time do you think elapsed before you again saw her when you were in No. 2 boat?
- I cannot tell.

5059. After you came on the boat deck and saw her forward, how soon was it before she disappeared in the fog?
- It was directly.

5060. Will you please state just what you saw when you say you saw the Empress forward as you came on to the deck?
- When I came on the deck I saw the lights, cabin lights, of the Empress, and I saw it was moving from our port bow.

5061. I only want to know what you saw.

Lord Mersey:
Repeat that, because it is the one thing he does remember. I understand that he wants us to accept his statement that he remembers nothing else. Am I right about that; all that you remember is that you saw the lights of the Empress and that she was moving quickly forward?
- Yes.

5062. That is all you remember about the Empress?
- Yes.

 

By Mr. Haight:

 

5063. Did you see any coloured lights?
- No, I didn’t.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

5064. I want to ask you this. You rowed towards the place where the Empress was or had been?
- I rowed towards where the people were.

5065. I am asked to ask you this: when you went towards the Empress or towards the place where she had been, what was the position of the Empress then, do you know?
- I don’t know the position.

5066. Could you see any of the decks of the Empress?
- No; I couldn’t tell you.

5067. Did you see her hull?
- Yes, I saw her hull.

5068. When did you see her hull?
- When I was coming a little way from the stem.

5069. That was while you were still on the Storstad?
- No, I was in the small boat.

5070. Was that the first boat that you went in?
- Yes.

5071. What part of the hull, can you tell us, was it that you saw?
- Don’t know; wasn’t noticing.

 

By Mr. Newcombe:

 

5072. Did you see the Empress sink? Did you see her when she went down?
- Yes.

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

5073. Did you see her plunge into the sea?
- Yes, I did.

 

By Mr. Newcombe:

 

5074. How did she go down?
- I can’t tell you.

5075. Do you know whether she went down with her bow first, her stern first, or sideways?
- I didn’t notice that; I was too busy.

5076. You cannot tell?
- No.

5077. Did you see any part of the Empress come up above the water? Did you notice any elevation of any part of the hull?
- No, I didn’t notice it.

 

By Sir Adolphe Routhier:

 

5078. How far away were you when you saw the Empress sinking?
- I wasn't far off.

5079. How far?
- Not far.

5080. How far, can you say?

 

By Lord Mersey:

 

5081. How many of your ship’s lengths were you away?
- Half ship’s length.

5082. Your ship is about 400 feet long?
- 450.

5083. You say that when the Empress went down you were about 200 or 300 feet away from her? Is that your idea?
- Yes, I was close to her; that is my idea.

 

By Sir Adolphe Routhier:

 

5084. In your boat?
- In the small boat.

Lord Mersey:
Do you wish to ask the witness any question, Mr. Gibsone?

Mr. Gibsone:
No, my Lord.

Witness retired.