Wreck Commissioner's Inquiry

 

 

REPORT

OF

COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO THE CASUALTY TO

THE BRITISH STEAMSHIP

"Empress of Ireland"

 

 

WHICH SANK AFTER COLLISION WITH THE NORWEGIAN STEAMER

"Storstad"

IN THE

RIVER ST. LAWRENCE ON MAY 29, 1914

-----------------------

 

REPORT OF COMMSSION OF INQUIRY INTO THE CASUALTY TO THE BRITISH STEAMSHIP " Empress of Ireland " WHICH SANK AFTER COLLISION WITH THE NORWEGIAN STEAMER "Storstad" IN THE RIVER ST. IAWRENCE ON MAY 29, 1914.

 

CHATEAU FRONTENAO, QUEBEC, 11th July, 1914.

To the Honourable
    J. D. HAZEN,
        Minister of Marine and Fisheries.

SIR,

"EMPRESS OF IRELAND."

 

I have the honour to transmit to you the Report of the Commissioners appointed by you to inquire into the foundering of the above named vessel.

Believe me,                                       

Most respectfully yours,           

(Sgd) MERSEY.

 

 

WARRANT OF APPOINTMENT OF COMMISSION.

 

CANADA.

 

To the Right Honourable JOHN CHARLES, BARON MERSEY, The Honourable EZEKIEL MCLEOD, Chief Justice of New Brunswick and Local Judge in Admiralty of the Exchequer Court of Canada for the New Brunswick Admiralty District, and The Honourable Sir ADOLPHE BASILE ROUTHIER, Local Judge in Admiralty of the Exchequer Court of Canada for the Quebec Admiralty District.

GREETING:

KNOW YOU that under and by virtue of the provisions of Part X of the Canada Shipping Act as amended, and in virtue of all other powers in that behalf in me vested, I, the Honourable John Douglas Hazen, the Minister of Marine and Fisheries of Canada, do hereby nominate, constitute and appoint you, the said John Charles, Baron Mersey, Ezekiel McLeod and Sir Adolphe Basile Routhier to be Commissioners to hold a formal investigation under and subject to the requirements of the said Part X of the Canada Shipping Act as amended, into and concerning a shipping casualty which I, the said Minister, consider to be of extreme gravity and special importance, and writh respect to which I have ordered a formal investigation under the authority of the said statute, whereby the British steamship "Empress of Ireland" of about 8,028 tons, registered tonnage, official number 123972, of which the Canadian Pacific Railway Company was the registered owner and H. G. Kendall was the Master, was sunk in collision with the Norwegian steamship "Storstad," in the River St. Lawrence, on the morning of Friday, the twenty-ninth day of May, 1914, and many lives of the passengers and crew of the said steamship "Empress of Ireland" were lost.

To HAVE and to hold, exercise and enjoy all the office of Commissioners as aforesaid unto you the said John Charles, Baron Mersey, Ezekiel McLeod and Adolphe Basile Routhier, together with all and every the powers, rights, authority and privileges, and subject to the obligations and requirements, under and by virtue of the said Part X of the Canada Shipping Act to or in respect of the said office of right or by law appertaining or enacted.

And I do moreover designate you, the said John Charles, Baron Mersey, to be President of the said Commission or Court hereby constituted.

Given under my hand at Ottawa this 13th day of June, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and fourteen.

(Sgd.) J. D. HAZEN,          
Minister of Marine and Fisheries of Canada.

 

 

INTRODUCTION.

 

The terms of our warrant of appointment require us to inquire into the casualty whereby the SS. Empress of Ireland was sunk in collision with the Norwegian steamer Storstad. We have interpreted this reference as requiring us to investigate not merely the question of responsibility for the collision; but also the questions why the ship sank so quickly afterward, whether adequate measures were taken to save the lives of those on board, and whether any steps can be taken in the future to prevent or mitigate the terrible consequences of similar disasters.

It will accordingly be convenient to divide our report into sections dealing with the following matters: -

    1. Description of the two ships;

    2. Summary of the stories of the two parties;

    3. Consideration of who was to blame for the collision;

    4. Reasons for the rapid sinking of the ship;

    5. The life saving appliances on board the Empress of Ireland, and the measures taken to save life by both vessels;

    6. Answers to questions propounded by the Canadian Government.

    7. Suggestions.

The Commission met on June 16 and sat for the purpose of hearing evidence and the addresses of Counsel until Saturday, June 27. We heard 59 witnesses.

We were assisted by the advice of the following assessors: -

    Commander CABORNE, C.B., R.N.R.,
    Captain L. A. DEMERS, F.R.A.S.,
    Commander HOWE, R.N.,
    Professor J. J. WELCH, M. SC., M.Inst, C.E.

The parties were represented by counsel as follows:—

For the Crown:

    Mr. E. L. NEWCOMBE, K.C., Deputy Minister of Justice,
    Mr. EUSBE BELLEAU, K.C.

For the Canadian Pacific Railway Co.:

    Mr. BUTLER ASPINALL, K.C.,
    Mr. E. W. BEATTY,
    Mr. F. E. MEREDITH, K.C.,
    Mr. A. R. HOLDEN, K.C.

For the master, engineers and officers of the SS. Empress of Ireland:

    Mr. AIM GEOFFRION, K.C.,
    Mr. CECIL THOMPSON.

For the owners of the SS. Storstad:

    Mr. C. A. DUCLOS, K.C.,
    Mr. C. S. HAIGHT,
    Mr. J. W. GRIFFIN,
    Mr. N. B. BEECHER.

For the Dominion Coal Co., charterers of the SS. Storstad:

    Mr. H. MACINNES, K.C.

For the National Sailors and Firemen's Union of Great Britain and Ireland:

    Mr. G. F. GIBSONE, K.C.


 

Part I.

Description of the two vessels.

(a)  S.S. "Emrpress of Ireland."

(b) S.S. "Storstadt."

Part II.

The Two Stories.

(1) The Story of the S.S. "Empress of Ireland."

(2)  The Story of the "Storstadt."

Part III.

Which Ship was to Blame.

Part IV.

Cause of rapid sinking of the ship.
Were the watertight doors and ports in the "Empress of Ireland" open or shut at the time of the collision?

Part V.

Life-Saving Appliances.

Part VI.

Questions.

Part VII.

Suggestions.