San Diego, CA Gunboat BENNINGTON Explosion, Jul 1905
On board was presented a terrible scene. The force of the explosion had torn a great hole in the starboard side of the ship and the vessel was already commencing to list. A section of the upper deck was carried away from stem to stern.
Blood Covers Entire Ship.
Blood and wreckage was distributed over the entire ship, the after cabin and the vicinity of the ship adjacent to the exploded boiler, resembling a charnel house. Over it all, hung the great cloud of white smoke, which drifted, slowly toward the shore.
The shock of the explosion penetrated every section of the ship, blood and ashes being found as far as the stern of the captain's cabin. Portions of the upper deck were carried away and great damage was done in all sections.
Both officers and men who were not seriously injured acted heroically and promptly. Pumps were manned to keep the water from the upper compartment, the magaziine flooded, and men fought their way through the steam into the darkened hold to search for their comrades. In the worst danger, and when it was feared the ship would sink before it could be beached, the young officers and men stuck manfully to their posts.
Hundreds of small craft which dotted the bay hurried to the rescue. The ferry boat Ramona was coming across to San Diego. Captain Berlesen immediately gave orders to change the course of the boat, and instead of continuing his trip hurried to the aid of the stricken warship. The tug Santa Fe which was tied up at the commercial wharf, the launch McKinley, the government launch General DeRussey, and a large number of other launches and water craft which were near the scene at the time, also rushed to the vessel.
By the time the Ramona had arrived many of the sailors of the Bennington who had jumped into the bay had been rescued and the removal of the wounded, which already had been commenced, was being conducted in perfect order.
A most horrible sight met those who approached. In the water men with blackened faces were struggling, handicapped by injuries; others on deck were covered with blood and grime, some dead, some wounded frightfully, others working to rescue comrades who were yet below, either dead or dying.
The smaller boats turned their attention to those in the water, taking them to the wharves as fast as a few had been taken aboard the small craft. At the wharves preparations were speedily made for taking care of the injured in what by this time was seen to be a disaster of awful proportions.
Within half an hour from the time of the explosion, carriages, buggies, automobiles, and street cars were bearing burdens of victims toward the hospitals.
Continued on Page 7.