Chicago, IL Eastland Disaster, Jul 1915 - Ballroom Was Crowded

THE BALLROOM WAS CROWDED

With Women and Little Children When the Eastland Tipped Over Says Witness This Morning

CHICAGO, July 27--That most of the scores of bodies still held in the ballroom of the doomship Eastland, lying on her side in the Chicago river, are women and children, was the gruesome feature of the testimony of the first witness of the first probe started to learn the reason for Saturday's disaster. The fact was developed at the coroner's inquest. Robert Moore, 45, a traveling salesman of Chicago and a passenger on the Eastland was the witness.

'I boarded the boat at 7 o'clock,' said Moore, "About ten minutes later there was a noticeable list. It could not have been due to crowding on one side for the crowd on the boat was too great, passengers were packed so tight they were necessarily evenly distributed."

Moore said even at that time passengers were being admitted aboard five and six abreast.

"I don't see how it was humanly possible for less than three or four inspectors to count them," swore the witness.

"I went to the dance floor and had just noted that the crowd of women with babies in their arms and children under 12 years were packed too tightly to permit me to pass through, when she went over."

Divers today reported scores of bodies still jammed into the great ball room.

Moore recounted the awful scenes as the boat went over--a recital now many times told. He said he grabbed a stanchion and was rescued thirty-five minutes later. He declared there must have been at least 500 in the dance room alone.

W. C. Steele, of the St Joseph-Chicago line which chartered the Eastland to the Indiana Transportation company, H. W. Greenbaum, of the latter line, Captain Pedersen and Engineer Ericksen were to be called this afternoon. Steele was represented by a lawyer.

As the coroner's inquest opened, Secretary of Commerce Redfield went into conference with Federal District Attorney Clyne and officials of the government steamboat inspection service. They were still conferring this afternoon.

Cicero and Hawthorne continued today to bear their dead to the many graves so hurriedly prepared. There were so many funerals this afternoon that there was a shortage in vehicles and coffins.

Work on the "badly balanced boat" continued today. The wreckers hired by the city to raise her were placing lines about the ship and preparing braces to stand the strain of the terrific weight when they begin to raise the ship.

There was a sudden lull, which grew prolonged as both State's Attorney Hoyne and Coroner Hoffman failed to ask the obvious question. Then Dr. W.A. Evans, ex-health commissioner, said "Where did you say you were?"

'On the Theodore Roosevelt'

"Well, what did you do?"

"The captain was on the bridge I assumed'--he stopped short and began again. I really thought she would come back."

"You say you felt uneasy?" was asked.

"Yes," was the reply.

"Didn't you investigate?"

"I had no authority over the captain," was the quick answer. 'I had merely chartered the boat and didn't even know some of the crew."

Greenbaum insisted that "every human that went aboard was counted." He declared there was not more than 2,500 aboard, including crew and concession employes [sic]. He said only 2, 412 tickets were sold for the Eastland.

Greenbaum gave three possible reasons why the Eastland suddenly turned funeral ship.

"It might have been the crowds shifting to one side," he said. "Again it might have been a listing occassioned by the port holes taking in water or it might have been that there was too much water in the ballast tanks on one side and not enough in the other side."

The inquest recessed for lunch at this point.

Probably Not Counted.

Babies in arms were "probably" not counted by the ticket takers of the Eastland as passengers, and besides 200 children between 5 and 12 years who went aboard on children's tickets, there were many others who "doubled up on adult tickets, according to admissions made at the inquest by Daniel Gee, Western Electric employe [sic] and chairman of the picnic committee, who hired the boat from Greenbaum.

"I don't know whether babies in arms were counted," said Gee. "They probably were not. The ticket takers at least did not take them into account when gathering tickets, for they were admitted free. There were 200 children's tickets sold. There were many children admitted tow each on one adult ticket."

This evidence was regarded as important in view of the state's attorney's possession of 2,550 stubs retained by the Eastland ticket collectors.

The witness told of paying the Indiana Transportation company $500 for the boat. He said he asked Greenbaum regarding the scafety [sic] of the Eastland and received a letter saying the capacity was 2,570 and that the Eastland was perfectly safe.

Manager Greenbaum followed Gee on the stand. He said he was on the Roosevelt helping passengers aboard when he noticed the Eastland listed.

"I was fearful of the consequences." he said.

Still Taking Out Bodies.

CHICAGO, July 27--Two more bodies were recovered from the clutch of the Eastland early today. The total recovered dead is now 828. At least 400 bodies are still in the hulk. This was the estimate made by Coroner Hoffman, after a conference with divers and police officials today. It was based on revised figures of State's Attorney Hoyne, who said today he is convinced the number on board at the time of the disaster was at least 2,550. Some officials still believed that the number of bodies in or about the hull will greatly exceed 500.

1,080 DEAD;
OVERLOADING THE CAUSE

Steamer To Be Raised Immediately--Four Investigations Under Way.

Chicago, July 26--The total number of bodies recovered from the steamer Eastland was announced by Coroner Hoffman as 810 at 1 o'clock this afternoon. His figures show that the total number of lives lost probably will reach 1,080, as follows:

Bodies recovered........................... ...810
Missing reported.............................. 270
Still in the hull of steamer....................200
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Total 1,080

It is estimated that there still are 200 bodies in the hull f [sic] the steamer.

INVESTIGATIONS.

Investigations to determine the cause of the accident and punish the guilty were pushed during the day by Coroner Hoffman. State's Attorney Hoyne and District Attorney Clyne.

CAUSE.

After questioning members of the Eastland's crew and scores of eye-witnesses, State's Attorney Hoyne and his assistants expressed the opinion that the accident was caused by the overloading of the boat.

The Daily Review, Decatur, IL 26 Jul 1915