New York, NY Steamer OBSERVATION Explosion, Sept 1932

Ship Blasts Kill 38, Hurts 70

20 Missing As Boiler Explodes On Vessel With 120 To 200 Men Aboard

East River Scene of Confusion as Bodies Hurled 40 Feet Into Air and 500 Feet Away; 92-Foot Boat Mass of Wreckage as Rescuers Start Frantic Search for Injured Divers Seek Dead on Bottom of Stream.

New York, Sept. 9 (A.P.)-With an ear splitting roar, the wooden steamer Observation was blown to bits in the East River today, killing 38 and injuring at least 70 of the workmen who swarmed its decks.

More than a score were still missing tonight as floodlights illuminated the scene where divers and rescue squads sought bodies of victims.

George Forsythe, pilot of the boat, was among the dead.

His son, Alexander Forsythe, the captain, was put under police guard as a material witness while he lay in a hospital bed with a fractured leg and internal injuries.

Start Investigation on Blast.

Three separate investigations were begun immediately, one by the department of commerce, one by police, and a third by the district attorney.

The 44-year-old craft, which served as a labor ferry during the week and a sight-seeing boat week-ends, was transporting between 120 and 200 men to Rikers’ (sic) Island, where a $9,000,000 penitentiary is under construction.

It was 25 feet from shore when, without warning, the boilers exploded.

Those on the dock saw one of the steel drums hurtle into the air like a giant sky rocket.

The steamer was lost to sight in a cloud of steam and smoke.

Torn bodies were tossed in all directions. One was hurled 500 feet.

When the steam cleared the only sign of the 92-foot Observation was a mass of floating wreckage and two spans, marking the spot where the sunken hull lay.

Many In Water

The oily surface of the water was dotted with black, struggling figures, motionless figures, others clinging to splintered timbers and shouting feebly for help.

A piece of the shattered pilot house was floating far out in the stream.

Hours later a strong tide swept it onto the beach at Long Island City, miles away.

Three pairs of hands clutched its jagged edges in the rigid grip of death.

Several tardy workmen who had missed the boat, and one who had been dismissed for the day because of illness, were the first to turn rescuers.



NYC Steamer Observation Explosion Sept 1932

My grandfather iron supervisor died as well. My uncle would of been on the boat but it was his birthday and had to much celebration with the boys, didn't want to get out of bed. My grandmother told my grandfather oh leave him alone its his birthday so my grandfather went off to work never to be seen again. My uncle ended up raising and financially caring for the family. He was 1 of 7. I would love for people to remember my grandfather and uncle and what good men they were it was a terrible accident.

Observation Explosion

My uncle James Flaherty an iron worker died on this ship.
Story has it from family, that another Iron worker who was with uncle Jim were on a upper deck waiting to use the toilet. Jim let the other worker use the toilet before himself. The other worker was sitting on the toilet and the ship exploded. He was found in the water with his pants around his legs and saved. This Iron worked appeared at uncle Jim's funeral to tell the story.