London, ON Steamer VICTORIA Disaster, Mar 1881




The Particulars.
London, Ont., May 25.
During the day a large number of citizens sought enjoyment in the various excursions leading from the city to adjoining towns, and for others the chief outdoor attraction was a series of steamboat excursions on the river Thames. This enjoyment was rendered more attractive from the fact that this was the first day of the season for boats to run regular trips, and this circumstance, taken in connection with the public holiday, naturally drew large crowds of pleasure seekers to the river. Trips were made down the river for a distance of about four miles to Springbank, a place of popular resort, where the city water works are located, and three or four local steamboats took down large loads of excursionists at regular intervals throughout the day, with a large load of passengers of all ages, variously estimated at from 400 to 600. All went well on the down trip, though the boat was so heavily laden that she shipped water in small quantities occasionally, when a crowd would happen to surge to any particular side.
On the return trip, when more than half way home, a slight commotion on the boat, said by some to have been the pranks of a number of youths on the lower deck, and by others ascribed to the boat striking on a snag, caused the crowd, out of curiosity, to rush to the side, and as the side of the boat sank with additional weight a volume of water a foot or two in depth poured in upon the lower deck, which was crowded with passengers. Instantly the crowd on both decks rushed to the opposite side, and their weight, together with that of the water shipped by the boat, caused it to lurch in the opposite direction. Then it was that the disaster occurred. The side of the boat sank in the water to the depth of one or two feet, and while the crowd of people on the lower deck were struggling to save themselves from shipping down into the river, the stanchions supporting the upper deck suddenly gave way and the whole structure, with its load of human beings, came down on those who were below, crushing them on the deck and rendering escape out of the question.
It is impossible to describe the scene that followed. The boat continued to settle on its side deeper into the water, taking with it many of passengers who were stunned by the fall of the upper deck and were unable to help themselves. Scores sank in the water without an effort, while many others, who were precipitated into the river unhurt, rent the air with their vain appeals for that succor which those passengers who were safe were powerless to extend.

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