1906 Hudson River Water Carnival
Two Drown In Hudson In
Motor Boat Race
Motor boat racing on the Hudson River had a tragic ending yesterday afternoon just as the last event in the races held by the Motor Boat Club of America was being finished. Harry Odiorne, who was steering the new speed boat Vesuvius, owned by Lewis L. Haggin, a nephew of James B. Haggin, was thrown out shortly after rounding the upper stakeboat, anchored off Tubby's Hook, a short distance above Inwood. His mechanician, J. S. Ferry. leaped into the water without divesting himself of his oilskins, as Odiorne was unable to swim, and both men, weighed down by their heavy clothing, sank and were drowned.
This is the first fatal accident in the history of motor boat racing in New York waters, and the members of the Motor Boat Cub were completely unnerved at the sad and unexpected ending of the day's sport.
From the statements of those on the stakeboat who witnessed the accident, it was evident that the steering gear gave way. Frank Neary of 75 West 100th Street, an employee of the Motor Boat Club, had charge of the stakeboat, which was John D. Roach's cruising launch Arcadia. With Neary were Effingham Lawrence and Horace Dashton of the firm of Underwood & Underwood, photographers, of 5 West 19th Street.
"The Vesuvius came up the river on the Jersey side, the wrong side for her to be on upon turning the stakeboat," said Nearly, in explaining the accident. "She suddenly shot over to the right side of the stakeboat and made a sharp, quick turn. As she started down the river it was evident that something was wrong with the steering gear, for the boat swerved badly, and could not be kept on a straight course. Odiorne soon stood upright in the cockpit, and, with one hand on the wheel, appeared to be trying to unloosen his oilskin coat. Before he succeeded, and when the boat was about 500 feet below the stakeboat, the Vesuvius made two or three sharp, jerky turns, and the last one toppled the steersman into the water. Quick as a flash Ferry leaped from the forward part of the cockpit, evidently trying to save his comrade. That was the last seen of either."
The revenue cutter Calumet, which had been paroling the upper part of the course during the races, was a short distance up the river, and signals of distress were immediately waved to attract her attention. Before she could reach the spot a canoe manned by Benjamin Schlonberg and George Spaulding, of the Inwood Bathing Club, put out from the shore, and within five minutes after the accident the two young men reached the helpless Vesuvius.
"Pick up the men--where are they?" shouted Neary through the megaphone.
The only answer was a downward movement of the hand.
The Calumet quickly steamed to the spot, but saw no trace of Odiorne or Ferry. The Vesuvius was heeled over when she was secured, and in towing her down she became filled with water and sank at the foot of the dock just below Inwood in fifteen to twenty feet of water.
"I couldn't see that anything was the matter with the boat except that the steering wheel was badly bent," said Neary.
Secretary Gamble of the Motor Boat Club said that so far as he could tell, the closing races would be continued to-day.
The accident occurred about 5 o'clock, but it was late in the evening before any one knew of its serious consequences. Mr. Haggin was on the clubhouse float when a boat brought word that the Vesuvius had been seen helplessly drifting in the river. Soon after, the revenue cutter Manhattan, which was patrolling the lower part of the course, came by, but brought no confirmation of the disaster and so accustomed are motor boat owners to mechanical troubles that no one believed anything worse had happened than some trifling accident.
The Vesuvius was competing in a race with E. J. Schroeder's Dixie and J. H. Hoadley's Den, going three times around a 10 1/4-knot course. The Vesuvius rounded her second lap at 4:51:35, and although the last boat in the race, appeared to be all right at the time.
The Vesuvius is one of the new fast-speed boats of the year. She is 30 feet long and is fitted with an engine developing 71.6 horse power. Mr. Haggin, who lives at 37 Madison Avenue, had been very anxious earlier in the day to steer the boat himself, declaring that Odiorne had not gotten as fast speed out of the boat as he believed she was capable of developing.
Odiorne had been employed for several months as engineer in the office of Hurd & Haggin, 316 to 322 Hudson Street, where the engines were made under the supervision of Mr. Haggin, who is one of the latest recruits among the young engineers and designers of fast motor boats. Before that Odiorne was employed at the Standard Motor Construction Company of Jersey City. He was known as an expert engineer, but he had had little experience in managing high-speed boats in racing events, having made his first appearance in that capacity this week. Mr. Haggin, who was completely upset by the accident, said last night that he did not know where either of the men lived.
The Vesuvius carried no life preservers. Practically all these frail boats make make it a point to carry two or three life preservers stowed away for use in just such emergencies. The necessity for them was shown Thursday when H. L. Bowden's Mercedes caught fire when off the Motor Boat Club's float at the foot of West 112th Street. Mr. Bowden and his two mechanics were glad to put them on before jumping overboard. The Motor Boat Club, moreover, has a rule that all racing boats shall carry two life buoys, but no one last night could be found to say whether or not any effort had been made to enforce this rule.
The men on the stake boat were considerably annoyed at the action of the Captain of the Calumet, who, after towing the Vesuvius Dyekman Street dock, started to tow the launch Arcadia, whose motor had been damaged, down the river, but when off the Colonial Yacht Club at the foot of West 108th Street, cut her adrift, declaring that the water was not deep enough to take the launch to land. The Arcadia was finally towed ashore by a small boat.
(Transcribed from the New York Times, Sep. 15, 1906, p. 1. )
[Thanks to Greg Calkins for help in preparing this page. LF]
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