Timaru Herald - June 17th 1899, Saturday â€“ Page 4
An inquest was held at the hospital yesterday before Mr. C.A. Wray Coroner, into the circumstances of the death of Blackburn Catlow. The following were the jury â€“ Messrs. W Huggins (foreman), Oâ€™Rourke, C. Knight, P. Cox, G. Cox, and Barry.
Sergeant Fraser called the following witnesses: -
G. Stumbles, foreman of works at the breakwater, stated that a very heavy sea was running on the 13th May from S. to S.E. It came up very quickly, between two and three oâ€™clock. About half-past four it was very heavy indeed, the seas breaking over the end of the wharf, and carrying shingle into the harbour. Seas had been washing over the end of the wharf for about half an hour before that. Deceased was working with crane-driver, 600ft shoreward of that point. Could not say why deceased left the crane. Saw him going from it down the wharf, about half-past four. Supposed that he went to look at the block that had been washed on to the breakwater. Followed him, about 150ft from the end, -deceased was then standing at the end, leaning against the rail-a tremendous sea came over the wharf, and deceased disappeared. There were other people nearer to deceased, could not say who they were. Mr Tennent was one, and he ran away to the steamer at the wharf for a boat. Saw deceased come to the surface, over 60ft from the wharf, a few seconds after he went over. He seemed to be paddling, in a feeble way, with his hands. Thought from his appearance he was â€œdoneâ€. Ran away then to get a boat, but found that Mr Tennet had started Bradleyâ€™s boat out. Saw no more of deceased. Supposed that he was prompted by curiosity in going to the end. Did not think it dangerous, if one kept a look-out for the seas, and ran away from them. Would have gone himself. Two others were at the end, and they ran away when the big wave came. The deceased was a steady, hard working, industrious man. There was a life-bouy at the end of the wharf but there was no show of throwing it the distance where the deceased came up. A good swimmer might have given assistance. It was possible. The boat was there very quickly-within tow and a half or three minutes. It was not deceasedâ€™s duty to go to the end of the wharf at the time, but he would be anxious to have a look at the bloc. He was in the employ of the Harbour Board as a day labourer. Witness helped to recover the body on Thursday, and identified it by the clothing.
To the foreman: Did not call deceased back. Would not say it was his duty to go. He was working with the blocks, and took very great interest in his work, and naturally would want to see if any thing could be done when a block washed over.
A juror remarked that if it was not deceasedâ€™s duty to go to the end of the wharf, he was a long way from his post. It was strange that a man should be allowed to run away from his work like that.
The witness said he had not run away from his work. It was part of his duty to look after things, and he took great interest in his work.
The juror (Mr Barry) sad it might be a question whether deceased lost his life in the execution of his duty.
Alfred Budd, baker and confectioner stated that he was on the wharf at the time of the accident, about 15 yards from the end. Mr Tennent and Mr W. Hay were also standing there, and deceased was standing at the rail, with a youth named Miller. A slight sea came over and splashed Miller and deceased about the feet. There was a laugh at that, as usual. Miller retired, and Catlow stepped up on the centre rail and sat on the top rail, with his face to the south, towards the seas. He had hardly got seated, when a heavy sea came over. It towered above the lamp-post. The cry was raised â€œOh, the man!â€ Nothing was seen except the body of water. Mr Tennent said â€œHeâ€™s gone,â€ and at once ran up the wharf towards the steamer Taupo for a boat. Mr Hay witness stepped to the edge of the wharf to look for the man. He reappeared in the water about 60yds from the end of the wharf, and began swimming towards the centre of the harbour, with a strong breast stroke, giving witness the impression that he was a good swimmer; and he had no doubt that he would be rescued, as Bradleyâ€™s boat had already left the Taupo. Deceased had swum about 40 yards (aided by the run of water) and was still swimming, when the boat started. There was a sort of eddy, marked by a line of foam, where the run of the water ceased â€“ about 100 yards from the wharf- and when deceased got into that his strokes became shorter and spasmodic, and he gradually sank. The boat was then about 100 yards from him. The boat must have reached the spot where deceased sank, within four minutes after he was washed over, and deceasedâ€™s hat was picked up well within five minutes. There was no fear in the mind of anyone that he would not be rescued until he got into the eddy and began to sink. Did not know the man, but saw that he was a good swimmer, and had no doubt that he would be rescued. It would have been suicidal to have jumped in to save him.
W. J. Tennent, secretary to the Harbour Board, stated that at the time of the accident he was at the end of the wharf, about 30ft back. There was a rising sea, rapidly increasing. Just before-as he reached the shore end of the wharf-he saw one of the parapet blocks washed off. The seas came over at intervals of about a minute, some much heavier than others. Was talking to Mr Hay and watching the seas, which were starting another block. Deceased passed them and walked straight to the end, and stood at the rail, about 12ft from the end. Did not think of his danger at the moment. An extremely heavy sea, heavier than the usual, came, and it shot over where the block had been displaced from ; a great body of water came over, and buried the end of the wharf. Had not noticed where deceased was at the moment. Someone called out, â€œMan overboard!â€ he thought; and witness turned immediately and ran for a boat Mr Bradley got the alarm first and was remarkably expeditious in getting away. His boat was a steamer. When witness got back to the end of the wharf deceased had disappeared. His hat was picked up, he estimated, about 250 feet from the wharf, towards the entrance and the north wall. The buoy at the end of the wharf was not thrown over. Everyone was looking for the man until he was too far away; it was a matter of only a few feet between safety and danger : did not think of warning deceased. Deceased was in the employ of the Harbour Board,, under Mr Stumbles. His particular duty was slinging and placing blocks, with the crane. He ought of all men to have been acquainted with the danger.
The Coroner : Was it part of his duty to go and see what was going on at the end of the wharf? â€“ He went entirely of his own motion. I think it would be a reasonable thing for him to do to go down the wharf to see what was happening to the blocks.
The Jurors: Deceased had been tallying cement at the cement shed: he finished that, and went to the crane. The driver told him a block had just been washed off, and deceased went straight down the wharf to see it; -so the driver had told him.
The Coroner: If that is so, he did go in the exercise of his duties.
J. Hunter, employed on the dredge Timaru, stated that he went on the afternoon shift on Thursday at 12 oâ€™clock. Saw something in the water, about 2 Â½ chains from the wharf, towards the entrance, and half a chain from the breakwater. Was in a boat at the time, fastening lines, and pulled out to the object he saw, and found it be the body of deceased.
Constable Miller, who took charge of and searched the body, produced a Â£1 note, some silver, and pocket â€“ knife found in the pockets: and this concluded the evidence.
The Coroner suggested that the evidence disclosed that the deceased was accidentally drowned.
The foreman asked whether it would be advisable to add to the verdict that the deceased lost his life in the execution of his duty.
The Coroner said it was not necessary. The question did not arise in this inquiry.
Mr Barry said the principal witness sad that deceased was doing his duty.
It was agreed that the verdict should contain a statement to that effect, and the verdict was that the deceased was accidentally drowned in Timaru Harbour on May 13th whilst in the performance of his duties under the Timaru Harbour Board.http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/bin/papers?name=THD&yea...