18a["Shocking Accident At Fremantle", The West Australian, Monday 14 December 1896, page 5]



A shocking accident occurred at Fremantle on Saturday morning, when Francis Blackwell, a passenger by the steamer Marloo, outward bound to Melbourne, was killed by a fall down one of the hatchways. The unfortunate man, who was 48 years of age and leaves a wife and five children in Ballarat, Victoria, had just come down from the goldfields and was going for a trip home to spend the Christmas holidays with his family when he met his untimely death. It seems that at about eight o'clock on Saturday morning Blackwell was on board the Marloo looking after a berth, the vessel being timed to sail for the East that afternoon. He was standing in the corridor opposite his bunk, talking to the fore-cabin steward, when, in order to make room for somebody to pass him, he stepped back. Behind him a tarpaulin was hanging loosely, and, unaware that the open hatchway was at the back of this, he leaned against it, with the result that he toppled over head foremost into the hold. His head struck the wheel of a traction engine, 20ft. below, and when picked up he had a gaping wound on the head and his skull appeared to be cracked in several places. He was immediately conveyed to the hospital, but, after lingering for a couple of hours, he died without having regained consciousness.

Where the tarpaulin was hanging iron stanchions are, it is stated, usually fixed to prevent accidents, but in this case they appear to have been removed, as had they been there the accident could not, it is alleged, have happened. The coroner, Dr. Lovegrove, formally opened an inquest on the body of the deceased yesterday morning and adjourned that inquiry to a day to be fixed.


Blackwell, 48, has wife and five kids in Ballarat. has just arrived from goldfields, heading home to VIC for Christmas

Blackwell steps back, to let other passengers pass. In doing so, he puts his weight against the canvas curtain.

Lovegrove formally opened the inquest on Sunday 13 December 1896, adjourned it to a date to be fixed.

18b["The Marloo Fatality", The West Australian, Friday 08 January 1897, page 2]




The adjourned inquest on the body of Francis Blackwell, who was killed by a fall down one of the hatchways of the steamer Marloo, at Fremantle, on the 12th ult., was resumed yesterday afternoon, at the Fremantle Court-house, before the coroner, Dr. Lovegrove, and a jury comprising Messrs. A. Whittle (foreman), G. Auburn, and C. W. Williams. Mr. F. W. Moorhead appeared to watch the proceedings on behalf of the widow of the deceased, and Mr. M. L. Moss attended on behalf of the Adelaide Steamship Company, the owners of the Marloo.

Thomas Connor, steward on the steamer Marloo, stated that on December 12 the deceased was on board the vessel, which was then lying alongside the Fremantle pier. At about 8 a.m. he asked witness for a berth. The two were standing on the 'tween decks in the steerage part of the ship at the time. Witness allotted him a berth facing the hatchway. Between the bunks and the hatch was an alley-way about 3ft. 6in. in width.

At this stage the jury expressed a wish to visit the ship and inspect the scene of the accident. On their return, Witness said that the stanchions round the hold were movable. At the time of the accident the stanchions in front of where deceased was standing had been removed, and a canvas screen was hanging in their place. This screen was fixed at the top, but it was not lashed at the side or bottom. The stanchions were never up when the vessel was at sea, because the hatchway was then covered over and there was no necessity for them. The stanchions were put up when cargo was being loaded or unloaded. Adverting to the accident, witness stated that after he allotted the berth to Blackwell, his attention was drawn to some other passengers. Immediately afterwards he heard an exclamation of "Oh, good God!" and turning round he saw deceased disappear down the hold, head downwards. Deceased fell on his back on top of some cargo.

Sergeant Houlahan : Could the deceased have seen the hatchway open ?

Witness : No ; it was impossible for him to have seen through the screen.

By Mr. Moorhead : Witness could not say whose duty it was to have seen that the stanchions were put up. He did not warn the deceased that the stanchions were down. Deceased appeared to be perfectly sober. The Marloo left the port on the afternoon of the 12th ult.

William Johnson, wharf labourer, recollected the 12th ult. On that date he was employed on the steamer Marloo at No. 2 hatch. Witness was in charge of the gang of men working the hatch where the accident occurred. Witness was under the impression that the stanchions were up at the time of the accident, but he found out afterwards they were not. Witness could see the screen from where he was standing. It was hanging on the fore part of the hold. He saw the feet of a man at the bottom of the screen, and noticing him in the act of stepping back he called out, "Look out, or you will fall," but before the words were uttered the canvas slipped away with the man's weight and he fell down the hold.

In falling deceased struck his head against the wheel of a traction engine. Deceased fell a distance of between twelve and thirteen feet. When picked up the man was alive, but unconscious. A start was made to discharge cargo from No. 2 hatch at 6 o'clock on the morning of the accident. Witness could not say whose duty it was to ship or unship the stanchions.

By Mr. Moorhead : It was not safe for passengers to have the stanchions down when cargo was being discharged.

Matthew Loftus, wharf labourer, who was down the hold when the accident occurred gave unimportant evidence.

Dr. J. W. Hope, resident medical officer at Fremantle, deposed that deceased was brought to the Fremantle hospital between 8 and 9 o'clock on the morning of the 12th ult. He was then alive, but unconscious, and after lingering for about three hours he died. On making a post-mortem examination witness found the deceased's skull had been fractured at the base. Death ensued from shock and hemorrhage.

At this stage the inquiry was adjourned until 10 o'clock this morning.


Inquest proper gets going on afternoon of Thursday 07 January 1897

Jury asks to be taken to the scene of the accident.