22["The Marloo Fatality", The West Australian, Saturday 9 January 1897, page 2]





The adjourned inquiry into the circumstances connected with the fatal accident on board the s.s. Marloo on the morning of the 12th December, when Francis Blackwell was killed through falling down the hatchway of the vessel, was resumed yesterday morning before the Coroner (Dr. Lovegrove) and a jury of three. Sergeant Houlahan conducted the examination of the witnesses, and Mr. M. L. Moss appeared on behalf of the Adelaide S.S. Company, the owners of the Marloo.

Thomas Allen, master of the steamer Marloo, stated that he did not know who was in charge of No. 2 hatch on the morning of the accident, but there was no officer of the vessel in charge of that particular hatch. It was the chief officer's duty to see that the stanchions were shipped when the hatches were first opened on the arrival of the vessel. No person was allowed to take down the stanchions without the permission of the chief officer, although it was frequently done, as it was necessary sometimes for the removal of heavy cargo. When the vessel was in port no person had right to be between decks. The stewards had stringent orders not to allow anybody in that portion of the vessel. When the accident occurred the stanchions were down. Witness made enquiries as to who removed the stanchions, but could not elicit any information.

To the Foreman: The steward had no right to permit deceased to be in that part of the boat where the accident occurred.

Thos. E. Truscott, chief officer of the Marloo, deposed that he looked down the hatch before the accident. Three or four of the stanchions were down. In nine cases out of ten, when heavy cargo was being hoisted, it was absolutely necessary that some of the stanchions should be removed to permit of the cargo being taken out of the hold. With the exception of the stevedore, no person had any right to be between decks. Witness did not tell the steward that he could admit passengers to 'tween decks on the morning of the 12th ult.

By the Foreman: Witness gave instructions to the fore-cabin steward to secure all approaches to No. 2 hatch. Witness personally saw that everything was secured. Any person could open or close the bulk-head doors. On the morning of the accident witness stationed a man at the gangway, whose duty it was to assist parsons to go on and off the vessel. Any orderly person could have gone on board the vessel that morning, but had no right whatever to go between decks until everything had been made safe.

Richard Owen Eyton, chief steward on board the Marloo, stated that he never received any orders to keep the doors leading to 'tween decks closed on the morning when the accident occurred.

William Johnson, re-called, stated that after the accident he received orders from the chief officer to ship the stanchions 'tween decks on the fore part of the hatch. Witness would not move the stanchions unless he had authority to do so. Witness did not think it necessary that the stanchions should be down in order to facilitate the discharge of cargo on that morning.

Thomsas Connor, re-called, stated that on the evening of the 11th ult. the chief officer told witness and the other fore-cabin steward to keep the doors leading to the 'tween decks fastened. He could not say how long that order was to stand good. On going below at about 6.15 a.m. on the following day he found the door open. Several passengers were standing near the bunks with their swags. He told them he could not attend to them then, but as Blackwell had asked about a certain berth, witness allotted him one. Up to the present time the order given by the chief officer to keep the doors locked had not been countermanded. At the time of the accident there were no locks on the doors, but since then the doors had been furnished with locks and keys.

This concluded the evidence. The Coroner, in summing up, said that there was no question in his mind that a certain order was given on the night of the llth ult. to the forecabin steward to close the doors leading into the 'tween decks, and he thought it only right to give the chief officer the credit for recognising that that was at that time an unsafe place. The forecabin steward, Connor, admitted that that order had never been countermanded, and when he found the door leading to the 'tween decks on the morning of the accident open, it was a question whether or not he should have reported the circumstance to his superior officer. He did not order the men that were down in the 'tween decks away, and it was clear to him that the question the jury had to consider was, whether it was on account of this neglect or laxity on the part of the fore-cabin steward that the deceased met his death. In his opinion, the conduct of Connor had resulted in Blackwells death, and, that being the case, in the eyes of the law, Connor was guilty of a very serious offence. It was hardly necessary for him to tell the jury what that offence was, and he would now leave the matter in their hands.

The jury, after 35 minutes' deliberation, returned the following verdict:--"That the deceased, Francis Blackwell, came by his death on the steamer Marloo by falling down No. 2 hatchway, the said hold being in an unprotected condition through the stanchions not being shipped, and in our opinion had the door leading to No. 2 hold been securely locked all necessary proper precautions would have been taken, and we find that Thomas Maurice Allen, master, and Thomas Edward Truscott, chief officer, of the Marloo, are guilty of culpable negligence. A rider was added to the effect that the Marloo should not have been allowed to sail until after the inquiry, as thereby evidence of witnesses near by when the accident occurred was unavailable.

The Coroner said that he was bound to accept the verdict of the jury, although in his opinion it was not in accordance with the evidence. He, however, felt quite certain that in bringing in the verdict they did, the jury had done what they thought right, and, therefore, he (the Coroner) had no power but to accept it.

Sergeant Houlahan (to the Coroner): In view of the verdict of the jury, it is my duty to apply for a warrant for the arrest of the captain and chief officer.

Mr. Moss: Do I understand that the sergeant is making an application for a warrant? The idea of the police attempting to take any further action after the strong expression of opinion which fell from you, Mr. Coroner, is inexplicable.

The Coroner said that in view of the opinion he had expressed about the verdict, he felt surprised at the sargeant making a request for a warrant.

Mr. Moss: As a matter of fact, you would be stultifying yourself yourself if you did issue a warrant.

This concluded the inquiry.

Mr. A. Whittle, the foreman of the jury, called at our Fremantle office yesterday evening and expressed a wish to have it published that had the jury not understood that their verdict was equivalent to one of manslaughter they would have returned a verdict of manslaughter direct against the captain and chief officer of the Marloo.