A Boat Accident (The following has been excerpted from LIGHTBOURNS’ MAIL NOTES)
(Provided courtesy of Society Historian, Mr. Elroy Sprauve… By Johannes Lightbourn)
St. Thomas, July 15, 1907. It has never been our lot to record such a catastrophe as that which occurred on Saturday night off the Southern coast of this island. The boat Sea Gull, under the command of Sandford Sprauve, left here after 6 o’clock for St. John having on board, including the boat’s hands, twenty-one persons, principally young lads who had been down here during the day playing a cricket match with the boys of the St. Thomas Grammar School. All went well until about 9 o’clock when east of Buck Island the boat was struck by a back flow and swamped. Among those in the boat were two sons of Judge Zielian of St. John, and three with Louis Sprauve managed to reach the shore about “Bovoni”, after being fully four hours in the water and yesterday morning took boat from the East End and crossed over to St. John. Search has been made along the shore, but no evidence of any other life being saved has been found. Mrs. Jas. Jacobs and three children, and other women were among the lost. An inquest is being proceeded with and further particulars may be had tomorrow.
Saturday Night Disaster—St. Thomas July 16, 1907. There is little to add touching this heartrending disaster of Saturday night. Not one of the bodies has been discovered and there is no reason to believe that a solitary soul of the missing eighteen is alive, as the search about the southern shore of this island and over Buck Island has been complete enough to have disclosed any body, dead or alive, that may have drifted in. In an interview with Louis Sprauve, one of the survivors he said everybody in the boat was in the happiest of moods at the time of the accident, and that there were scarcely any wind, the sails were actually flapping and they were expecting a little wind out of the squall that was making up to the N. E. when they were suddenly taken aback. Most of the passengers were on the windward or port-side of the boat, as she was standing out to the south, and as the sail was thrown over to port the boat, turned over and went down in an instant. For some time several of the men were within hail of each other, but gradually the number grew less until there was not an answering sound but the sad sea waves when the three of them reached Long Bay. The women seemed to have gone down with the boat at once.
The name of those who were lost are Seaford Sprauve (Captain) and his two brothers James and Ludwig; Mrs. Wilhelmina Jacobs and her three children Eugenia, Lillian and James; Mary A. George and her son Jacob; Franklin Joseph, Cardinal Jacobs, Jas. Small, Edmund Jacobs, James Peterson, Alphonse Jurgens, Rebecca Phillips, Jas. Stirlington and one Isadore. Mrs. Jacobs was on the way to tell her parent good-bye as she was about to join her husband in New York.
The saved are Jens and Harold Zielian (aged 14 and 13 respectively) and Louis Sprauve. The Zielian boys were actual heroes in the effort to save life; they struggled to save both James Sprauve and Jas. Jacobs, but the poor boys could not hold out, Louis Sprauve is indebted to them for his life as he was seized with a cramp and they held him up until he had overcome it, and to the song of “Sailors pull for the Shore” kept up courage until they struck the land at 1 o’clock in the morning.
The Sea Gull was a boat of about 14 feet Keel, and it is felt by most persons who ought to know that she was overladen with passengers and the hope is being freely expressed that the harbour authorities be empowered, if they have not already the power, to regulate passenger traffic on the boats licensed under the Danish flag, and so possibly save in the future a like disaster