DEATH AT SEA: 3 Worst Maritime Accidents in U.S. History

By  //  April 14, 2021

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Over the centuries, there have been multiple maritime accidents in the United States. Consequently, many deaths and injuries have been recorded on lakes, seas, rivers, and oceans all over the country.

The disasters are linked to the following:

■ Harsh weather conditions

■ Human error

■ Actions while at war

The SS Sultan and PS General Slocum are among the worst maritime disasters that captured headlines in the US. The accidents claimed many lives of both passengers and crew members on board. 

SS Sultan

April 27, 1865, marked the end of protracted bloodshed on American soil due to the civil war. It led to the release of Union soldiers who boarded the Sultan together with some civilians. The vessel was a side-wheel steamboat, yet the passengers were about 2,000, which was more than its legal capacity.

Unfortunately, the steamboat’s boilers exploded while heading north in the Mississippi River. The ship burned throughout the night, leading to the demise of more than 1,700 people.

Other passengers were thrown into the river by the blast’s force, but most of them ended up drowning in the icy waters. It’s one of the deadliest maritime accidents in the US, although it was overshadowed by the end of the civil war.

No one was held responsible for the tragedy, but Captain Frederic was convicted for allowing the ship’s overcrowding. However, the ruling was later overturned because he didn’t place the passengers and soldiers on board.

PS General Slocum

The PS General Slocum was a side-wheel passenger ship or paddleboat. In 1904, it ferried 1,358 passengers who mostly were German-Americans, with women and children as the majority among them.

As the boat was heading to the East River, it caught fire, which spread rapidly in about 30 minutes after leaving the dock. The captain opted not to stop the ship as he feared it would spread to the shore.

An estimated 1,021 people died. Some were burned, while others drowned since swimming was not an option. The accident only had 321 survivors, making it the worst maritime accident in New York waters and the second-worst in US history.

Investigations into the disaster led the jury to believe that eight people, including two inspectors and the captain, were responsible. Eventually, captain Van was convicted for criminal negligence.

SS Edmund Fitzgerald

In 1958, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was launched as the Great Lakes carrier. It was used to ferry taconite iron ore from Minnesota to Detroit, Toledo, and other cities within the Great lakes. The vessel was also famous for its hauling speeds.

Sadly, the ship sank on November 10, 1975, and all its 29 crew members perished. It was reported that it had left Wisconsin heading to Michigan carrying 26,000 tonnes of iron ore. In the afternoon, the captain said that Fitzgerald had encountered one of the worst storms the veteran had ever seen. The ship lost its radar, and in a few minutes, it disappeared on radar screens.

The cargo’s excess weight was a possibility for the wreck because Fitzgerald sat low, making it vulnerable to a sudden large wave. Other investigations also showed that the ship might have had faulty hatches making it sink after an abrupt freight shift.

The above accidents represent some of the most memorable maritime disasters in the United States. Some of them resulted from human negligence, and the responsible party could be held accountable for the damages. Depending on the accident’s circumstances, different laws may also apply.

If you are a victim of such incidences, an experienced attorney can determine whether you can file a case for the maritime injury. They will also come up with the right settlement you deserve from the defendant.

Author Bio: Michelle Eddy

Michelle Eddy is a staunch consumer advocate, fresh libertarian convert, and proud mother of three. Besides her legal career, she enjoys blogging about topics related to her expertise and life experiences, like parenting, child development, education, and law. In her writings, Michelle places emphasis on helping people to fight for their rights. She also works as a collaborative editor for Laborde Earles Law Firm. Her favorite quote is: “Sir, we are outnumbered 10 to 1″. “Then, it is a fair fight”.