The South Australian Advertiser May 27 1881
Sad Fatality at Coffin's Bay
(By telegraph from our own Correspondent)
A sad accident has occurred at Coffin's Bay. Mr Elder, late of the Survey Office, sent news into Port Lincoln last night that the Captain of the "Spindrift" and a young female passenger had been drowned. The craft ran in for shelter, and had lain there for two days, with several passengers.
About 5pm on Tuesday a sister of the deceased ( edit; Eliza), whose name has not transpired, the captain and the deceased were on deck. The sister, a child thirteen years old, on going down into the cabin heard a splash, and saw both go overboard. She tried to render assistance, and then called below. She saw them ten or twelve yards from the vessel, but there was no lifebuoy on board and no rope or boat available. The crew tried to clear the boat, but could not cut the lashings or raise the boom in time.
The cook jumped overboard with a line. He reached the Captain and made the line fast to him and hauledhim on board, but he was dead. The boat then went after the girl. They regained the body, which was brought on board dead. The Captain caught the girl twice but she clung to him. He was paddling as he could not swim. Neither body sunk.
The craft was bound for Waterloo and Venus Bays. The girl's mother, sister and step-father were on board. It was a plucky action on the part of the cook, there being sharks all around. An inquest is to be held.
The South Australian Advertiser
Tuesday May 31, 1881
THE SAD FATALITY AT COFFIN'S BAY
(From our own Correspondent.)
Port Lincoln, May 30.
The hurried telegram which contained the principal features of the sad accident on board the ketch Spindrift at Coffin's Bay, is, by the arrival of the troopers this morning, more than confirmed in every particular. That two lives may have been lost through ignorance is very deplorable, but where the rules for the restoration of the apparently drowned are so simple it is doubly regretted that, with so many to lend a hand, they were either not under- stood or certainly not applied. In this case both bodies were recovered on the surface, and although they had no doubt imbibed some sea water, the attempts made on board to restore animation were only calculated to accelerate the fatal result. In this unhappy case all "head" seems to have been lost by everyone on board except the cook. The plan pursued of turning the captain on his back, and using means to restore life before discharging the water he had imbibed, could certainly lead to no other result than a fatal conclusion. Every sea-going craft ought to carry instructions for saving life of those apparently drowned as certainly as she carries her own register, and in a language to suit her nationality.
Men at sea will read any mortal thing by way of killing the "dead hours," and they would, ere a month was over, know every rule by heart. Why also is supervision not exercised to see that ordinary life-saving appliances are on board and avail- able? In this case neither buoy nor rope was to hand. The boat, one built simply for cargo and about a ton and a half lift, was lashed down from the time bad weather was experienced outside, and never again released from her lashings, it being understood they were to make a start next morning. No chance of floating material was, therefore, at hand. Oars, etc, all stowed away, but un-available, and it certainly behoves the marine authorities, not only to see that a new craft leaving the port is properly found, but to see that other ketches or trading schooners, specially passenger crafts, be properly inspected, so that their life-saving apparatus at least may be up to the requirements of their charter. A mere matter of a passing joke between the captain and one of the young female passengers - a fine girl of 17 - has resulted in death to both, the testimony of the inquest being that she was walking on the craft's rail, under the captain's charge, and swaying over the water, when her feet slipped and she fell, dragging the captain after her, and when the first assistance came from below they were not 15 yards away from the vessel.
The inquest on the bodies of Mary Valkemar [sic], aged 17, and Adolph Daikman, aged 45, was held at Lake Wangarie on Tuesday, Mr Evan acting as coroner and Mr. German as foreman of the jury.
Lizzie Valkemar[sic], sister of the deceased, aged 13, said - "We were lying at anchor on Tuesday, and about 2 p.m., after dinner, the captain, my sister, and myself were on deck. The captain and deceased were larking, and twice he lifted her on to the rail, and placing her feet on it, held her on. I was fishing. I heard a splash, and saw the captain and my sister in the water. Put my arm over the side for my sister to catch my hand, but she did not seem to understand; so rushed to the cabin to call my mother."
Mrs. Gregory, mother of deceased, said - "As soon as the alarm was given by my daughter Lizzie I ran on deck and saw the captain and my daughter struggling in the water. I cried out "for God's sake they are drowning." The cook and my husband came on deck, and immediately afterwards the mate and the sailors. They tried to find ropes to cast, but in the confusion could find none. They then went to get out the boat, which was securely lashed."
Peter, the mate of vessel, said - "As soon as the alarm was given I came on deck and saw the captain and the girl struggling in the water. Picked up a length of coir rope and cast it within one yard of the captain; meanwhile giving orders to clear the boat. The cook then put a rope round himself and jumped over-board, reached the captain and made fast, and they were hauled on board. About two minutes later the boat was away after the girl."
The evidence of the stepfather of the deceased was similar to that given by Mrs. Gregory. All the witnesses agreed that if there had been a dingey [sic] on board the captain and the girl might have been saved.
Alfred Cameron, cook, said - "I came on deck with Mrs. Gregory as soon as the alarm was given. Saw the captain and the girl struggling in the water. Tried to get a rope and could not find a length. Went to the boat and could not get her off. Found a coir coil, jumped overboard and brought the captain in. He was just dropping his face forward in the water and seemed almost gone. I was too exhausted to go after the girl, but the boat went almost immediately."
The unanimous verdict of the jury was - "That the deceased persons met their death by being accidentally drowned." They also added the following rider:- "That we are of the opinion the Government authorities are much to blame in not seeing that the vessel was provided with life buoys and a small boat, and are of opinion much praise is due to Trooper Blake."