Monday, February 9, 2009

Killed by his Chum

A terrible story of annihilation of a ship's engineer by the engine's crank, is told by the "Daily Telegraph."
Shortly before the steamship Prins Willem, Royal Dutch Steamship Company, was to sail from New York on Tuesday in mail week, John Vituel, second assistant engineer, noted that an oil-cup on the crank was not quite full.
It was five o'clock, the hour for sailing, but he determined to take a great risk.
Seizing an oil can, Vituel lowered himself into the pit.
The crank was just off the centre, and when steam should be thrown into the cylinder the big arm would rise swing slowly, and descend rapidly on the other side.
Vituel had to bend almost double to reach the oil-cup, which he began filling.
In the meantime Mr Vanderleis, the chief engineer and Vituel's intimate friend - for years they had lived almost as brothers and were inseperable - had gone to his post overhead to await the starting signal from the bridge.
He was ignorant of Vituel's perilous position in the narrow pit, which is not large enough to accommodate a man except when the crank is up.
He naturally supposed that the second assistant was at his regular post.
Vituel had about half finished loading the cup when the signal "Ahead" sounded in the engine room.
The hissing and clatter and bustle of the place drowned all other sounds.
Suddenly, as Vituel was screwing the cap on the cup, the great arm against which he was pressed in the narrow hole trembled for a second, then rose.
Vituel uttered an agonising scream.
The cry pierced to the very heart of Vanderleis, and he looked down through the iron grating on which he stood.
There below him he saw his comrade Vituel standing in the pit with his arms upraised.
Above the man's head was the massive crank descending rapidly.
The sight turned the experienced engineer's brain.
With a cry of horror his hands covered his eyes, he dashed to the deck.
Even before he had left his post the crank had dropped, the end caught Vituel in the chest and dragged him down to the bottom of the pit, where, in one sweep of the big arm, the man's life was ground out.
Even if Vanderleis had remained at his post it would have been too late.
The crank would have swung down with it's own momentum.
Once, twice, three times the arm swung round, grinding Vituel to pieces, and sson it was moving so fast that one could not have counted the revolutions.
Even the victim's clothes were torn to sheds.

Eastern Province Herald - February 9, 1909

What a horrible way to go! But why on earth did the victim take such an incrediblt dangerous risk? I wonder if the incident resulted in the redesign of the oil-cup in future ships?

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