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Colonial Cases


Evening News (Sydney), 16 June 1886

Accidentally Drowned.

On Tuesday the City Coroner held an inquest in the Soudan Hotel, upon the body of a man named James Watson, who met his death on Monday night by falling off the gangway stage leading on to the steamer Energia.

Alfred Child, master of the steamer Energia (now lying on the western side of Circular Quay), deposed that the deceased, who was employed as carpenter on board the vessel, was 43 years of age, and a native of Sunderland, England. He was -a married man, and had left a widow and seven children. The witness had no personal knowledge of the fatality. During the four months he had known him the wit ness never saw the deceased the worse for liquor. William Kelly, employed upon the Energia as a cook, was with the deceased when the latter met with the accident which caused his death. At about ten minutes to 11 o'clock the witness found the de ceased in the company of the donkey man, in the Orient Hotel, and somewhat the worse for drink. The witness advised the deceased to go on board, and offered to assist him in so doing. The three then proceeded to the wharf. The gangway stage was nearly perpendicular, the ship's side being high above the water. A gangway light was burning, and the stage was provided with a man-rope. The witness offered to assist the deceased up the stage, but the latter said he could get on board by himself, and started up the stage at a run. When about three or four feet from the top he gave a lurch and fell from the stage into the water, striking the quay in his descent. The witness raised an alarm, and ran for a cab. Returning, the witness found that the body had been taken out of the water and to the hospital. Dr. Eichler testified that he was summoned by the police to examine the body at half -past 10 o'clock this (Tuesday) morning. It was then still warm. There was a wound upon the head, but the skull was uninjured. The body appeared to have been in the water but a short time. Death was the result of' drowning. Septimus Smith, seaman of the Energia, was on duty as night watchman at the time of the fatality - at about a quarter past 11 o'clock. The witness saw the deceased running up the stage and observed him stumble when near the top and fall off over the man-rope. About a quarter of an hour elapsed before Watson was taken out of the water. When rescued he was alive and vomiting, George Turner, senior-constable: of the water police, gave evidence that having been summoned to the spot he found the deceased lying upon the wharf apparently lifeless. The witness took the man in a cab to the Sydney Hospital where Dr. Westrum upon examination found life to be extinct. No money or articles of any value were found in the pockets of the deceased. In reference to some remarks by the jurymen, the Coroner reminded them that it was not the usual custom for a gangway stage to have a man-rope on each side. He also remarked that he was of opinion that netting should always be suspended beneath the gangway stages, as at Sandridge; and he was in favor of compulsion to that effect by the Marine Board. The jury returned a verdict of accidentally drowned. ? ?

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School