David's Scottish Ancestry

Mackinac's Disaster Memorial

There were many news articles for several months after the disaster on 18 August 1925 - one such is pictured below: -

"NEWPORT STEAMER BOILER EXPLODES; 32 DEAD, 41 DYING" with subheads that include: "Steamer Mackinac, on Way on Pawtucket, Is Turned Into Inferno" and more with death list. - THE DAY, New London, Connecticut, August 19, 1925

And the excerpts out of the New York Times, New York, NY 20 Aug 1925 tells of our connection to the horrible disaster of the time.


Among the several still missing are Alfred Breault of Pawtucket, whose parents fear he jumped overboard and was drowned, and David Burns of the Pawtucket police force, two of whose members, Patrolmen HENRY DICKINSON and ELMER WHITAKER, are dead. Burns jumped overboard and his fellow-officers are positive that he sank, as he was unable to swim. Seven other policemen are in hospitals suffering from severe burns. All of them, however, are expected to recover.


"Please kill me, I'm suffering so," a brawny Pawtucket policeman pleaded to nurses. An hour later death relieved him from all pain. The officer, one of three killed, was so scalded that the skin on his hands hung in strips. His features were burned so black that he was barely recognizable. Hospital attachés were constantly checking the lists of patients, transferring names from the roll of injured to that of the dead, and all through the day ambulances rolled through the training station gates and carried away to undertaking establishments the bodies of those who had succumbed.


and the cause of the explosion:

Three Investigations Started.

A defected boiler was ascribed as the cause of the disaster by Oscar A. Heltzen, Assistant Attorney General, who said the State Attorney General's department would investigate to determine whether there was criminal culpability and what, if any, persons were responsible for the conditions which caused the fatalities.

"When the State Investigators inspected the Mackinac's exploded boiler they found it was an old one, deteriorated by wear and thinned down in certain places," said Mr. Heltzen. "What occurred at the time of the explosion was a rupture of the plate in the cross drum extending from the right-hand side of the firebox to the centre of the boiler alongside of the longitudinal seam.

"The longitudinal seam was very thin and the opening was six or seven inches wide, extending upward to the rear of the drum. It appeared that from time to time the boiler had been subjected to extensive repairs by the addition of new bolts and patches.

"The repairs may be evidence that the boiler was in a weakened condition. It has been intimated to the Attorney General's department that an inspection should have determined this condition by the use of hydrostatic or hammer test.

"There appeared next to the longitudinal joint a sign of discoloration for a distance of two and a half feet. This is a suggestion of an old break. An old crack appeared beyond the break made at the time of the explosion. This crack has a splitting appearance instead of the tearing one, which, in the opinion of the State officials, is significant in that in the case of a regular explosion a wide bursting would have taken place, whereas in this case the opening followed the weak spot.

"At the edge of the sheet of metal it is plain to be seen how thin it had become."

Federal Authorities Act.

Federal steamship inspectors and the Newport police started independent investigations. United States Senator Jesse H. Metcalf asked Secretary Hoover to start an immediate inquiry. Captain George McVay, Commander of the vessel, and George Kelly, General Manager of the Blackstone Valley Transportation Company, owners, were among those who accompanied the investigators over the craft.

Boiler Inspector Richard F. Bailey said that the Mackinac's boilers were last inspected in New York. Maritime firms in Newport asserted there was nothing unusual in that, especially since the vessel was in service between Pawtucket and New York in the past and probably often was repaired there.

A memorial card as found in the family possesions:

In Loving Memory of
The Victims of the Ill-Fated Mackinac
Tuesday Aug. 18, 1925.
Cruel fate was working at its worst,
When the Faulty boiler burst.
We bow our heads to the maker's way.
But can't forget that fatal day.

Today is