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Lester T. Hessong's Personal Account

Lester Hessong, oiler on the Eastland, and a few years ago an employee of Capt. Ralow on the fishing tug, escaped from the boat and returned to his home at St. Joseph.

The St. Joseph Press says of his experience:

Lester T. Hessong, who resides at 285 Wayne Street, this city, and who was one of the crew on the steamer Eastland, arrived home Saturday evening at 6 o'clock on the Graham & Morton boat.  Mr. Hessong was employed in the engineering department of the ill-fated boat, but was off duty when the catastrophe occurred.  In an interview with a Daily representative yesterday, Mr. Hessong said:

"I was on the main deck and had just started up toward the engine room when I noticed that the boat was listing.  However, I thought nothing of this until a few seconds later when I realized that it really was going over.  I then ran or really crawled to the starboard side and grabbed for the forward gangway door, pulling myself through the opening and on to the side of the boat, which was completely turned over by that time.  Walking out on her side plates I, of course, realized immediately what had happened and went right to work assisting in the rescue."

"At the time I first noticed the boat was moving I heard some girl scream, but thought nothing of this as they often have uncalled for scares."

"I went off duty at 6 a.m. and was not to go back to work until 12 o'clock noon.  I'll never forget the terrible scene.  It's hard to realize."

Mr. Hessong stayed and assisted in the work of rescue until all that were left alive were taken out.  He went to work for the company June 1.

Mr. Hessong further stated that he had an opinion of how the accident happened, but refused absolutely to give out his reasons for publication.  He said he expected a government officer would be here after him in a day or so.

©South Haven Tribune
reprinted with permission of South Haven Tribune

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