2018-02-15 / Island History

ISLAND HISTORY

Fred Pease was below deck in his 64-foot workboat when he heard a distress signal. Moments later, he jumped onto the Fort Wetherill dock just as a 13-story-tall transport ship rammed into the pier, The Jamestown Press reported Feb. 15, 1990.

The ship snapped Pease’s mooring lines, knocking the workboat north toward the rocks around Bull Point.

The Norwegian-flagged ship, loaded with $40 million of cargo in foreign cars, remained aground for eight hours. The ship’s captain blamed the collision on the hydraulic steering system, which apparently failed.

“It was a sight I won’t soon forget,” Pease said.

100 years ago — Feb. 15, 1918 (Newport Mercury)

William Henry Brooks, chief engineer of the town’s ferry company since 1895, died after a month-long illness. He was 59.

Brooks was hired as the industry was transitioning from sailboats to steam-powered ferries. He was onboard the steamer Beavertail, the first of its kind in Narragansett Bay, when it was brought to town from a shipbuilding yard in Delaware. This loss is a severe blow to the company following the December death of Brooks’ old shipmate, Christopher Champlin.

75 years ago — Feb. 19, 1943 (Newport Mercury)

The body of a U.S. Army pilot was discovered near the Dumplings area of Narragansett Bay by a U.S. Navy picket boat after a plane crashed in dense fog.

Second Lieutenant Raymond Burke, 22, of New Hampshire, was brought to the naval hospital. His plane was among four craft in a formation that was last spotted together in the Warwick vicinity. Burke’s plane crashed simultaneously with another craft from the formation, which went down on the New Haven railroad tracks in Cranston. It caromed off a freight car and burst into flames. The other two fighter planes are missing, although an Air Force source said there was a report of a low-flying plane over the West Passage. An oil smear was discovered in that area. The fourth plane was unreported.

50 years ago — Feb. 15, 1968 (Newport Daily News)

The town solicitor has been asked by the school committee to negotiate tolling costs for students crossing the Newport Bridge to attend Aquidneck Island schools.

The committee made the decision to tap Arthur Murray after it received a letter from Francis Dwyer, chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. In that memo, Dwyer indicated there were legal questions with reduced rates.

The cost per student currently is $1 annually to ride the ferry. A rise in transportation costs, however, is expected when the bridge opens in December.

25 years ago — Feb. 19, 1993 (The Jamestown Press)

A group of taxpayers is calling for the town council to reduce the proposed $7.3 million budget by nearly $600,000.

Sandy Kane, who is leading the charge, wants the council to aim for level spending. About 8 percent of the budget would have to be axed to equal the $6.7 million measure from a year ago.

The group nearly succeeded in slashing $345,000 from the $4.5 million school budget in 1992, losing by only 16 votes during a paper ballot, 343-327.

10 years ago — Feb. 21, 2008 (The Jamestown Press)

It wasn’t a happy Valentine’s morning for six residents whose cars were burglarized on Cole Street and Hamilton Avenue. All the complaints were received between 1:30 a.m. and sunrise.

The owners discovered their cars with interior lights on and doors open. Stolen were bridge tokens and cash.

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