2.· SAME -SAlIE -
\ ., 87
DUTY OF STEAMER. - In such cases, b,owever, the steamer is not absolved from fault, where the change of lights indicated action on the part of the schooner, not only uncalled for but improbable, and where the starting of the engine of the steamer, after it had once been stopped, was the immediate cause of the disaster.
W. W. Goodrich, for libellant. Butler, Stillman cf: Hubbard, for respondent. BENEDICT, D. J. The collision that gave rise to this action obcurred in the night-time, on the high seas, between the schooner Owen P. Hines and the steam-ship Alhambra. The schooner was sailing free, at the speed of about five knots an . hour, upon a north-north-east course. The steamer was steaming at the speed of from seven to eight knots an hou!" upon a south-west course. Both vessels had green and red lights set. The vessels were upon crossing courses, with the gteen light of the schooner displayed towards the steam-ship as she approached the schooner from the leeward. It is proved by those on board the steamer that the schooner's green light was seen by them at a considerable distanoe off, but heaving so as render it unsafe for the steamer to attempt to cross the schooner'a bows, whertlfore th'6steamer's engine was stopped. Afterwards it was started again at half speed, when shortly the vessels came in collision, the port bow of the steamer and the starboard bow of the schooner coming in contact. After the collision the steamer passed on without having spoken the schooner, and soon the schooner sunk, her crew being saved by taking to the boat. These facts, which are undisputed, would leave the case a clear one for the libellant were it not that the steamer produces the positive testimony of her master, wheelsman, look out, and a man on deck, that after the green light of the was seen the light disappeared, and the red light of the schooner became visible, which gave rise to the suppositionthat the schooner was undertaking to avoid the steamer by bearing away, and led the steamer to resume her vOyage. From the schooner there is the testimony, equally positive, of three witnesses-all who were on deck"'-that no change
whatever was made of the schooner's comae until at the instant of striking, when, as all agree, she luffed. This testimony from the respective vessels in regard to the course of the schooner, and the lights she displayed, appar· ently so contradicting, can, I think, be reconciled by reference to the fact, stated by the master of the schooner in the most positive manner, that the side lights of the schooner were placed so that when he stood at the stem he could see both the red and green light at the same time without moving his head. This fact shows that it may have been possible for those on the steamer to see the schooner's red light, as they say they did, while the schooner's course was held unchanged, as those on the schooner say was the case. In this way, as I ani: inclined to think, an explanation is offered of the testimony, and statements otherwise wholly irreconcilable are harmonized. But this explanation convicts the schooner of fault for carrying lights so arranged as to mislead an approaching vessel in regard to the course she was pursuing. This fault on the part of the schooner does not, however, in my opinion, absolve the steamer from fault. The steamer saw the schooner displaying a green light, and so near that, according to the testimony of the master of the steamer, ii was not safe to attempt to cross the schooner's bows, accordingly the engine of the steamer was immediately stopped. But afterwards, and according to the master, as soon as he was satisfied that he saw a red light, the steamer was started again at half speed. .This aci of starting the engine of the steamer after it had once been stopped was the immediate cause of the disaster, for the method in which the two vessels came together indicates that the sohooner would have passed ahead of the steamship, although clo.se at hand, if the steamship's engines had not been started.. To start the engine under such circumstanoes,was a fault. Assuming it to be true that the green light of the schooner disappeared and her red light became 'Visible, as the master of ihe steamer states, auch a change of
the lights uncler the circumstances called for the utmost cir. cumspection. It indicated action on the part of the schOoner not only uncalled for but improbable, and it snould'havq aroused suspicion in regard to the movements of .that :vessel, and caused the master of the steamer, havillgstopped his vessel, to hold her where she was until the location 'a'ndm6vements of the schooner were placed beyond all doubt ing to the master the red light showed him that the, schooner would pass him safely on his port hand without any aQtion on his part; and he started his vessel again, not for the :purpose of ayoiding the schooner, but because.he hadbeeri led into the belief that the schooner, by bearing away, had avoided him, and was. then u POll a course that would carry her safely by on his port hand. I think that the circumstances hardly, justify the mas.ter of the steamer in coming to that conclusion so soon as he did. An instant more of delay would have shown him that he had been misled into supposing that the schooner had borne away; and, in the exercise of the great cautio:], demanded by thecircumstances, when once he had stopped his steamer he should have delayed starting her again unW the schooner had in fact passed him. Upon these grounds I hold the collision in question to have been occasioned by fault on both sides, and accordingly must apportion the damages between
AND THE FREDDIE
(District Oourt, D. Mame.
OF CREW.-COUl'ts of admiralty are generally inclined to accept the statements of a crew, as to the movements of their own ship, rather than those coming from those on board an·
The Empire State, 1 Ben. 19. 2. SAME-COl'iFLICT OF TEBTIMONY.-In cases of collision, where there is a. great conflict of testimony, the court must be governed chiefly by undeniable and leading facts, if such exist in the case.