The Colman Dock Calamity

On April 25, 1912, a 320-foot, steel-hulled Alaska Steamship liner called The Alameda, was attempting to pull into Colman Dock at Pier 2 (Now Pier 52 Ferry Terminal) on the Seattle waterfront. 
Colman Dock 1910

It was about 10:30 pm when the Master signaled full speed astern. Second Assistant Engineer R. M. Brunton misheard him, and applied full speed ahead. A Seattle Police Officer was on the dock and saw the ship coming straight for him, and roughly 100 other people. He warned everyone in the waiting room to run for their lives. The Alameda smashed into the dock, right under the waiting room and into the base of the 72-foot clock tower, which stood at the end. 150 feet of the dock was destroyed, and the end of the waiting room collapsed, leaving it exposed.
The damaged pier
A steamboat called The Telegraph was also hit, and it sank to the bottom of Elliott Bay. Only one person on the dock fell into the water, Dorothy Lynch of Seattle. She was rescued by firemen and had only minor injuries. Four other women on the dock were seriously injured. The total damage was estimated at $100,000. ($2,229,984. today) The fact that the entire pier didn't collapse, was credited to excellent engineering and construction.
The ferry waiting room today
It still stands on the original pilings today. While the pier was being repaired, all operations were being conducted at commercial slips on the south side of the dock. Because 150 feet of the dock was missing, boats and ships had to pull in closer to land, in much shallower water.  At 10:30 am on Sunday, May 19th, the SS Flyer, a 170-foot, wooden-hulled, passenger steamer, pulled into the dock on one of it's scheduled runs from Tacoma. After the passengers exited and before new one's could board, she was told to pull up to the front of the dock next to Railroad Ave. (Now Alaskan Way) so other boats could come in.
Clock tower in the water
Passengers normally entered from a second story waiting room, and down a 120-foot steel gangplank. But, because the waiting room was destroyed, passengers boarded and deboarded from a freight gangplank downstairs. That plank was 80-feet-long and eight-feet wide and permanently attached inside the dock with large iron hinges. The outer end was supported by chains and could be raised and lowered according to the tide. Due to a minus tide on Elliott Bay, the gangplank wouldn't reach the Flyer's deck, so a smaller gangplank was used to bridge the gap between the steamer and the larger gangplank.
Alaskan Way in front of Colman Dock
On this morning, the distance from the dock to the water was nearly 20 feet. (A normal distance is 4 to 6 feet) At 11:00 am, the Flyer began loading for Tacoma. More than half the passengers had crowded onto the gangplank and then onto the steamer when suddenly, the outer end collapsed, plunging more than 60 people into the freezing, polluted water of the bay. Captain Everett. B. Coffin immediately sounded the emergency steam whistle (Four blasts for passenger danger) and yelled "Mr. Mob!" to his crew. (Man overboard) Then he ordered all hands to throw over life preservers, wooden deck chairs, and anything that would float, giving the victims something to cling to until rescued. Several of the crew jumped into the water. Ambulances and police cars arrived in minutes and officers demanded taxicabs and passing automobiles to transport victims to nearby hospitals. The fire boat Snoqualmie, moored nearby, raced to the rescue, as did several other small boats. A shoe shiner at the dock jumped into the water and was credited with saving 10 lives.
The SS Flyer on a normal run
Bystanders threw lifelines into the water and dragged survivors to the end of the collapsed gangplank. Within just 10 minutes everyone had been fished out of the bay. Well, almost everyone. The mother of 3-year old George Bruder approached an officer and said she couldn't find her son. The officer told her he was fine and had been given to a teenage girl and placed in another squad car. When the mother reached the car she informed the officer that was not her son. The stunned officer then asked the boy his name and he said, "Jack." He ended up being 3-year old Jack Learnerd. His mother Florence was not at any of the hospitals or at the dock. Neither was George Bruder. Diver Otto C. Peterson searched the water and found the two, but it was too late. By the time George and 30 year-old Florence were pulled from the water, they couldn't be revived. They were the only two fatalities. The pier was repaired but the clock went missing until 1976, when it was discovered in a Seattle warehouse on the corner of 12th and Jackson lying next to some old chicken coops. (Seriously?) At first, nobody realized its significance. It was in pieces and covered with rust.
Colman Clock today
Experts from the Museum of History and Industry were called in and after much research it was determined that this was indeed, the long lost Colman Clock. It had been hidden from sight for 40 years. It was restored to its former glory and now sits at the east end of the ferry terminal up on the top landing. (It's a must-see if you visit the waterfront) On December 28, 2001, Washington State Ferries concluded the celebration of its first 50 years with the sealing and placement of a time capsule inside the clock. The three-foot-high stainless steel capsule contains about 30 pounds of ferry memorabilia including documents, items, and photographs. I really think there should be a plaque in honor of the two lives lost somewhere on the pier, but there isn't. RIP George and Florence.