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Memorial Service For 1957 Saint John Harbour Tragedy

By Brad Perry Jan 11, 2023 | 6:04 AM

This week marks 66 years since a tragic collision in Saint John Harbour claimed the lives of seven men.

Community members will gather Wednesday evening for an annual memorial service to honour the men.

It was just after 7 a.m. on Jan. 14, 1957, when Pilot Boat #1 was struck by the SS Fort Avalon.

The force of the collision split the pilot boat into two, sending it to the bottom of the Bay of Fundy. Sadly, no one on board survived.

“That particular day, there was a thick sea fog that went about 30 metres high, creating zero visibility,” said Paula Copeland, vice-president of engagement and sustainability for Port Saint John.

The victims included pilots William J. Murray, John V. Cunningham and William P. Traynor, apprentice Ward Poole, seaman Frank Coughlan, cook Blanchard Cosman, and chief engineer Ronald Johnson.

Copeland said an investigation later determined that the pilot boat was stationed where it was supposed to be and the Fort Avalon was off course.

“The other ship was off course, but the conditions of the day were probably largely due to that,” she said. “Today, we have a lot more technology that shows where vessels are.”

Wednesday night’s memorial will be the first full service since the pandemic began, according to Copeland. It begins at 7 p.m. at Stella Maris Church on Bayside Drive.


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