Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Carbon monoxide kills five

On a stormy night on the 20th of March 1933, an entire family of five, died from asphyxiation, caused by carbon monoxide poisoning
The father and husband, William Cross was born sometime during1890 in Scotland.
The location where they were found was off  the  eastern shore of  Iron Bay, Burrard Inlet. Which at the time was more commonly known as the North Arm.
The death certificates all contain mostly the same information; in saying that the family was living in B.C. for four months, and had lived in Canada for six years. the entire family are buried in the  Ocean View Memorial Park, in Burnaby.  Their home: apartment 2 - 610 Jervis Street,  "Felix Apartments" today is known as  "The Banffshire"  in Vancouver.  Witness on the certificates was a previous neighbour  Elen N. Harvie who lived in apartment #20, same building.
   William Cross’ father:  John R. Cross
Served his country in World War I
British Army, Scottish rifles, private 11304
British Army, army ordnance corps, armourer staff sergeant #A/2653
Picture from the B.C. Archives completed in 1911; how it looks today in 2015  
Wife and mother: Nellie Cross  b.1891 Scotland.  parents: Douglas Plant, and ?
Christine "Cissie" Cross    b.1923 Scotland.
Douglas Cross        b.1925 Scotland
John "Jack" Cross    b.1921 Scotland.

1933 March 20  The Vancouver Sun

      Five bodies, a man, a woman and three children, a boy and two girls, were discovered late this morning In a gasoline launch named “J.B.,” off Granite Falls, north of Lake Buntzen power house, on the north arm of Burrard Inlet, according to word received at the provincial police office, Vancouver, during the noon hour.
Detective Phipps and Constable Clark left immediately in Police launch No. 3 to investigate the discovery.
The bodies were found by two loggers who reported their find to B. C. Electric employees at Buntzen power house, who Informed police.
The boat was adrift with the cabin door tightly closed.
On opening the door to ascertain if anyone was asleep Inside, the loggers found the bodies.
Death is believed due to carbon monoxide poisoning, but no examination has been made pending arrival of the police officers.
The death boat was towed by the loggers to powerhouse wharf, where it is now moored.
Records of the office of the Registrar of Shipping at Vancouver show only one boat of the name "J.B." operating in Lower Mainland waters.
It is registered as owned by Thomas James Brady, Burrard Rooms. 324 ½ East Powell Street. His occupation is given as waiter.
The boat, 26 feet in length with 6-foot beam and 2.6 feet, depth, was formerly known as the Blarney but was re-named "J.B." on April 21, 1932.
A second boat of the same name is listed at the customs office but is owned in Prince Rupert by Modin Jensen of that city.

1933 March21   The Vancouver Sun
 Soldier's dream of sea ended in slumber of death
Bodies of Five in Launch

Tragic end to pleasure cruise
Carrying its sad cargo of five bodies asphyxiated by carbon monoxide, this picture shows the tiny cruiser "J.B." being tied up at the slip, foot of Victoria Drive, Monday evening, after being towed from the North Arm, where the derelict launch was found with W. Cross his wife, two sons and daughter, as death had caught them, wrapped in their blankets as they slept. The launch was brought to the city in tow of a Provincial Police motor launch, in charge of Detective Marcus T. Phipps.

By John Hickey

      Three medals graven with the record of a soldier's valour yesterday provided the clue that unfolded a story of a dream come true extinguished in the slumber of death.
       The dream was the dream of William Cross war-time staff sergeant of the Scottish Rifles, who was unable to forget, as he tilled the rolling soil of the Peace River, the rolling sea he had known as a marine engineer.

     Its fulfilment brought the death of William Cross and his wife Nellie and his three blonde-headed children, found dead of carbon monoxide engine fumes in the small launch he had bought to cruise the sea gain in realization of his wish.


    The family had started out from Vancouver Saturday noon with cheery goodbyes to acquaintances and a joking remark from the father that "we may get as far as Alaska before were through,"
     Yesterday at dawn their boat was found drifting in the wind and the tide, with its cargo of the dead, on the north arm of Burrard Inlet, 20 minutes away.
Side by side they lay on the floor of the cabin where they had composed themselves for the night. First was the father. Beside him was the wife. Cuddled against the mother was the little daughter Cissie, 10 years old. ... "Pretty as a picture," said the police officers. Then came the two small boys, Douglas 8, and Billie, 12.
A few feet away, forgotten for the night, lay the little girl's doll, decked out in childish finery and a tiny woollen shawl.
      Two Japanese loggers made the discovery as they went to the woods along the shore at dawn, some five miles beyond the Buntzen power plant of the B.C. Electric.

Perceiving the drifting boat they knew something was amiss and boarded her. Unable to get an answer from the cabin, they forced the locked door and found the bodies.
The Japanese K. Ono and S. Toda summoned another logger named Larsen living nearby and the three took the boat in tow and proceeded with it to Buntzen. There the Provincial Police were notified by telephone.
When Detective Marcus Theodore Phipps (1892-1961) and Constable William Clark(1889-1972) of the Provincial police arrived by boat at Buntzen, the air in the death ship's cabin was still heavy with the gas fumes.

Inquiry revealed that the boat had been observed from shore at Buntzen Sunday morning and had appeared to be having engine trouble. When found her anchor was over the side and hanging at the end of 30 feet of line.
From this it was presumed that Cross, having trouble with his boat had put in by shore for the night and dropped anchor. It was a stormy night and the anchor dragged, permitting her to drift away.
The trip to Vancouver with the launch in tow of the police boat P.M.L. 3 was made in weather that at times made the officers fear their charge would capsize and sink with its dead.


     When the Second Narrows was reached, wind and tide, combined to toss the plunging launch around with such force that one of the towropes snapped. Waves swept clean over her, battering open the wheelhouse door some water finding its way inside. Several times it appeared she might roll over completely.

     The difficulty of managing the tow was so great that the police boat finally signalled for the assistance of a tug. The intention of taking the launch down the exposed harbour direct to the Immigration wharf was abandoned. The towboat J. K. McKenzie (pic: OneTwo ) took  her over and swerving grotesquely and with broken wheelhouse door swinging on its hinges, she was brought into a landing at the foot of Victoria Road.
     There the bodies were landed, under supervision of Coroner G. P. Curtis.
Staff Sergeant William Cecil Herman Kier (1886-1966) and Corporal Robert Sims and removed to the Nunn & Thompson mortuary. The boat was then towed down harbour to the immigration float.

 Identification had been established by the discovery of three war medals
In the pockets of the man.
   They were the 1914-15 Star,
the Victory:
and the General Service medal:
Indicating he had had four years of service with the Imperial Army in the war. These emblems, treasured 13 years. bore the inscription: “Staff Sergeant W.Cross 11304, Scottish Rifles "
 Investigation revealed that the family came to Vancouver three months ago from Dapp, Alberta,  in the Peace River area. They had been farming on the prairies for six years and this winter rented the farm and came to Vancouver.
First occupying a house on Dundas Street, in the East End, they moved on Feb 18 Into the Felix Apartments, 610 Jervis Street.
Nearly a month ago the launch, named the "J.B.", was bought from Robert Swann, Woodland Apartments.
Subsequently Mr. Cross told Frederick Theodore Schooley (1865-1945), owner of the Felix Apartments, that he planned to spend the summer cruising with his family along the B. C. coast. Saturday he checked out of the Felix, settled his account and told Mr. Schooley he was off.

NOTE: F.T. Schooley’s wife:  Mary Ann Rice (1868-1963) was an artist, and an early supporter of the arts in Vancouver.  Biographies: OneTwo
        Mr. Schooley himself a yachtsman, discussed the coast with him and asked him where he planned to go.
Mr. Cross laughed and replied “We may get as far as Alaska before we’re through.”
The understanding around the apartments was that Mr. Cross was a marine engineer at one time. He told an acquaintance that he had been chief of the Canadian Pacific liner Montcalm before he look to farming.
      According to Mr. Swann, who helped him get the boat into condition during several days before the trip began. Mr. Cross was a clever engineer with training and experience in many parts of the world.
From remarks made by the couple it was understood that after the summers cruise they Intended to return to Scotland, where Mr. Cross’s father was said to be manager of a large steel company, the Mossend Steel Works
 In view of Mr. Cross’s engineering experience, some of those who knew him were puzzled by the circumstances of the deaths. It was pointed out, however, that a steam engineer might not have any real appreciation of the dangers of gas engines.
It was a cold and blustery night Sunday and It was conceivable even that the engine might have been run for a while to create warmth.
All members of the family were fully clothed when found yet were lying under blankets, apparently retired for the evening. The doors and windows all were closed.
This was something against which Mr. Swann had warned Mr. Cross. He had cautioned him against closing the doors when inside the cabin, he said.
1933 March 24
“Death by carbon-monoxide poisoning” was the simple verdict of a coroner’s Jury on Thursday afternoon In the case of William Cross, his wife and three children, found dead in the cabin of the launch J. B. In the North Arm of Burrard Inlet near Iron Bay last Monday morning.  Death was indubitably due to gas poisoning, according to evidence of the autopsy doctor, Dr. W.D. Kennedy, who said that otherwise the bodies were those of perfectly healthy people and there were no marks of violence.
Evidence as to how the death dealing fumes came to do their work came from Clifford Logan in expert evidence on state of the launch engine and from Robert Swan, also a mechanic, and former owner of the launch.
Logan said he found the exhaust pipe loosened from the engine so that it would not carry away exhaust which would simply pour into the air of the little pilot house in front of the main cabin and separated from it only by a small door.
Swan said the engine was old. He had slept on the boat many times with his family but always took the precaution to leave at least one door and one or two cabin windows open to guard against the danger of gas.

   He had warned Cross specifically about this, Swan testified.
Japanese woodcutters who first boarded the drifting launch on Monday morning and loggers whom they summoned on discovery of the bodies testified that all doors and windows of the cabin were closed and that there was a strong odour, presumably gas.
     Several friends of Cross and his family gave formal evidence establishing identity. They said Cross was in comfortable financial circumstances and the family relations happy. Cross had told them he intended cruising up the coast before returning to his native Scotland for a visit. He had rented his Alberta farm for two years and seemed always to have money for all needs of himself and family and paid cash for everything including the launch.
Evidence of the friends, coupled with that of the Investigating police officer, indicated their belief that when fate overtook the Cross family they were out only for a short preliminary cruise and had not started on their long up-coast Journey.
There was little food on the boat, only $5 In Cross’ pocketbook and only a few cents in silver In Mrs. Cross’ purse. There was no bedding except the blankets In which the victims had apparently laid down to sleep, and few cooking utensils.
 The only apparent mystery In the whole affair is that no papers or bank
book or certain photographs which Cross was known to have were found
on his body or in suitcases In the launch. This led witnesses to the surmise that Cross had some place in the city whore he kept his papers.
The existence of a bank account In Vancouver has not been determined as yet.
Provincial District Coroner G.F.Curtis conducted the Inquest and in instructing the Jury commented on the dangers of gasoline and the necessity of great care in its use.

1933 March 24  The Vancouver  Sun
Cross---PASSED AWAY SUDDENLY ON  March 20th, 1933. William Cross of 610 Jervis Street, in his 44th year; also his wife, Nellie Cross. In her 43rd year and their two sons, John, aged 12 years, and Douglas, aged 8 years, and one daughter, Christine, aged 10 years.  Survived by relatives In Scotland and South Africa. Joint funeral service will be held on Saturday, March 25th at  2:30 p m. in Nunn & Thomson's funeral  chapeI. 10th Ave and Cambie Street.
Rev. Thomas Wilson officiating. Interment in family plot, Ocean View Burial Park. [ NOTE: the family is not listed on the Find-a-Grave website, but then again very few people are listed, since the cemetery is private. ]
Glasgow, Scotland papers please copy
P.S.—All Scottish societies are kindly invited to attend

Nunn & Thomson's Funeral ChapeI, 2559 Cambie at West 10 th
Photo: VPL 4675 ca. 1930  By: Leonard Frank, 
What it looks like in 2015 in Streetview

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