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The Final Seconds before Collision: Part 4 of 12
By Bruce A. Trinque

Part 4 – Second Officer Charles Lightoller

British Enquiry:

Although Lightoller, who had been lying awake in his bunk at the moment of collision, could prevent no direct evidence about what occurred on the bridge, he did testify to a conversation he had had with Lookout Fleet.

Q: Did you have any talk with Fleet, the look-out man?
A: On the “Carpathia”?

Q: Yes.
A: Yes.

Q: He has not been called yet, but you might tell us what he said.
A: I asked him what he knew about the accident and induced him to explain the circumstances. He went on to say that he had seen the iceberg so far ahead. I particularly wanted to know how long after he struck the bell the ship’s head moved, and he informed me that practically at the same time that he struck the bell he noticed the ship’s head moving under the helm.

Q: … You say that you had some conversation with Fleet, the look-out man, when you got to the “Carpathia,” and you have told us what he said. You gathered from him, apparently, the impression that the helm was probably put over before and not after the report from the look-out?
A: Distinctly before the report.

Q: That was the inference you drew?
A: Yes.

Q: I should call your attention to this. We have had the evidence of the Quartermaster, who was steering at the time – a man named Hitchins. Has your attention been called to the fact that he distinctly says that the order “Hard a starboard” was given after this report, and not before?
A: I was not aware of that. … I am only giving what Fleet told me, you understand.

Q: What he says is they heard three bells, that there was a telegraph [sic], and the answer “Thank you” from Mr. Moody, that he reported an iceberg right ahead to Mr. Murdoch, and that Mr. Murdoch rushed to the telegraph to stop the engines, and at the same time ordered “Hard a starboard”?
A: Exactly.

Q: If that is right, your impression gathered from Fleet must be wrong?
A: If Hitchins is right, then Fleet must be wrong.

Discussion:

Second Officer Lightoller may have misunderstood what Fleet had said aboard the Carpathia. Neither Fleet nor Lee indicated that the vessel began turning as early as when the three bells were struck. Both lookouts associate the Titanic beginning to veer to port with Fleet’s telephone report to the bridge.

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