Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Death of Second Officer Stark

Voyage 119 West of the Queen Mary saw a tragically fatal accident - this time involving one of the ship's elite deck officers.

It was in the later part of September 1949 as the ship steamed towards New York. Senior Second Officer William Stark was coming off duty and popped into the deck officers' wardroom to relax a bit and have a drink.

He settled in and told the steward that he wanted some gin and lime juice. The other man - not the officers' usual steward - went back to the pantry and complied. Unfamiliar with the setup, however, he didn't know that the unmarked gin bottle he pulled was actually filled with tetrachloride: used for cleaning rags and the like.

The steward returned and gave Second Officer Stark his drink. Unfortunately, Stark's cold prevented him from smelling tetrachloride's distinct "sweetness." He threw it back and knew right away that something was not right. Stark didn't think the situation was too serious and is said to have laughed about it to his colleagues; chances are that he never knew what he had drunk.

His condition grew worse as the hours dragged on, however, and he died a few days later on September 22, 1949.

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