The Federal Reporter with Key-Number Annotations, Volume 272: Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Courts of Appeals and District Courts of the United States and the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, June-August, 1921. Page: 69
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THE JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER ui
the evidence shows the vessels occupied to each other. At the point
of collision the Mississippi river is about 2,000 feet wide. The Rock-
efeller was an oil tank steam vessel 458.3 feet long, 60 feet wide, and
28.6 feet deep, on her way up the river to Baton Rouge. At the time
of the collision she had just exchanged a bar pilot for a river pilot.
She was on the New Orleans side of the river, at a distance of about
75 to 150 feet from the shore, according to the varying estimates of
her officers, and from 200 to 600 feet according to the varying esti-
mates of the officers of the Falls City. The Falls City, a British
steamer, 397 feet long and 52 feet beam, was descending the river, and
came in sight of the Rockefeller on turning a bend about a mile dis-
It thus appears that the navigator of each vessel had opportunity to
observe the movements of the other in abundant time to navigate his
vessel so as to avoid any risk of collision. The witnesses are so at
variance in their estimates of distances that it is impossible to state
with accuracy the relative positions of the two vessels when they came
in sight of each other. According to the testimony of the witnesses
on the Falls City, she was in a course end on, or nearly end on, with
the Rockefeller. The witnesses on the Rockefeller testify that, if the
Falls City had kept her course, she would have passed the Rockefeller
port to port about 400 feet distant. It is sufficient to say that the tes-
timony leaves no possibility of doubt that the vessels were approach-
ing each other so near end on as to involve a degree of risk of collision
without careful navigation and full understanding and agreement as
to signals and passing courses. The danger was more obvious from
the fact that the Falls City had just rounded a bend, so that her exact
course was difficult to discern from the Rockefeller. Harrison, the
master of the Rockefeller, testified that when he saw the Falls City
she was "a little" on the port bow of the Rockefeller.
What the vessels did after the emergency arose requires no atten-
tion, for we think it clear that the collision was due to disregard of
the rules of navigation when the vessels first came in sight of each
other. The applicable statutory rules governing navigation in the
Mississippi river are:
"Rule 18. If two vessels under steam are meeting end on, or nearly end on,
so as to involve risk of collision, the helms of both shall be put to port, so that
each may pass on the port side of the other"
"Rule 21 Every steam vessel, when approaching another vessel, so as to
involve risk of collision, shall slacken her speed, or, if necessary, stop and
reverse; and every steam vessel shall, when in a fog, go at a moderate
"Rule 24. In construing and obeying these rules, due regard must be had
to all the dangers of navigation, and to any special circumstances which may
exist in any particular case rendering a departure from them necessary in
order to avoid immediate danger."
"Rule 26. Nothing in these rules shall exonerate any ship, or the owner,
or master, or crew thereof, from the consequences of any neglect to carry
lights or signals, or of any neglect to keep a proper lookout, or of the
neglect of any precaution which may be required by the ordinary practice
of seamen or by the special circumstances of the case."
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The Federal Reporter with Key-Number Annotations, Volume 272: Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Courts of Appeals and District Courts of the United States and the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, June-August, 1921., legislative document, 1921; Saint Paul, Minnesota. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc38843/m1/91/: accessed January 22, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.