The opinion of the court was delivered by: INCH
The tank steamer Papoose ran into the U. S. S. Wright as the latter was approaching Hampton Roads. From this collision these suits have arisen. The United States of America has sued for the damages done to the Wright, while a cross-libel was filed by the Petroleum Navigation Company, owner of the Papoose.
The U. S. S. Wright is an airplane tender about 500 feet long, 67 feet beam, drawing 24 feet, 13,500 tons displacement. She had 80 officers and 450 men.
The Papoose is a tank steamer 423 feet long, 53 feet beam, drawing 31 feet, 6,177 gross tons displacement. She was bound out from Hampton Roads, having come from Baltimore, and was on her way to Trinidad, British West Indies. She had dropped her Baltimore pilot about fifteen minutes before the accident.
The master of the Papoose was on the bridge in charge of her navigation, the third officer was on watch on the bridge, and a lookout was stationed forward. This lookout was not produced as a witness.
The collision occurred on May 2, 1931, about 8:20 p.m. The weather was clear overhead and inshore, but over beyond the port side of the Papoose there was a heavy fog bank and there were stretches of this fog or haze rolling along the surface of the water in front of her. The visibility was therefore somewhat low.
A patch of this light fog was enveloping the Papoose. The U. S. S. Wright, however, was clear of it both ahead and on her port side. Capt. Fitch, U.S.N., of the Wright, who was on the bridge, said that there was no fog ahead of the Wright or on her bow, that he could see ahead for 7 miles.
The Papoose, which was on the starboard side of the Wright, was thus obscured from the lookouts of the Wright until just before the collision.
Out of this obscuring haze the Papoose suddenly appeared running at full speed until suddenly the green light of the Wright appeared on her port bow. She then sounded an alarm, put her helm hard aport, but was unable to avoid the collision and the port bow of the Papoose cut into the starboard bow of the Wright, near one of the forward guns, doing considerable damage.
The collision was sufficient to keel the Wright over to port and the Papoose rebounded. Thereafter, after it had been duly ascertained whether assistance was needed, the Wright proceeded to her anchorage in Hampton Roads. As I have said, the lookout on the Papoose was not called as a witness nor was the quartermaster.
In view of this collision, an explanation is required on the part of the Papoose and, as is usual, both vessels blame the other.
In substance, the Papoose claims that the fault all lay with the U. S. S. Wright in that she did not blow fog signals and did not have proper lookouts.
On the other hand, the U. S. S. Wright places the blame squarely upon the Papoose, and in my opinion correctly so.
The Papoose was hidden from the Wright, but the Wright was not hidden from the Papoose. On the contrary, due to the low-lying quality of this fog or haze and possibly because there was a higher bridge on the Papoose or the range lights of the Wright was stronger, it is undisputed that those in charge of the Papoose saw the range lights of the Wright at the time when the Papoose ...