A Broken Boat, a Town’s Sorrow & the End of the Steamboat Era on the Illinois River
by Ken Zurski
On the night of July 5, 1918, a steamboat named Columbia, returning from a moonlight excursion, collapsed and sank in the middle of the Illinois River. Of the nearly 500 passengers on board that night, most were from the town of Pekin. Eighty-seven people lost their lives in the disaster. The rest were left to tell their stories of fortitude and survival.
The worst maritime accident in the history of the Illinois River, the wreck of the Columbia is a mostly forgotten tragedy today. Ken Zurski’s gripping account follows the compelling true story from the moment the captain sensed a problem, to the horror of the cries and screams in the night, to the courageous actions of the rescue and recovery workers, and ultimately to the pursuit by law enforcement officials to find truth and justice.
One town in particular found itself reeling from a sudden and devastating loss of life, an immense communal grief, and a frustrating search for answers that never truly came.
Page Count: 436
Publication Date: 18 July 2012