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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Steamboat Belle of Louisville Crashed on the Ohio River in the early 1980's

I was at A.C.'s house and she said, hey look at these pictures. As I thumbed through them, she was telling me about a Gospel Concert that she attended on the Steamboat Bell of Louisville, on the Ohio River back in the early 1980. Back in 1980, I did not even know A.C.. A.C. and I became friends in the year 2000. A.C. gave me permission to use her pictures for this article.

The weird part of this story is, I too was on that same boat. Our church went to hear the Gospel Singing while on this 3 story paddle steam powered boat. (there are red arrows pointing to our church members) I remember getting up early with my family. It was about 6am. I remember it well because everyone had to get a bath, and with only one bathroom it was a bit
hectic. Everyone was meeting at the church, so that we could all go at the same time. We all climbed on the bus and headed to Louisville, Kentucky.
I remember the trip there was fun and exciting. All us kids, laughed and played games.

Once there we boarded, we had to walk up this steal plank. It was fairly easy to walk up, as long as the Belle of Louisville wasn't rocking. Once inside, the main room, was one of the most beautiful things I have seen, it was like a ball room out of a movie. I remember looking at the ceiling and seeing all the designs. The hard wood floor was all nice and shiny. After this quick look the room started to fill up and the stage was set. I went to the top floor and looked around.
I remember standing at the back and watching the paddles push the Belle of Louisville down the Ohio River while listening to the concert. It was a lot of fun, seeing the sights along the river.

The concert lasted about 2 hours and so did the trip along the Ohio River. As we started to dock I heard the Captain say over the speaker, "we are getting ready to dock" or something to that effect. Everyone went to the front of the boat to watch us dock.

I was on the top deck with my friends. We watched the dock become closer, and closer, where the Belle of Louisville had to dock was right behind another boat. (A.C. said it was a Police boat)

The Captain, made a horrible mistake, he announced that we was docking. When everyone went to the front of the Bell of Louisville the paddles came out of the water enough to have no effects to them. So the Captain could not stop, we was heading straight into to the dock with another big boat already docked. We was heading straight for it. The Captain I assumed, tried to turn the boat, but it was too late, the mast as I watched it in slow motion, hooked onto the other big boat and started bending before my eyes. I thought this isn't going to be good. Everyone was in a trance, there wasn't a sound for the longest time. And then boom, screaming started, and then the Bell of Louisville, slammed into the other boat. Every ones bodies hurled forward. One of my friends was actually thrown overboard, she was caught by two guys, before she hit the water.

The sounds of wood breaking and glass shattering, still sends chills down my spine.

The screams of panic was in the air. I had to stand up and get my bearings. I was confused for a minute. I looked at all people crying, and started to move towards the stairs. I ran down the stairs fast, because I knew that is where I left my grandmothers. I saw broken glass everywhere and it crunched under my feet. As I got close to where they were sitting their backs were to me, my heart sank to the floor, as I got close I could see blood on the table before them. They was sitting right in front of the windows that shattered. I looked at Granny first, she seemed to be ok, but Grandma Allen had a cut on the bridge of her nose. Granny yelled at me to go get dad. I took off in a flash, by the time I found him and mom and got back there was other attending Grandma Allen's nose.

Once we cleared the other boat, the Belle of Louisville, had to turn around and try to dock us again. It took us about 30 minutes to do that process, and they did it much better the second time around. The only thing was, when we crashed, the steal plank that we walked up on was now on the floor of the Ohio River. They improvised and had wood planks ready for us when we docked.

The picture to the left is two combined into one. I thought that it was cool looking. I don't think that A.C. Mother was thinking about that when she took these. If you look close you can see a green arrow pointing to a boy leaning against a post. That boy was me. I was in her pictures too.

As I was doing my research on this, I never found anything on the internet. The only thing I found was the calliope was broke in the early 1980's. Perhaps it was broke in this crash. I don't know that for fact. I am not sure the total of people that was hurt on the Belle of Louisville. But in our group, there were two that had to go to the hospital.

The bus ride home was quiet. I guess everyone was still in shock. The images running over in our heads.

It took me 20 years before I could even step on a boat again.


Patti said...

Allen -

What a story!

I am going to be singing on a gospel music cruise on the Belle of Louisville on May 2, 2009. I wonder if it is the same church group that is coordinating it.

Did you used to go to Mt. Calvary Evangelistic Center?

God bless,

Allen said...


Thanks for the comment!

No I went to Landmark Baptist Church.


Patti said...

I see.

Well, sorry about your experience and here's hoping nothing like that happens to us in May! :)

I'm ready for spring aren't you? This Indy weather is horrible!

God bless,

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