NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
REPORT ON ACKERS FAMILY
19 MARCH 1882
Thanks to Peter Armstrong of Devon, England for this;
The Boat Accident
From particulars now to hand of the sad occurrence on the New River on Sunday afternoon, it appears that Henry Ackers, accompanied by his sister Mabel Jane, his brother Herbert Arnold, and a young man named Wm. Smith (not Campbell, as reported to the police), who had only gone over to work at Mr Ackers' mill last week, left there for a sail up the river. The boat was a well-known racer named the Rambler, and was considered by competent men a thoroughly safe craft. When near Mr. Colin Brown's place a sudden gust of wind, which gave no indication of its approach on the surface of the water, struck the upper parts of the bow sails with such force that before Harry Ackers, who was managing her, could cast off the main sheet he found himself up to the waist in water and the boat going out from under him. The boat, being ballasted, sank, but would appear to have got rid of it, and again came to the surface. Harry, who is well known as an athlete, is also an excellent swimmer, and it was a matter of little difficulty to him to swim with his sister to the capsized boat, to which he told her to cling while he brought his brother and gave him also the support of the boat. Smith was also holding on by the Rambler, and there would appear at this point to have been little danger, especially as young Colin Brown and Mr Anderson had both witnessed the accident from the bank, and the former made haste to pull off to the spot in his boat. Unfortunately the weight of those clinging to the boat. Added to it is probable by their strugglings to attain better positions, again submerged her, and left those who were clinging to her once more to their own resources. Harry was again equal to the emergency, and, with courage that does him credit, got hold of his brother and sister, whom he supported for some time by "treading water" in the mode known to swimmers. In spite of the fact that he was encumbered by clothing, his efforts were successful until the river, agitated by the squall, became so rough that he lost his vertical position, and went down. The children released their hold on him at this stage, and although he endeavoured, by diving, to bring them again to the surface, he failed to do so. Coming to the surface, he saw Smith striving to reach the boat, which was again floating. Ackers called to him to float on his back, but from want of knowledge, he was unable to avail himself of the advice. He sank just as young Brown, who had been delayed by the strong tide and wind on the river, got the boat alongside of him. Harry Ackers being now the only one visible, Brown pulled to him, and with difficulty got him to relinquish further attempts to rescue his unfortunate companions. By this time another boat put off, and an attempt was made to recover the bodies. The appliances were not, however, suitable; and it was not till about 4 o'clock that, with the aid of new grapling irons, the bodies of Mabel Ackers and Wm. Smith were recovered near the spot where the Rambler capsized.
Up to last night when Constable Carroll left Otatara, the boy's body had not been found. Nets were tried as a means to this end, but proved unsuitable; and boats with fishing lines stretched between them are being tried. The river is about three chains wide at the scene of the accident. Last night the recovered bodies were brought as far as the Gladstone Hotel. Smith was a son of Mr. John Smith of Tapanui, who, it so happened, has come to Invercargill to see his sons, two of whom were employed here. He parted from William on Saturday evening when he returned to the mill with Harry Ackers. The other son is or was lately resident at a sawmill on the Bluff road. No inquest will be held, the coroner being satisfied that nothing further than what is already known would be elicited. Mr Smith will therefore remove the body of his son to Tapanui by the express this morning.
The Southland Times, 20 March 1882
Jane Acker (nee Stuart)
Mother of two of the above children who never recovered from their loss and drowned herself at the same spot in the Oreti river, near Otatara, Southland on 16 June 1910.
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