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Saturday, August 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Washington

100 years ago in Vantage, Washington: Windstorm strands hundreds of motorists after ferry is swept away

Winds stranded hundreds of motorists hoping to cross the Columbia River at Vantage in August 1919. (S-R archives)
Winds stranded hundreds of motorists hoping to cross the Columbia River at Vantage in August 1919. (S-R archives)
Jim Kershner

A furious windstorm on the Columbia River swept the Vantage ferry downstream over the rapids, leaving more than 250 autos stranded on both sides of the river.

Some motorists had been stranded for 48 hours. Local people were carting food to the stranded motorists, but selling at “exorbitant prices,” said one outraged motorist.

Motorists were complaining that officials in Grant and Kittitas counties, who operated the ferry, were “doing nothing to relieve the situation.” Some autos turned around and tried to attempt the only other nearby crossing, via Colockum Pass, but it was rough and steep and “almost impossible” for most cars.

The ferry was being repaired, but meanwhile more and more cars were arriving – from all over the country – because the news of the ferry closure had not been adequately spread.

From the institutional beat: Two members of the Mothers Congress demanded an investigation into the deaths of two boys at the State Custodial School at Medical Lake. One boy, 17, was found dead in his bed, two days after an unsuccessful escape attempt. The coroner ruled that he died from natural causes – peritonitis, with epilepsy as a contributing cause. However, some of the boy’s fellow “inmates” contended that the boy had been choked and held down by an attendant.

The other boy, 13, was scalded to death while alone in a bathtub as the result of an “epileptic fit.” This had been ruled a “regrettable accident.” The superintendent blamed it on a staffing shortage.

From the firecracker beat: The city’s fire chief and fire marshal conceded defeat in their effort to ban firecrackers.

The fireworks dealers had watered down the proposed ordinance to the point that it was “valueless to us,” said the chief.

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