The accident in 1915 that caused the SS Eastland, a passenger carrying steamer vessel to turn over at dockside happened very suddenly. There were 2,500 people on board that fateful day, and while there were 800 people that ultimately lost their lives, it could have been a lot more tragic if things had been just a little different.
The passenger vessel SS Eastland was docked on the Chicago River in Downtown Chicago on a bright sunny day in July of 1915. It was getting ready to depart and cross Lake Michigan for a recreational cruise.
Suddenly, after the 2,500 passengers came on board, it began to shift and list to starboard. Then, it suddenly shifted again, and listed to the port side of the vessel. The Eastland began to lose a large number of passengers over the side, into the river and onto the dock.
Many of the ultimate deaths happened when members of the passengers were trapped in interior cabins that wound up underneath the water when the Eastland rolled onto its side. Most of the 800 deaths ultimately were women and children that were not able to get off when it rolled over and trapped people inside the vessel.
This is a tragedy that is not widely known, and remains fairly obscure, despite the loss of 800 lives. The 800 lives lost on the Eastland that day in July 24th, 1915 remained for many years the single largest loss of life for a single event in the continental United States in the 20th Century.
While the tragedy in Chicago of the Eastland is not well known, it did cause a lot of different changes in boat and river traffic safety regulations, so while it is not well known it had a long term positive effect on boating safety for Americans.