Una-C (#) (-1926), 45-foot yacht that exploded on its maiden voyage to Santa Catalina Island for a 4th of July celebration. Two people were killed and another twelve survived the blast. It was found a rope wrapped around the prop contributed to the explosion.
In the News~
July 7, 1926 [TI/Avalon]: “Tragedy invaded the Independence Day Celebration Sunday evening, when a terrific explosion on board the new 45-foot cruiser Una C, near Maiden Point, caused the death of Mrs. E. B. Tyler, of 539 South Pasadena Avenue, Pasadena, and injured twelve other persons who were on board the cruiser at the time. The body of Doris Riggins, the two-year-old granddaughter of Mr and Mrs. Hugh G. Chaffee, owner of the cruiser, had not been found up to a late hour Monday evening. The body of Mrs. Tyler was found at noon Monday, by Captain J. L. Lawshe of the sloop Columbine, floating between Church Rock and Seal Rick, some four miles from the scene of Sunday evening’s tragedy. In less than ten minutes after the explosion the hull of the cruiser sank in water some 250 feet deep, leaving those who were on board to battle for safety through water containing the debris and burning oil. On board the cruiser at the time of the explosion were Mr. and Mrs. H. G. Chaffe and son Roy, aged 20, of 1111 North Los Robles Avenue, Pasadena; Mr. and Mrs. George J. Richardson and daughter Phyllis of East San Gabriel; Mr. and Mrs. Carlton Riggins and two children, Herbert, aged 6 and Doris, aged 2; Mrs. Edith I. Bennett, and Mr. and Mrs. E. D. Tyler, son Ronald and boy friend, of Pasadena. The accident occurred shortly after 8:15 Sunday evening. An hour previous the happy party had left the landing float of the Catalina Island Yacht Club, to witness from the bay the pyrotechnic display that had been planned by the City of Avalon...”
July 8, 1926 [LAT]: “Baffled in Blast Inquiry. Coroner's Jury Finds Itself Unable to Determine Cause of Fatal Explosion on Yacht. The real cause of the blast which destroyed the pleasure yacht Una-C off Catalina Island Sunday with a loss of two lives and twelve injured may never be determined, it was indicated yesterday. A Coroner's jury, at the inquest into the death of Mrs. Helen J. Tyler, one of the two victims of the Independence Day tragedy, found yesterday that she came to her death as a result of an unavoidable accident. The jury, however, declared itself unable to determine what caused the explosion from the testimony of the half-dozen or more witnesses summoned to the inquest. While the inquest proceeded here, divers and tugs at the island set to work again to locate the hulk of the destroyed yacht so that it may be explored for the body of Doris Riggins, 2 years of age, the other victim in the tragedy. The child's body is believed to be trapped in one of the compartments of the yacht. Tugs had succeeded in dragging the hulk considerably closer to shore Tuesday, but the cables parted and the wreck again was lost in 200 feet of water, a depth too great for divers. A graphic story of the tragedy and the yacht's end on her maiden trip was told by the witnesses. Dr. N. W. Goodman, an eyewitness, whose yacht, Kimi, was but a short distance from the ill-starred Una-C, gave the first account after Mrs. Catherine, sister of Mrs. Tyler, had identified the victim. Dr. Goodman said that he was about 150 feet from the Una-C and was looking directly at the latter yacht when the blast came. The sea, he said, was lit up for a long distance and the blast hurled parts of the boat, passengers and furniture high into the air and cast a fiery blanket of blazing oil and gasoline over the waters for a radium of fifty feet or more. Dr. Goodman and a guest on his boat, Edward Graham, Jr., took a leading role in the rescue work. The fiery blanket on the water prevented him from putting his craft closer to the spot, he said. In less than five minutes, the Una-C" sank stern foremost and vanished from sight. But the most graphic account of the tragedy was given by David Houghton, 15 years of age, the only member of the yachting party to escape uninjured. "It was like a dream," he said. "I was sitting close enough to Mr. Hugh C. Chaffe (the owner of the yacht) to touch him. I saw him put his foot on the starter, but the engine apparently didn't turn over. Then I saw him press his foot to the starter again and the next moment I saw a red glare before my eyes. That is all I remember until I struck the water and was pulled out. Hugh M. Angleman, builder of the yacht, also testified. He stated he was at a loss to account for the tragedy, but that he had requested Mr. Chaffee to take along an engineer for the maiden cruise so that every element of danger might be removed. The boat, he stated, had been thoroughly inspected and tested on trial runs Friday and had been approved in every particular. The explosion, he said, might have been caused by an accumulation of gas fumes. Maynard A. Laswell, manufacturer and designer of marine fire equipment, also testified in regard to the investigation he had made into the tragedy at the request of Frank Chaffee, son of the wealthy chain-store operator who owned the yacht. He also expressed the opinion that the blast may have resulted from evaporated gasoline, set off by a spark from the starter which traveled through the bilge passage to the gasoline tanks. Other witnesses were Carleton Riggins, member of the party and father of Doris Riggins, the 2-year-old child killed in the blast, and Frank Chaffee. Mr. Riggins stated that he never knew what happened and Mr. Chaffee told of conversations with his father regarding the tragedy. The elder Mr. Chaffee and his wife are recovering from their injuries at the Golden State Hospital, together with a number of the others injured in the blast. It was stated yesterday at the hospital that the victims all have shown considerable improvement and virtually are out of danger.”
July 14, 1926 [TI/Avalon]: “Yacht tragedy caused by rope. According to the Los Angeles Times of July 12, a short piece of manila mooring line, tightly twisted on the port propeller shaft, was responsible for the explosion aboard Hugh G. Chaffe's motor yacht Una C at Avalon on the 4th inst., it was revealed Sunday when the shattered wreck of the once-palatial craft was raised in Lovers Cove and brought to Los Angeles Harbor. Under the direction of Capt. Fay Griffin, a force of salvagers from the staff of the Wilmington Transportation Company worked an entire week in locating and raising the wreck. 'Examination of the port engine shows that Mr. Chaffe had evidently made repeated attempts to start the engine with the self-starter. It obviously turned over once at each attempt, when the rope around the propeller stopped the motor, flooding the carburetor and filling the cabin with gas, which must have exploded from a spark issuing from the starter' Capt. Griffin declared. The entire upper section of the craft was missing when raised, while its interior was likewise completely wrecked, although the fire was confined to the galley section. No efforts will be made to salvage the hull, but it is thought the motors can be restored to usefulness. Capt. Griffin told of having last Friday located the wreck in thirty fathoms of water off Abalone Point while dragging with the tugs Vivo and Listo. It was then dragged along the floor of the bay to shallow water alongside the steamer pier, where the body of little Doris Riggins was found in the wreck by Capt. Fred Anderson, deep sea diver.”