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Rescue Accounts

Paddy McCarthy and John Sheehan

When the Florizel went aground at Cappahayden on February 24, 1918, Paddy McCarthy was only a lad of 14 years. He stood on the beach and could only watch as the waves pounded the ship. The only way that the fishermen of Cappahayden knew there were any survivors was when someone would wave from the deck of the ship. As the remains of victims washed ashore,the fishermen of Cappahayden retrieved the bodies and placed them in temporary morgue shelters.

The rough seas and rocky shoreline near Cappahayden hampered the rescue. The fishermen were helpless to assist any survivors until the seas calmed down. Paddy McCarthy often remembered the remains of passengers and crew who washed ashore. Paddy recovered the remains of Mrs. W.F. Butler and related the story that she was still wearing her fur coat when he found her body.

Another eyewitness to the Florizel disaster was John Sheehan. Mr. Sheehan was only 8 years old at the time of the disaster. He remembers the fishermen making "glasses" to see under the surface for any remains that may have become trapped on the ocean floor. For more than three weeks the fishermen of Cappahayden would "jig" for the remains of victims. Seventy bodies were recovered in this manner. The fishermen of Cappahayden were also repsonsible for rigging up the rescue lines that enabled the dories to carry off the remaining 44 survivors. Mr. Sheehan felt that not enough credit was given to the men of Cappahayden. Of all the bravery medals given out to rescuers, not one medal was given to the men of Cappahayden who were able to attach the rescue lines to the ship, and gave hope to the survivors by staging an all-night vigil until the rescue was complete.

A flag was discovered some years later in the home of John Sheehan, which possibly came from the Florizel. The red ensign with the Badge of Newfoundland was discovered in a chair.

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