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American Survivor Says Sinking Was Like a Roller-Coaster Ride

October 26, 1985

PLYMOUTH, England (AP) _ An American who survived the sinking of the sailing ship Marques in 1984 said Friday that when the hurricane-force wind hit the vessel it was like coming to the end of a roller coaster ride.

The 117-foot, British-registered sailing boat capsized and sank within two minutes when it was hit by a sudden squall off Bermuda on June 3, 1984, during the 800-mile Tall Ships Race from Bermuda to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Nineteen people died, including nine Americans, four Britons, four Antiguans and two Canadians.

William Barnhardt, 25, of Wycombe, Pa., who testified before a Department of Transportion inquirty in the southwestern port of Plymouth, said he was standing on deck when the squall slapped the ship.

″When we were hit by the storm, the ship seemed to stop. It seemed like you were on a roller coaster and it had come to the end of its ride,″ he said.

″We were hit by an extremely powerful wind. I have never seen a wind of that magnitude before. It seemed the ship went all the way over to the rail. It happened so fast, but I remember that as she went, Peter Messer-Bennetts came up from the front of the ship.″

Messer-Bennetts, the second mate, was one of the Britons who died.

″When I turned to see where he was, I saw him slide and it appeared to me that he had gone overboard. I knew then the ship was going down because I was up on the high side of the ship and I was quickly overtaken by water,″ he said

When the three-masted ship went down, Barnhardt freed himself from rigging, surfaced and swam to a life raft. He and the eight other survivors were rescued several hours later.

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