Part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library research collection, Springfield
On the night of July 5, 1918, a steamboat named Columbia, returning from a moonlight excursion, collapsed and sank in the middle of the Illinois River. Of the nearly 500 passengers on board that night, most were from the town of Pekin. Eighty-seven people lost their lives in the disaster. The rest were left to tell their stories of fortitude and survival.
The worst maritime accident in the history of the Illinois River, the wreck of the Columbia is a mostly forgotten tragedy today. Ken Zurski’s gripping account follows the compelling true story from the moment the captain sensed a problem, to the horror of the cries and screams in the night, to the courageous actions of the rescue and recovery workers, and ultimately to the pursuit by law enforcement officials to find truth and justice.
One town in particular found itself reeling from a sudden and devastating loss of life, an immense communal grief, and a frustrating search for answers that never truly came.
PRAISE FOR THE WRECK OF THE COLUMBIA
DeWayne Bartels, East Peoria Times-Courier: Ken Zurski captured the scene, the people and the events surrounding the wreck of the Columbia in a captivating and readable style. This book was hard to put down.
Peoria Journal Star and PJStar.com
“A stirring account of the tragedy.”
“An authoritative source on the wreck.”
“A solid job of stringing together narrative accounts of that fatal night.”
“Plenty of fascinating personal vignettes.”
“Both instructive and entertaining.”
50+ News and Views
“Grabs the reader by the life jacket and sweeps them along as the horrific night unfolds.”
“Played in my head almost as if I were witnessing the events and hearing the conversations.”
“Spot on…historical perfection.”
“A literary buffet…Fascinating tidbits of facts and information.”
East Peoria-Times Observer
“A captivating and readable style. This book was hard to put down.”
“A broad-ranging and probing look at the disaster, vividly bringing it back to life.”
“A great read!”