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The Wichita Eagle from Wichita, Kansas • Page 9
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The Wichita Eagle from Wichita, Kansas • Page 9

The Wichita Eaglei
Wichita, Kansas
Issue Date:
Extracted Article Text (OCR)

9k Just Knew the Storm Had Killed My Little GirT By BOB HEATON Staff Writer Mrs Wallace List of Topeka was speaking about the news that she had dreaded so: first we knew was a report that a very small woman in her late 20s had been drowned (her daughter) was only S-foot-1 and weighed maybe 100 pounds at the most" Mrs List said knew then I just knew the storm had killed my little girt But it had spared Mrs List her son David 20 also of Topeka and Pamela's husband Mike of Wichita They were among the survivors of the worst boating disaster in Kansas history The evening had begun as a happy family out ing celebrating Pamela Kelson's 29th birthday It became a nightmare Saturday night Nelson of 361 Turquoise in WichiU was on a party boat on Pomona Lake with her husband mother and a brother when the storm lashed out Pamela Kelson was among the victims when 'he Whippoorwill capsized 'She was 29 Tuesday" Mrs List said via telephone from were getting ready to sell our home in Wichita and Pamela and her husband were getting it fixed up for us to sell decided to celebrate her birthday last she said Sunday "They couldn't come up last weekend so we Mrs List said reservations for the ill-fated cruise were called in Wednesday night were afraid that there would be no space left for she said there were only four reservations available so my husband had to stay She said the boat was about 15 minutes into the cruise when the storm roared up were laughing and having a good time We knew the storm wouldn't affect the boat It was so she said I felt it shifting hard Like it shouldn't I heard the captain say This is the worst I have ever "Then it hit us and the whole boat lifted up and went over It just was picked up out of the water and turned over The captain shouted something but I couldn't hear what exactly We were upside down Everybody was dumped right off the boat "David and I got away Mrs List said just didn't hear or see Pamela" Mrs List said Pamela had graduated from Wichita Heights High School and attended Butler County Community College and Wichita University from which she graduated with a bachelor's degree in social work She had worked for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Pamela's husband escaped the storm without serious injury Mrs List said Mike Kelson was returning to Wichita Sunday night Survivors include her parents Mr and Mrs Wallace list and a brother David all of Topeka: sisters Mrs Phyllis Hilger and Mrs JoElien List both of Wichita Flanagan-Hunt Mortuary has charge PAMELA NELSON Drowning victim THE WiCHlTA EAGLE Unimpressive Storm Cell Turns Killer From Staff and Wire Reports TOPEKA The tornado that struck at Pomona Lake in Osage County early Saturday evening was about 150 yards in diameter barely bigger than a football field The local weather had given no indication officials say of how deadly such a tornado could be However the tornado and its winding eight-mile path will go down in Kansas weather history as one of the 10-15 tornadoes causing the most deaths National Weather Service officials in Topeka said the passengers and crew of the Whippoorwill showboat apparently had no idea they ry were cruising into severe weather Iv Pflt rl OT I -wOt because of the storms cell's unusual OL4-M to VCl 0 behavior PHIL SHIDELER weather service Ull MJlCLTTlB chief meteorologist said that at about 6 pm an hour before the showboat was launched a special statement 01 UlSdStBl from the weather service Topeka of- Staff Photo by John Freeman Bruce and Veda Rogers wait on shore after spending night helping compile names of victims Their Boat in Ruins Couple Wait Concerned About the Missing By MELISSA THOMPSON Staff Writer Weather was apparently the only enemy the Whippoorwill showboat had when it pulled out of its moorings Saturday evening for its regular cruise and dinner-theater The boat itself was in stable condition and most likely equipped properly state officials say Ben Streeter Vassar State Park manager said the showboat was required to be inspected every year and its crew had to be licensed He did not know what agency would have issued the licenses According to other state officials the licensing would be handled by the State Park Authority Records from that office were not available Sunday Because the boat was steam-powered Streeter said it needed a certain number of life preservers and a boiler inspection He did not know however the date of the last inspection ROYAL ELDER boating administrator for the Kansas Fish and Game Commission said Sunday that the craft was "very seaworthy" was informed this morning (by one of the commission officers) there was very little damage to the boat" he said boat is in good condition considering what it went through If it had not been in good stable shape it would have been Elder said he also did not know the last inspection date sure it had to meet specific requirements to get on the water" he said Because the Whippoorwill was part of a commercial venture the Vassar Playhouse Elder said the State Park Authority probably had a contract with Bruce Rogers the boat's owner A SOURCE AT the Vassar Playhouse say the boat's pilot was well-trained Margaret Rogers daughter said Bemie Wonsetler of Hut- chinson was the pilot of the showboat Saturday night Wonsetler had been trained by Rogers Margaret said and had been piloting the boat for about a year She said she did not know whether Wonsetler was licensed or had to be Wonsetler a drama student at Em: poria State University survived the' capsizing Rogers had told reporters earlier Sunday that he had considered letting Wonsetler take the boat out alone Sat-' urday night At the last minute however he said he went along to "kind of see" fice had reported a line of severe thunderstorms in the area The strongest part of the line was in northeast Osage County near Pomona Lake No warning was issued Shideler said because condensation cloud had not yet formed" He said the absence of such a cloud explained why several witnesses had reported seeing a low-hanging thun-derhead but did not see the turbulence in the lake until the tornado was upon them Fifteen minutes after the Topeka weather service statement another was issued by the Kansas City office reporting a line of heavy thunderstorms strong gusting winds and possible hail THE SEVERE STORM CENTER in Kansas City issued a severe thunderstorm watch for parts of eastern Kansas at 6:47 pm At 7:25 pm five minutes after a funnel was reported over Pomona the weather service issued a tornado warning for Osage Franklin and southern Douglas counties The office repeated the warning at 8 pm The warnings came too late for the Whippoorwill Mike Akulow lead forecaster for the weather service said the funnel formed before anyone could do anything looked like it just formed right on them and they called it in as soon as it hit" Akulow said Officials at the lake said the storm cell was so unusual that they had difficulty spotting the funnel RICK BAGBY Corps of Engineers project manager said he first spotted the storm cell as a funnel over US 75 six miles east of the lake cloud was just hanging for the longest said Bagby 20 minutes we watched it trying to form We couldn't ever see the connection between the water and the Park ranger Linda Emory did see a connection She said she noticed a kind of whirlpool action in the water beneath the dark low-hanging clouds was probably 12 to 15 feet high coming up the lake" Emory said looked kind of like a fountain except that steam was coming out of a tunnel The water was more intense than just raindrops shooting in all Among group that was performing on the Whippoorwill Showboat All were pulled safely from the water Reed had joined the Emporia State faculty in 1975 and according to Visser was a vibrant and warm person well-liked by faculty and students WAS JUST a wonderful person in every sense of the Visser said "Everybody liked her so We just loved her" Rogers said he also was not concerned for the time being about the threat of legal action against him by the passengers The Whippoorwill is the nautical branch of the Vassar Playhouse a summer theater Rogers and his wife operate a mile south of Pomona Lake For nine years they have journeyed from their home in Winfield to manage a summer stock company at the playhouse The past four seasons the couple also has offered a sunset dinner show and cruise on the doubledecked showboat In light of Saturday's tragedy Mrs Rogers said the future of the productions is uncertain The actors and actresses who serve double-duty as waiters and waitresses on the cruises were just beginning to serve dinner when the funnels struck Saturday The planned show for the night was at a spoof of 1930s musicals One of the 13-member crew Tina Cramer 17 of Quenemo Kan was among those killed Most of the actors and actresses are drama students from state universities and colleges None of the crew or other stock company members would discuss the future of the playhouse and showboat Cathryn Rogers said been told not to talk about HER MOTHER WHO had spent much of the night helping compile lists of survivors and victims was nearly spent by Sunday afternoon Leaning on her husband's shoulder as they prepared to leave the lake for the playhouse she said all worked so hard to make this work I don't want to see it end" Then for the first time since the ordeal began she began to cry By MIKE LLMON Staff Writer VASSAR Kan Bruce and Veda Rogers huddled Sunday near the shoreline staring blankly at their battered showboat Divers nearby searched the murky waters of Pomona Lake for more bodies The previous night the steam-powered Whippoorwill with 59 persons on board was beginning its transformation into a floating dinner theater when two funnel clouds dipped from the sky tipping it over and spilling its passengers and crew into the water AT LEAST 14 PERSONS were killed and one is missing Rogers and his two teen-aged daughters Cathryn and Margaret were among those tossed into the chilly waters but they escaped unharmed As he watched from his shoreline perch Rogers winced when he glanced at the boat's mangled awning and bent paddle wheel a good ship" he said hate to see it sit there like that but I can't be concerned about it now We still have people missing and others injured to worry about haven't given any thought to repairing it I don't know what we'll do with it the playhouse or Behind the Scenes The Eagle-Beacon's coverage of the Pomona Lake boating disaster was compiled and edited by more than two dozen reporters photographers and editors some of whom worked around-the-clock Saturday night and Sunday Shortly after the first reports of the disaster were received Eagle-Beacon capital reporter John Petterson rushed to the scene from Topeka Meanwhile reporter Mike Limon and photographer Bob Stone were dispatched from Wichita to Pomona Lake where they spent the night Tom Bell a photo correspondent from Manhattan Kan also was there Saturday night They were joined Sunday by reporters Fred Mann Larry Fish and photographer John Freeman Also working on the story from Wichita were reporters John Achteriurchen Bob Heaton Jerry Johanning Connie Pickett and Melissa Thompson ap Photo BRUCE ROGERS REACHES FOR ANCHOR CABLE don't know what we'll with boat 3 Emporia State Faculty Dead Visser said the school had little information on Fuller who had just retired as a professor of library science at the University of Wisconsin and was at Emporia State only for the first five-week summer session Fuller like Reed had no immediate relatives Visser said and Professor Isa does not have any relatives in this country Isa joined the faculty in 1976 Visser said memorial services will be held for the dead professors the university school president John Visser said was such a shock" THE FOUR WOMEN had gone on the boat cruise to enjoy an "informal gathering of friends" said a spokesman for the school Also from the school were three drama Margaret Rogers daughter of the boat's owners Linda Wallts and Bernard Wonsetler They were members of the musical From Staff and Wire Reports EMPORIA Kan Four Emporia State University faculty members liked the idea of an evening of relaxation and entertainment aboard a pleasure showboat on a Kansas lake But Saturday evening turned into a shocking nightmare Three of the faculty members were killed KILLED WERE Sarah Reed 64 directin' of the school of library science Muriel Fuller in her late 60s and a visiting lecturer at the school and another library science faculty member Zubaidah Isa 55 The fourthDonna Jamar an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction was rescued from Pomona Lake with only minor injuries was such a real tragic thing for.

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