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Titanic survivor details firsthand account of horrifying night 100 years later

London, Mon, 09 Apr 2012 ANI

London, Apr 9 (ANI): A Titanic survivor's tale of the horrific night, as the tragedy unfolded before his eyes, is to be published this month to mark the centennial of the catastrophe.

John B. 'Jack' Thayer III, a 17-year-old heir to a Pennsylvania railroad fortune, was one of the few people who lived to tell the tale of the 'unsinkable' ship's fate.

Of the 2,224 aboard, only 710 people survived the disaster, many escaping in lifeboats before the luxury liner sank and most were women, including Thayer's mother.

But the teen was miraculously rescued after he plunged into the icy waters and clung on to an upturned lifeboat, while witnessing the tragedy unfold before him.

In 1940, Thayer penned his account of what had happened in the early hours of April 15 1912 as a tribute to his father who had tragically gone down with the ship, printing an edition of just 500 copies for family and friends, the Daily Mail reported.

Now, however, 'A Survivor's Tale' is to be printed by New York publisher Thornwillow Press, bringing alive the doomed liner's story to those outside his inner circle.

In his vivid account, Thayer recounts his own desperate struggle for survival.

"About one in every 36 who went down with the ship was saved, and I happened to be one," he said, in an extract obtained by the Daily Telegraph.

"We were a mass of hopeless, dazed humanity, attempting, as the Almighty and Nature made us, to keep our final breath until the last possible moment."

In despair, and left with no option, Thayer decided to jump. "I was pushed out and then sucked down. The cold was terrific. The shock of the water took the breath out of my lungs," he says of the terrifying plunge.

"Down and down, I went, spinning in all directions. Swimming as hard as I could in the direction which I thought to be away from the ship, I finally came up with my lungs bursting, but not having taken any water."

After latching on to a life boat, Thayer watched as the ship's passengers battled against the inevitable.

"We could see groups of the almost 1,500 people still aboard, clinging in clusters of bunches like swarming bees; only to fall in masses, pairs or singly, as the great after-part of the ship, 250 feet of it, rose into the sky, till it reached a 65 or 70-degree angle."

He describes being haunted by the horrifying cries of the people who slowly died around him and his own survival.

"It sounded like locusts on a midsummer night in the woods. This terrible cry lasted for 20 or 30 minutes, gradually dying away, as one after another could no longer withstand the cold and exposure," he said.

Thayer said the most poignant part of the catastrophe was that the lifeboats, some of which were 'only partially loaded', did not return to rescue those crying for help in the water.

He describes how several hundred more people could have been saved had the boats, which were only four or five hundred yards away, turned back. (ANI)

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