- Associated Press - Friday, June 5, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - A historical group plans events this summer to mark the 100th anniversary of when the Eastland ship sank on the Chicago River, killing 844 people.

Ted Wachholz, executive director of the Eastland Disaster Historical Society based in Arlington Heights, said that he has met people who haven’t heard of the event.

“We organized ourselves around the premise that you don’t have to be rich or famous to have a legacy that’s worth preserving,” Wachholz told the Chicago Tribune (https://trib.in/1GbTzzO ). “We’re here to preserve and share those legacies and connect people today to them.”

The SS Eastland, which was carrying 2,500 people, turned on its side in the river on July 24, 1915. It was one of five boats chartered that day to take Western Electric workers and their families and friends across Lake Michigan to a park in Michigan City, Indiana.

The ship was top-heavy with several lifeboats and rafts, and a crowd watching other boats made it more unbalanced. It rolled over, sending people and debris flying and trapping passengers in the lower decks, where they drowned.

The historical society will have Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Burke preside later this month over a mock criminal trial of ship officials that never happened after the disaster. The group also plans a public ceremony on the Chicago Riverwalk on July 24 and a family day on July 25. Events will include a cruise, authors’ panel and sunset ceremony lighting 844 candles on the river.

A gathering is planned for people whose families were involved with the disaster.

Earlier this year, the first-known film clips of the disaster surfaced when doctoral students at the University of Illinois at Chicago found them while looking through unrelated material on World War I in Dutch newsreels.

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Information from: Chicago Tribune, https://www.chicagotribune.com

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