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Adella Wotherspoon, 100; last survivor of '04 ferry disaster

NEW YORK -- Adella Wotherspoon, believed to be the last survivor of the deadly 1904 fire and sinking of the excursion ferry General Slocum, has died. She was 100.

Mrs. Wotherspoon died at a convalescent home in Berkeley Heights, N.J., close friend Julia Clevett said in yesterday's New York Times.

The retired teacher died Jan. 26, the newspaper said.

Mrs. Wotherspoon was just 6 months old when the excursion ferry named for Civil War Major General Henry Warner Slocum caught fire as it took a group of German-American church members on an outing on June 15, 1904.

The disaster killed 1,021 of the 1,300 people aboard.

Mrs. Wotherspoon's mother, Anna, was in flames when she jumped from the ship with her baby in her arms. Mrs. Wotherspoon was the ferry's youngest survivor. Her mother, her face scarred, also survived, as did her father, Paul Liebenow, but other family members died.

The General Slocum fire and sinking was the city's deadliest tragedy until Sept. 11, 2001, and one of the worst maritime disasters in American history.

The 1865 explosion of the Mississippi River ferry Sultana killed more than 1,400 American Civil War soldiers, and the Titanic sinking in the Atlantic in 1912 killed 1,517 of the 2,200 people aboard.

"The Titanic had a great many famous people on it," Mrs. Wotherspoon said at a 1999 commemoration of the General Slocum fire. "This was just a family picnic."

Mrs. Wotherspoon said she had no direct memory of the General Slocum and went on many sea cruises with her husband. She said observances of the tragedy "have been a great help to the survivors and the relatives of survivors."

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