US businessman Gregg Bemis, owner of the Lusitania which was torpedoed off Co cork with the loss of over 1,200 lives during the first World War, has died aged 91
Mr Bemis, who had been diagnosed with cancer several years ago, was due to mark his 92nd birthday next week.
“He always wanted to find out what caused the second explosion on the Lusitania, and the mantle we have to take on is to find that out,” Mr McGarry said.“We hope to get an expedition going for a forensic examination of the bow area. But the captain of the ship has gone – he was like a father figure to me.”
Bemis, who had descended to the wreck at the age of 76, acquired joint ownership of the Lusitania in the 1960s. He fought a long legal battle to verify his ownership, involving court hearings in three countries including Ireland.He was determined to find out what caused the sinking. In 2008, Mr McGarry found four million rounds of ammunition on board, and other raw material. They were classified as small arms ammunition which was permitted to be carried on board.
Mr McGarry believes the cause of the second explosion may never be resolved.Last year, Mr Bemis signed over ownership of the wreck to the Old Head of Kinsale Lusitania Museum at a ceremony at the Old Head of Kinsale which is the nearest point of land to where the ship went down on May 7, 1915.
“I’ve come to realise that, at almost 91 years old there is only so much more I can do to further this project and I think because of the Lusitania’s part in history, it’s very important that it be done properly and we get all the artefacts we can from the wreck to put in the museum planned for here,” he said.
Mr Bemis explained the deed of gift would not become effective immediately, given that it might impact on the local museum committee’s ability to raise Government and State funds He said it would be held in escrow and activated at short notice in the event of his death or when the museum is built.Read more: Irish Examiner »
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