Oct. 1, 1955: The 5,948-seat Bangor Auditorium opens in Bangor. More than 4,000 people turn out to attend the dedication ceremony.

The facility, at 320 feet long and 146 feet wide, is one of the largest event venues in the Northeastern United States. Planning of the building began 25 years earlier.

“I have been all over the world and seen the seven wonders of the world,” Bangor City Councilor Devereaux McCarthy tells the Bangor Daily News. “To me, honestly, this is the eighth.”

The auditorium hosts sports contests, circus performances, political rallies, school graduations, trade shows and other events before it is demolished in 2013.

The Cross Insurance Arena, currently still in use, replaces it later that year.

Oct. 1, 2015: The American-flagged, 790-foot cargo ship SS El Faro, on its way from Jacksonville, Florida, to Puerto Rico, sinks off the Bahamas while attempting to travel through Hurricane Joaquin, a category 3 storm.

The disaster kills all 33 crew members, including ship master Capt. Michael Davidson, of Windham, and three other Maine residents – Michael Holland, of Wilton; and Danielle Randolph and Dylan Meklin, both of Rockland.

The Puerto Rico run was supposed to be the ship’s last before a major retrofitting. A 2014 Coast Guard inspection had noted a marked increase in safety concerns since 2013, and parts of the boilers were severely deteriorated. The ship also carried obsolete open-top lifeboats.

When the storm proves to be much more powerful than what was predicted in the 21-hour-old weather reports the El Faro had received, the engines lose power, and the ship is adrift before sinking.

The loss of the El Faro and its crew is the worst disaster for a U.S.-flagged ship since 1983. It takes months to find the wreckage, which lies in pieces at a depth of 15,000 feet. A voyage data recorder is retrieved, but no bodies are recovered.

In addition to the victims’ families, the loss is difficult for Maine Maritime Academy. All four of the Mainers who died graduated from the school in Castine, as did another crew member, Mitchell Kuflik, of Brooklyn, New York.

During its review of the sinking, the National Transportation Safety Board issues several recommendations, including better tropical weather forecasts and faster and more efficient dissemination of those forecasts.

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

 


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