Captain George Reynolds was at the helm of the Boneta on her regular run up the river to St. Maries. He'd navigated those waters many times before and had held a master's license for 25 years. Reynolds was also part-owner of the boat, which had been constructed the summer before at Johnson's boat works in Coeur d'Alene. This was
the Boneta's first run in a few days, having spent some time getting a blown cylinder repaired.
Meanwhile, the fast steamer Idaho was on her regular run downstream on the St. Joe, captained by Jim Spaulding. The Idaho was a sidewheeler built-in 1903.
Reynolds was expecting to encounter the Idaho at any moment, given their common schedules. According to his account, he blew one long blast with his steam whistle to alert any boat that he was approaching a blind bend in the river known as Bend Wah, about three miles above Chatcolet Bridge.
"Just then, the Idaho hove in sight coming around the bend," Reynolds told the Coeur d'Alene Press. 111 then blew two whistles to pass her on my right. She answered the alarm whistle but never answered the passing whistle."
Both captains had different versions of what whistles blew when and what each meant. To say there was some confusion understates it.
Captain Spaulding refused to talk with the press. Red Collar Line management-the company that owned the Idaho-said they "did not care to enter into a newspaper controversy."
Captain Reynolds talked quite a lot, accusing the Idaho's captain of deliberately ramming the Boneta.
"When I saw that she was going to run me down if she kept on that course, I stopped my boat and backed, expecting that she would do the same, but she continued to come full head-on.
"I swung my boat across the river to try to avoid a collision.
The Idaho's pilot then swung the Idaho and followed me, still continuing to work his boat full steam ahead. Then when within 20 feet of me he stopped his engines."
The Idaho rammed into the Boneta, punching a big hole in the side of the boat about one-third of the way back from the bow. Captain Reynolds quickly grounded the Boneta. Still, she partially sank in about 15 feet of water.
Meanwhile, the Idaho paused long enough to be sure no one was injured, then continued on her way downriver, her bow scraped a bit and sporting a broken jackstaff . The five passengers who were on the Boneta were unhurt. A team of horses also rode out the collision with no injury.
The owners later raised the Boneta, and she began operating again on Lake Coeur d'Alene and the St. Joe. Although the arguments about who was to blame went to trial, the court could not determine culpability.