One of the few instances on record of a North Carolina coast lifesaving station keeper being discharged for negligence resulted from the wreck of a schooner of only 10 tons burden, with two crewmen, carrying a cargo valued at less than $300. This was the schooner Joseph H. Neff of Wilmington enroute from Lockwoods Folly to the Cape Fear River with a cargo of tar, wood and turpentine.
She was discovered anchored and in distress just beyond the breakers 2-1/2 miles S.W. of the Oak Island Station at 4 a.m. by a surfman on patrol who hurried back to his station with the news.
Keeper Savage, recently taken over in that capacity, decided it would be a good idea to brew up a pot of coffee before departing for the wreck—the first of several needless delays. When finally he and his crew started for the scene they went empty-handed, leaving their surfboat and beach apparatus behind, and when several barrels were found floating in the surf at the scene of the wreck, Savage ordered his men to drag them out of the water and place them above the high water mark before going to the wrecked vessel.
When the lifesavers finally reached the wreck, two men were found hanging onto the partially submerged craft. A small skiff belonging to the Neff had drifted ashore nearby, but was without oars. Savage left one surfman on the beach while he and the remaining members of the Oak Island crew returned to the station for the surfboat. Meanwhile the Neff went to pieces in the surf, and the lone lifesaver managed to drag both men to the beach, where one was found to be dead.
By the time Savage returned the whole business had come to an end as did his brief position as keeper.