Lieutenant Charles H. Hasker, CSN (a former U.S. Navy hand who had been the boatswain on the CSS Virginia during the Battle of Hampton Roads) was sitting immediately behind Payne in the lead cranksman's position at the time of the accident, and related the following experience:
We were lying astern of the steamer Etowah [one of several names by which the CSS Etiwan was known], near Fort Johnson, in Charleston Harbor. Lieutenant Payne, who had charge, got fouled in the manhole by the hawser and in trying to clear himself got his foot on the lever which controlled the fins. He had just previously given the order to go ahead. The boat made a dive with the manholes open and filled rapidly. Payne got out of the forward hole and two others out of the aft hole. Six of us went down with the boat. I had to get over the bar which connected the fins and through the column of water which was rapidly filling the boat. The manhole plate came down on my back; but I worked my way out until my left leg was caught by the plate, pressing the calf of my leg in two. Held in this manner, I was carried to the bottom in forty-two feet of water. When the boat touched bottom I felt the pressure relax. Stooping down, I took hold of the manhole plate, drew out my wounded limb, and swam to the surface. Five men were drowned on this occasion (Fort 1914).
Payne and Hasker escaped the forward hatch, while the team's explosives expert, Charles L. Sprague, and another unidentified crewmember managed to fight their way out through the aft coaming. Carried to the bottom and drowned were sailors
Frederick (Frank) Doyle, John Kelly, Nicholas (Nick) Davis, and Michael Kane (or Cane) of the Chicora, and Absolum Williams of the Palmetto State (Ragan 1995, 54). Following this tragedy, the military sent a request to Mobile asking for people more familiar with the boat to come to Charleston to take over its operation upon its recovery. Horace Hunley, Thomas Park's son Thomas W. Park (often misidentified as his father), and approximately six or so other volunteers, probably mechanics from the Park & Lyons shop, answered the call, journeyed to Charleston, and spent some time putting the boat through "diving and raising" tests, possibly for the purpose of testing a new adjusted compass (Ragan 1995, 66). When it finally appeared to observers that all the vessel required was experienced hands, the boat suffered another terrible disaster. While running submerged, Hunley, acting as vessel commander, made a simple error in regulating the water contained within the forward ballast tank, and the boat buried its bow in the harbor mud, stuck fast, and partially flooded, killing the entire crew of eight. In addition to Hunley, Park, and the stout-hearted Sprague, this crew contained Mobilians Robert Brockbank, Charles McHugh, John Marshall, Henry Beard, and Joseph Patterson (who may be the individual identified as "White" in Alexander's narrative). Even after the passage of nearly fifteen years, General Beauregard's recollection of the events surrounding the recovery of the boat and crew three weeks after the sinking was still vivid when he set it to paper: