S-51 sank almost immediately after it was rammed around 10:30 p.m. off Block Island Sound on Saturday evening, September 25, 1925. Her crew of 34 was in the water, sailors who begged for a line to save their lives. In a Boston courtroom the following December the steamship company that owned the ship City of Rome and the U.S. Navy battled it out. Company officials charged the Navy with having "rookies" manning the conning tower of S-51. The Navy shot back at the opposing lawyers. In their opinion City of Romes captain had conducted himself poorly in the aftermath of the collision. They said that he had failed to mark the spot of the crash and had not used his searchlights to find any sailors that might have been floundering in the water near the ship.