On the night of the collision, Sunderland was in his bunk in Section G (his cabin was three decks below the main deck and close to the bow). He and two cabin mates were smoking. Victor had on his trousers; his vest and coat were hanging on a rack. A little before midnight, he felt a slight jar and heard a noise "similar to that (of) a basket of coal would make if dropped on an iron plate." Sunderland and six others went up the companionway to the main deck where a steward told them to go back. They could see ice on the deck; however the steward told them nothing was wrong so they went back to their cabin.
They lay down on their bunks again and smoked for a quarter of an hour more. Suddenly, water started pouring in under the door. They instantly something was very wrong, and three of them then ran back up to the main deck. The other men remained in bed. Sunderland thought they might have drowned.
Sunderland was told to return to his cabin to get his life preserver. They went back, but found that their room was already under water. They ran aft between the decks and up to the main deck. There, they found a Catholic priest praying and a crowd of men and women kneeling. Others were running about, beginning to panic. Sunderland separated from his two companions; they went aft to the taffrail. Sunderland went to the mid-promenade deck and then up to the boat deck.
He found the boat deck crowded along the starboard side. The crew was filling boats with women and children and lowering them away. Sunderland claimed that standing nearby him were the Strausses. An officer was trying to convince them to get into a boat, but Mrs. Straus said, "Let me have my husband." When told that only she could get into the boat, she replied, "Then I will die with him." Whether Sunderland actually saw this is uncertain; he also claimed to have seen an officer firing a revolver in the air once or twice and then shooting a man who had refused to get out of a boat.
Sunderland began to search for a lifebelt. He saw a steward in a lifeboat with three belts and asked him for one, but he was refused. Sunderland asked a crew member if he knew where he could find one, and the crew member didn't know. The ship was beginning to list to port and the boats along the starboard were almost all gone. The passengers were moving to the port side, but were kept back by crew members.
Sunderland stayed close to the front of the boat deck, where Second Officer Lightoller and several fireman were trying to launch Collapsible B. Water was gushing toward them. The front of the boat began to rapidly sink. The firemen began jumping overboard. Sunderland followed. He swam away and found Boat B floating next to the sinking Titanic, washed overboard. He grabbed onto it as it floated near the forward funnel, moments later the funnel fell down. Sunderland thought the ship broke in two at that time.
Sunderland and about 27 or 28 other men climbed onto Boat B. Many others were pushed away, trying to keep the boat from being overloaded. He was waist deep in the water. Someone asked how many Catholics were on board. This person began to say the Lord's Prayer and then the Hail Mary, with the others following.
In the early morning, they spotted the Carpathia and Lightoller signaled Lifeboat 4 & Lifeboat 12 to take them off. Sunderland was the fifth person to climb off Collapsible B into Lifeboat 12. On the Carpathia, he recalled being given cold coffee.
After arriving in New York, he was taken to the Salvation Army home and fed and clothed. He was then briefly hospitalized at St. Vincent's Hospital, where he remained until 20 April. From the 20th until the 24th, Sunderland went to the White Star offices and tried to recover money he had lost in the wreck. He also "saw the sights." He traveled by train to Cleveland and showed up at his uncle's house unexpectedly on 26 April.
He was later married to May Annie McNaughton and worked as a plumber until his retirement in 1939. He settled in Toronto, Canada in the 1920s and died there on 21 August 1973.