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1895 - While Two Hundred Were Injured Not One Was Killed. Accident At Atlantic City. A Miracle that There Was Not a Wholesale Slaughter.

Only One of the Injured in Danger of Death-A Rotten Wooden Pillar the Cause of the Catastrophe-Some Curious Incidents-The Collapse as Seen by an Eye Witness-Great Weight of the Crowd-List of the Injured-Some Baltimoreans Slightly Hurt-A Lucky Tally-Ho Party.

Atlantic City, July 11. - The gayety and bustle characteristic of this resort has given way to a degree to a feeling of depression, in consequence of last night’s disaster at Baltic Avenue Casino. It is largely tempered, however, by a devout thankfulness that the catastrophe was no worse, and, indeed, it is considered almost miraculous that hundreds were not killed outright. At the Pacific Avenue Sanitarium, where the most seriously injured are being cared for, it was reported this evening that only one of those patients was in any immediate danger of death. This is Frederick Claproth, the coronetist of Jenning’s Band of Camden. He has been several times reported dead, but is still hovering between life and death, to the wonder of the physicians, who ascribe it to a remarkably strong constitution.

The number of the injured will undoubtedly aggregate close to two hundred, although it is impossible to obtain exact figures, many of the victims having left for their homes, and the others being scattered throughout the city in innumerable hotels.

It has been definitely learned that that accident was caused by a rotten wooden pillar which helped to support the second floor.

Just previous to the crash Jenning’s Band had begun to play for the Elks, and the majority of the people was this attracted to the upper floor. But for this there would have been great loss of life. A party of New York delegates lingered below, but the heard the alarming crackle of the timbers and escaped to the boardwalk outside not a second too soon.

Curious Incidents.

Incidents of a curious character were not lacking even amid the intense excitement, which lasted until the early hours of the morning. One Elk from New York was told that both of his legs were broken, and he immediately asked for a dose of prussic acid, declaring that he not want to live. It was subsequently learned that he was not seriously injured. Another went away in an ambulance with his head badly cut, but he was singing at the top of his voice and declaring that he was unhurt. One little girl was shot through the hole in the floor into the arms of a young man below, and a moment later her mother, who was uninjured, crawled through the hole, seized the little one and made off along the boardwalk, Grand Exalted Ruler Deweiler, who witnessed the collapse from the platform, has not yet recovered from the horror of the sight. He escaped from the building by way of the roof.

A Graphic Description of the terrible accident was given today by David Rankin, a member of the Camden Lodge of Elks, who was an eye-witness to the scene.

“I arrived at the building about 8 o’clock,” said Mr. Rankin, “The room was on the second floor where the social session was to be held was already pretty crowded.

“The people were seated around tables, which were placed at right angles with the stage and parallel with the [illegible] boardwalk.

“The stage was situated at the lower end of the hall, while the stairway, which opened off Baltic avenue, led up to the opposite end of the room.

“I remained in the hall for a while, and as I saw the people crowding in I began to feel that the floor would not stand the weight. Finally I went downstairs.

“I walked up and down the Baltic Avenue boardwalk for awhile and then stood in front of the entrance, looking at the people go in. They kept coming and coming, and I began to feel all the more certain that something would give way. There must have been fully 1,500 people in the building. While I was standing there Wm. J. Thompson, of Gloucester, came to me, ‘What’s the matter, Dave?’ he asked ‘Why don’t you go upstairs?’ ‘Why?’ I replied, ‘I’m afraid the floor will go through. I don’t believe it will hold such a crowd.’

“That’s just why I’m here,” he said, “I was up in the hall and thought it dangerous.”

A Cracking Sound.

“Suddenly, while we were talking there, we heard a cracking sound, like the breaking of boards, followed by the fearful cries of the crowd of horror-stricken people. The Baltic Avenue front of the building bulged out as if it was going to fall into the street, and we ran up the boardwalk to get out of the way.

When we thought we were beyond the reach of the falling timbers we turned round. Then we saw that the front had not fallen out, but that the front had gone through. The shrieks of the injured and frightened people were terrible to hear, and as soon as we recovered from out surprise we hastened back into the building to assist in extricating the injured from beneath the fallen timbers and removing them to a place of safety.

“The floor had broken just in front of the stage and the heavy weight upon it bent it downward like a trap door. The floor on each side of the opening also carried down and a sort of tunnel was formed, with a hole at the bottom about three feet wide and four or five feet long.

“With the first break the people in the hall began sliding down the steep sides of the opening, and it soon became a seething vortex of shrinking human beings. The first floor remained intact, and the unfortunates who were precipitated through the rent were piled up upon it in a heap, with broken boards, chairs, tables and other things.

“When the collapse occurred everything and almost everybody in the hall slid toward the opening in the floor, those nearest it being pushed and forced down by those who had been seated nearest the walls as they were hurled toward the gap. So sudden was the [illegible] of the stream of struggling humanity that the opening at times became clogged up with furniture and suffering people.

“If the first floor had given way the injuries would have been much greater. It is bad enough as it is, and I never want to witness such a scene again.”

Great Weight of the Crowd.

The great weight of the crowd was the primary cause of the accident, but there is talk of fixing the responsibility, it having been generally known that the structure was old and dilapidated. The Casino Building fronts the ocean from the boardwalk at the head of Baltic avenue. It is a frame two-story structure, built about three years ago by the Casino Amusement Company. It has been unoccupied for the last two seasons. The affair was investigated at today’s meeting of the Elks. It is understood that the authorities will institute an immediate investigation, with a view not only to ascertain the cause of the mishap, but also to provide against the possibility of a recurrence of such a catastrophe.

The enterprise, of which the structure in which the sad mishap occurred was a part, has proved an unfortunate one for the original [illegible]. It was a scheme combining a double music pavilion, a toboggan slide, a merry-go-round and a long pier, from which steamboats made frequent trips to sea. The storms of the first winter of its existence swept away the next winter. During a subsequent storm of wind a part of the roof of the pavilion, the upper floor of which has now given away, was blown off. This was repaired at much expense and has since remained intact. A year or so ago a goodly portion of the toboggan fell to the ground and it is still in that shape.


Baltimore, Maryland

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