1891 - DYNAMITE DISASTER - Frightful Explosion of Blasting Powder on the Hudson. -A Car Containing Thirty Laborers Blown of Atoms.
A flat car loaded with dynamite and drawn by a construction engine was blown to atoms shortly before noon a few days ago, at a place about one and a quarter miles south of Tarrytown, N. Y., on the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. A gang of workmen, chiefly Italians, were on the car, and of the number thirteen were killed, ten were injured and five, on the day after the tragedy, were missing. It was thought that the bodies of the latter were thrown into the river. Efforts were made to recover them. The bodies of several of the dead Italians have neither been claimed nor identified. Some of the injured of the same nativity have been recognized. Three of the wounded were taken to a local hospital at Tarrytown; the rest were brought to Bellevue Hospital in New York City, where they are being properly cared for.
Had the explosion occurred while a heavily loaded passenger train was passing the work train the loss of life might have been still more appalling. No trustworthy information was obtainable the day following the accident as to the direct cause of the explosion. The most intelligent theory advanced, however, is to the effect that fuhninating caps were carelessly loaded with the dynamite cartridges, and that in some inexplicable way one or more of these caps was ignited causing the explosion.
A portion of the track was torn up and traffic on the road was temporarily suspended. No damage resulted to surrounding property beyond the breaking of a few panes of glass, though the report of the explosion was heard many miles from the scene on both sides of the river.
Following is a list of the dead: JOHN McCARTHY, timekeeper, twenty-two years old, North Tarrytown; FRANK MORRIS, water-boy, eighteen, Tarrytown, blown into the river; JOHN SMITH, brakeman, thirty-two, Sing Sing, blown into the river; LUCINO RAINIERE laborer; RAFFALLE TANICCARLE, laborer; UITO SCACOITE, laborer; Seven Italians, names unknown, thrown in all directions and badly burned, but not much mutilated.
The train consisted merely of an engine, driven by GEORGE HERRICK, and a flat car, in charge of JOHN CONNORS, conductor. On the car were twenty-four cases of Ajax powder, loaded at Ludlow's and intended for use in blasting away the rock for a third track just below the station at Tarrytown. About thirty men were aboard, mostly Italians, who were to do the work. Besides CONNORS and the Italians there were J. SMITH, the brakeman; EDWARD FINNEGAN, the foreman of the gang, and FRANK MORRIS, the water-boy. At Hoge's Point the road makes a sharp bend and a flagman is stationed there, where he can watch the track in both directions. "GUS" DEERMAN, was on duty and was watching the train as it approached him, when he saw an Italian jump off. The man struck on his head and was thrown some distance on the rebound.
The train kept on its way and passed DEERMAN who ran toward the Italian. Before he could reach him and while the train was scarcely 100 feet away he heard a terrific explosion. Looking back, he saw the air filled with smoke, dust and flying debris of all kinds. The powder had in some way ignited, and the car, engine, tender, passengers, and even the roadbed, were blown several hundred feet in all directions.
The flash of the explosion was plainly seen from the station at Tarrytown, about one mile distant, and Officer SMITH who was on duty there, JOHN A. LANT, editor; DAVID WHALEN, a brakeman, and hundreds of others rushed to the spot. They found the roadbed blown out for a distance of twenty or twenty-five feet, rails twisted into all sorts of shapes, the car almost completely annihilated, and the bodies of the victims strewn all about.
Five minutes after the explosion the smoke cleared away. At least it had all blown out over the river. A few minutes later the workmen who had been cutting stone by the track three-quarters of a mile north came running up. They had recovered from the shock. People from the Tarrytown station came, too, headed by Chief of Police Charles Nossiter. They saw dead or wounded men lying everywhere. Fifty feet south of the spot where the explosion had occurred was a pile of human bodies tangled together, legs and arms and heads sticking out of the pile here and there. Near by was another pile, but not so large as the other. Two bodies floated in the river 100 feet from the shore. The steam escape valve on the top of the engine held one body impaled, the arms and head hanging on one side and the legs on the other. The ground was covered with bits of clothing and pieces of flesh.
Some of the wounded were lying one on top of another, shrieking for mercy and groaning and begging to be put out of their misery. The ground for 200 feet up and down the track was wet with blood. The car had disappeared.
Only a bit of it hung over the stone embankment along the shore. The brake head on which Brakeman CULLEN had been sitting was there and uninjured. It was not even bent, while the heavy steel rails were twisted into indescribable shapes and broken.
The ties for the length of two rails were missing. There was a hole fifteen feet across in the ground where they had been. The engine stood dismantled. A piece of sheet iron was all that was left of the tender. The wheels even had disappeared. One steel axle four inches in diameter, which had been snapped in two, was lying on the ground near the hole.
A piece of wheel was fast to the end of it. The cab of the engine had been torn off and had disappeared entirely. The smoke stack and pilot were gone. About all of the exterior machinery that remained intact was the safety valve with the impaled man.
Two telegraph poles had been knocked over into Hoe's Pond, and the wires dangled in the water. The fence which had separated the company's property from the pond was missing for 200 feet. The river and the pond were full of floating debris.
The Cranbury Press
May 22, 1891
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