1883 - May 30 - Rumor that the Brooklyn Bridge is going to collapse caused a stampede that kills 12
Details of the Disaster on the Bridge.
Men and Women Crushed and Trampled to Death in the Blockade at New York Anchorage.
THE DEAD, THE INJURED AND THE MISSING.
How the Panic was Aided by a Gang of Ruffians - Scenes of Horror and Heartrending Cries for Help.
The Stairway That Led To Death
What is Said by Eye Witnesses and the Statements Made by Superintendent Martin, Mayor Low and Trustee Stranahan.
The Suffering in the Hospitals
Grief and Sorrow in Many Brooklyn Homes
THE SAD NEWS IN THE CITY
The extra EAGLE of last night was the first paper to announce the facts of the terrible disaster which occurred upon the bridge - a calamity that has darkened many homes and which thrilled the entire community with a deep sense of horror. Following the Eagle's lead, other journals in New York City issued extras, and the avidity with which the copies were bought showed the deep anxiety upon the part of residents of both cities to learn the full truth. Decoration day being observed to a very great extent as a holiday, there were thousands of people who were out visiting the cemeteries or enjoying themselves. The greater portion of the people who were crossing the bridge from Brooklyn to New York were residents of the latter city and vicinity, most of whom had been to the various cemeteries and who had taken advantage of the day to cross the structure. About half-past 4, the throng which was on its way to New York was the thickest, and this crowd became hindered at different points along the span by people who loitered to watch the river and the boats. Half a dozen persons stopping in this manner would very perceptibly stop the travel, but the press behind them was so great that they were compelled to move on. Still there would be breaks in the line of passengers, so that while there would be dense crowds together, there would be places where there were spaces of from fifty to a hundred feet, caused, as has been said, by those who desired to loiter. The fatal jam was just on the other side of the New York tower. It was formed between the tower and the two flights of steps which lead down from the planked footway to the asphalt pavement upon the top of the anchorage masonry.
Coming from New York the first flight of steps is sixteen feet wide. There are seven steps with a rise of six inches each. Then when the top of these is gained there is a platform which is the same width as the steps - sixteen feet - and eight feet wide. Then follows another flight of steps, also seven in number, just the same width and height as the lower flight; in fact, the platform dividing them is simply as a break between the fourteen steps to make the walking up the ascent easier. It was upon this platform where the first life was lost, and where the tragedy commenced. The crowd going toward New York had rounded the central column of the tower, and had become jammed in the narrower pathway leading to the steps. Right at these steps where the locomotion was gradually slower, the two crowds met, but the number coming from New York was not nearly so great as that which was going from Brooklyn. The difference is described by an eye witness as being one hundred to one. The efforts of people to pass each other upon the steps hindered the speed of pedestrians both ways, but it resulted in forming such a jam on the roadway between the New York tower and the steps, that the crowd in the rear, not knowing the cause, became impatient and pushed ahead those who were in front. In addition to this
A GANG OF NEW YORK ROUGHS,
who shouted out that they were members of an organization banded together by placing their arms across each others' shoulders, and in this way forming a solid line, they charged upon the rear of the dense mass, hooting like so many demons, and saying that "They would go through __" and would soon pass that crowd. The result was that people upon the steps were being hustled so that they were in danger of falling, and they cried out in terror. Those directly behind them who were aware of the difficulty in passing the steps, tried vainly to hold those back who were pressing from behind, and at last when one unfortunate woman with a child in her arms, fainted with the heat and exertions she had been making, fell down unconscious upon the lower step there was a shout of horror broke out from a hundred throats. A second later and MR. FREDERICK E. PALE, who lives at 79 Henry street, in this city, fell over her, and in less time than it takes to write it there was a mixed heap of men, women and children piled up upon the steps. The shouts, groans, imprecations and agonized cries which filled the air, instead of appealing to the mercy and better judgment of the crowding throng, served only to excite it to a frenzy of fear. The thousands behind the steps - that is, between the steps and the bridge, who couldn't see what had happened, became panic stricken with the idea that the bridge had broken, and their first effort was to gain the solid walk upon the masonry, which was but a short distance ahead. Consequently, they rushed forward with that single object in view, hurling down upon the prostrate bodies those in front, and adding to the awful horror of the scene. Officer FREDERICK RICHARDS was the only one of the bridge policemen who was at that point at the time, and he had several times previous to the accident started the crowd moving. When the last jam occurred he was absolutely powerless. He, however, jumped upon the ironwork which protects the car track and quickly summoned a force of men. Word passed out to the police upon the New York approach that there was trouble on the bridge, and a few seconds later, men with blanched faces, and women almost dead with fright and with torn clothing, emerged from the throng and started for the New York exit. Then it was known that lives had been lost and a force of about thirty policemen, under command of two sergeants from the Twenty-sixth Precinct, in the New York City Hall, rushed upon the approach. There was no time to spare and no mild measures could be used. The clubs flew around incessantly and the crowd was at last got under control. Planks were placed over the ironwork above the tracks so as to facilitate people in making their escape from the jam. In this way the throng upon the walk was thinned. The police held firm possession of the space round the steps where the tragedy had occurred, and which were covered with a helpless, groaning, blood stained mass. Standing in position upon the iron work and upon every raised place the New York police were enabled to see how to manage the crowd, which had now become somewhat cooler in its manner, though of course greatly excited by the fact that lives had been lost. Those who wanted to come over to Brooklyn were ordered to take one side of the passage way in line, and those going to New York the other. As both crowds were passing the scene of the occurrence, the dead were laid in a row, their faces covered with their hats or some article of apparel, while the ambulances had come thundering along from New York, and were already taking away the wounded. The sight was one that has never been equaled for horror. The writhing, struggling mass of those on the fatal steps formed a picture that made the stoutest hearted turn pale. Man and women, with their limbs contorted and their faces purpling in their agonized efforts to breathe, were
HELD AS IN A VISE
by the struggling mass on top of them. The bridge officers, New York police and citizens who were close upon the steps, went to work with a will to help the wounded as soon as the pressing of the throng had ceased. Men and women were pulled out of the struggling mass with as much dispatch as possible. Such as were able to take care of themselves were placed sitting or standing near the railing and so that they could get air. Several gentlemen assisted the ambulance surgeons in making their examinations of the injured and in helping them to place them in the ambulances. A company of the Twelfth New York Regiment, which was on the bridge, did excellent work in helping to drag out the wounded, and when at last the dead, dying and injured had been taken away, and the bridge was clear by reason of the stoppage of travel at either end, the scene at the steps was even then sickening. All around the fatal spot was stained with blood. Hats crushed and battered, articles of jewelry trodden into a shapeless mass, trifles of women's wear, umbrellas and cases broken to pieces gave indications of the terrible struggle which had occurred. One stout Irish woman, who seemed to have an intuitive perception some minutes before the fatal rush that lives would be sacrificed, held up a child she had in her arms, shouting wildly for someone to save it. She had braced herself up against the railing, and she threw the most despairing glances all around to try and save her child. She was jostled with the throng, however, and at last was buried in the general crush. Those who were in the front ranks, with the effort at self preservation instinctively upon them locked arms and formed a barrier three and four deep at the edge of the steps. Then they tried to press the crowd back and the effort was futile. Then in the wild confusion which reigned could be seen man and women divesting themselves of every article they had which hindered them from using their hands in a struggle for safety. Baskets, umbrellas, canes, flowers, shawls and coats were being thrown about everywhere and only added to the general terror. The people who did the damage were those who were not in the slightest degree in any danger, for they were the people who composed the rear end of the surging crowd going to New York. If they had kept quiet all would have been well, but when the first shrieks of agony rent the air they seemed to be imbued with a fear that the danger was behind and not in front, hence they pressed ahead with desperate eagerness to get off the bridge proper and gain the roadway upon the anchorage. This forced the people down the steps, until both flights were covered with a bruised, bleeding and dying mass. The gates on the Brooklyn and New York ends were closed as quickly as possible, and no one was allowed to enter at either end until the police had cleared away all vestiges of the occurrence and the iron railing which had been crushed out of position had been temporarily replaced.
BRIDGE POLICEMAN RICHARDS
stated that he was just above the stairs on the side of the promenade as the crowds were passing in either direction. He was trying to keep them moving, but every now and then a crowd would collect and cause a jam. A woman stumbled at the head of the lower stairway and fell, and another woman who saw her screamed. "I am satisfied," said RICHARDS, "the that woman who screamed did more to create the trouble than anything else. As soon as I saw the woman fall I rushed forward to help her, but as soon as the scream left that woman's lips the rush came, and I was knocked down with the rest. I don't know how I escaped, but as I was falling I knew that the only way in which I could save myself was to gain my feet, and this I did at once. I then got up the woman who had fallen, but in doing so one of my hands was stepped on, and my head was kicked. I tried to keep back the crowd, but it was no use. They came on like so many frightened cattle, and the heaps of people injured kept increasing. There was a number of workmen upon the supports of the bridge painting, and they hurried down and took out sections of the iron railing and thus relieved the crowd somewhat. Then planking was put over the ironwork which shuts off the railroad tracks, and in this was a great many got out. The dead and wounded also were removed to the ambulances this way."
All the injured were taken to the Chambers street Hospital. The Chief of the Second Battalion of the New York Fire Department drove in with his wagon and took quite a number of the wounded to the hospital.
The following persons were killed:
MRS. JERUSHA BAZARIAN, a Turkish woman, aged 35, wife of ZACHARIAH BAZARIAN, of No.302 Plymouth street, Brooklyn, trampled to death in the jam. Her husband, an Armenian, became half crazed on recognizing her among the dead in the Chambers street Hospital, New York, and was seized by a police offices and sent home in a hack. Her son, aged 17, was separated from her in the crowd and went home expecting to find her there.
EDWARD E. COLBURN, aged 13, of No. 187 South Eighth street, E. D., was taken out of the jam crushed to death and carried to the same hospital, where the body was recognized by his grief stricken father.
WILLIAM H. CRAFTS, aged 60, a clerk in the employ of Ridley & Son, started to visit relatives here, and was suffocated to death in the middle of the crowd. He leaves a widow and four adult children.
MAUD CRAWFORD, aged 33, wife of CHARLES CRAWFORD, of Thirty-seventh street, near Broadway, New York, was crossing alone, and was crushed against the railing, then thrown and stamped upon.
SARAH HENNESSEY, married only seven weeks ago to JOHN HENNESSEY, a wire weaver, who is employed at Union avenue and Ainslie street, Brooklyn, and lives at No. 190 Union street. Her maiden name was TIBBS, and she was 22 years old. The husband and wife were together when the panic occurred. An accident had occurred to the husband a week ago, which had injured his left hand. He was holding it up and showing it to his wife when the first disturbance began. They had just reached the steps at the New York anchorage and were coming toward New York. He seized his wife's arm with his uninjured hand to protect her. Just at that moment he received a blow on the side of his face that felled him to the floor and he went rolling to the bottom of the stairs. He was able to extricate himself from the crowd without being crushed. The blow upon his face separated him from his wife. When he had escaped after his fall he could not find her, and learned nothing more of her until he found her dead body at the hospital.
ELIZA KASTEN, aged 69, residence No. 185 Griffith street, Jersey City heights, was accompanied by her husband but being an old and feeble woman became frightened when the first confusion arose. The couple were looking at the boats on the river at the time. When the crowd pressed upon them the husband tried to protect his wife, but she was thrown down and trampled upon, while he was powerless to help her. She was carried out in a dreadfully mangled condition. The husband followed her to the hospital, but she was dead before her body was removed from the ambulance.
AH LING, aged 54, a Chinaman, who came to New York from the West Indies about ten years ago. His home was in Baxter street, and his occupation was peddling tobacco and snuff from house to house in small quantities. He was trampled upon on the bridge and his face was horribly disfigured. He had no relatives in this country, but he was identified by ex-Deputy Sheriff TOM LEE.
JAMES O'BRIEN, aged 45, a delivery clerk at Pier No. 39, Pennsylvania Railroad, lived at No. 88 Haight (not sure) street, New York. He was in company with his daughter ELIZABETH, who is among the injured, his daughter, MARY, and MATTHEW WELCH, who also was accompanied by his daughter, when the disaster occurred. He took the dead man's wife and mother to the hospital. MR. WELCH himself narrowly escaped death. His face was bruised and clothes torn.
ELLEN RIORDAN, aged 45, married, lived at No. 36 Montgomery street, New York. She was in company with a woman friend and one of her sons on the bridge. They were separated, and the son did not find his mother until he recognized her mangled remains at the hospital.
MARGARET SULLIVAN, aged 15, residence No. 137 Monroe street, New York, was identified by her father JAMES SULLIVAN, at 8:15 o'clock last evening. He is a laborer. He was with MARGARET and KATE, a younger daughter, upon the bridge. In the panic he found that he could not same both of them unaided. He passed KATE over to the care of another man. The latter, however, had another woman to aid and he put KATE into the hands of still a third man and thus she was taken out alive, although badly bruised. The father meanwhile was striving to prevent MARGARET from being crushed. He failed. She fell under the feet of the struggling throng and was taken out dead. Her father first found her body at the hospital.
EMMA C. SHERWOOD, wife of Captain SHERWOOD, of Bridgeport, Conn., was visiting in New York. Her host, whose name could not be learned, with his little body, was accompanying her across the bridge when the crowd began to press upon them. The man saved his boy, but MRS. SHERWOOD was torn away from him. Her dead body was carried to the Chambers street hospital where it was afterward identified.
GEORGE SMITH, aged thirty-five, truck driver, who worked for Baker & Clarke, grocers, No. 235 Greenwich street, and lived at No. 41 Watts street, New York. Accompanied by his wife he had just reached the top of the steps at the New York anchorage when the panic occurred. He was thrown down the steps and was crushed by the people falling upon him. Although alive when picked up he died soon after reaching the Chambers street Hospital. His wife although overcome by grief, had escaped almost uninjured from the disaster.
The following persons were more or less seriously injured:
BARBARA ATTINGER, aged 18, of 443 Sixth street, N. Y., slightly injured about the head, but went home unaided.
FRANCIS BARRETT, aged 9, of 19 Mott street, N. Y., his left arm and leg were broken.
OTTO BISCHOFF, of 7 Manhasset place, Brooklyn, slightly hurt, but went home unassisted.
ALBERTINE BOHNET, of 139 Division street, N. Y., was internally injured and taken to the hospital.
MRS. MARGARET BAYLEY, aged 34, of No. 15 Willett street, N. Y. She was in company with MARGARET GALLAGHER, who was injured. She received injuries on her head and left arm and was taken home.
MRS. DAVID CHAMBERS was injured internally and was suffering from hemorrhage. MISS CHAMBERS, aged 19, had a fracture of the lower limbs. They were in company with MR. CHAMBERS, who immediately after the accident conveyed them in a carriage to their home, No. 116 King street.
F. E. DALE, of No. 79 Henry street, received slight scalp bruises. He was able to go home.
SAMUEL DALTON, aged 33, of No. 330 West Twenty-ninth street, escaped with a slight contusion of the back, and was taken home in a carriage.
DAVID DELMONTE, aged 35, of No. 108 Avenue B, fell at the foot of the steps and received a slight contusion of the side.
MARY DISTLER, age 18, of One Hundred and Third street and Second avenue, New York, suffered concussion of the brain and was taken raving to St. Vincent's Hospital, where she was kept under the influence of opiates all night.
EDWARD DOEHERTY, aged 5 years, of No. 152 Ferry street, Newark, N. J., was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital, where he was found by his mother at 8 P. M. His injuries are not considered fatal, but his spine is hurt.
CHARLES EBBERWEIN, age 11, of No. 334 East Fifty-fourth street, New York, had his right leg fractured near the ankle and received a contusion of the scalp.
LOUIS EVRAK, of No. 7 Manhasset place, Brooklyn, slightly injured, went home without assistance.
MARGARET GALLAGHER, a widow, aged 32 years, of Madison street, near Seaunnel, New York, was conveyed to Chambers street Hospital, and subsequently moved to the New York Hospital. She has remained unconscious since receiving her injuries.
JAMES GREEN, of No. 60 Cherry street, New York. Unconscious through prostration. Cared for at the Chambers street Hospital.
ELIZABETH HANNON, a young woman, living at No. 39 Chrystie street, New York, was with her mother, aged 60 years, on the bridge. Both were slightly injured.
EDWARD HERR, aged 26 years, of No. 518 West Ninety-third street, New York, a silk ribbon weaver, was bruised and strained about the legs and right elbow.
WILHELMINA LOEWE, aged 60, of No. 190 Monroe street, New York, was injured internally, and subsequently removed to New York Hospital.
ELIZABETH O'BRIEN, aged 11, daughter of JAMES O'BRIEN, who was killed, was injured internally and probably will die.
MARY O'BRIEN, age 8, was with her father on the bridge when he was killed, and received several bruises and scratches. She was sent to her home, at No. 89 Laight street, N. Y.
MARY O'DONOVAN, of No. 232 Cherry street, New York, was injured internally, was taken to Chambers street Hospital.
ELLEN REQUA, of No. 62 Horatio street, N. Y., slightly injured, suffered from asphyxia, went home unassisted.
THOMAS ROORDAN, of No. 36 Montgomery street, N. Y., injured internally, was removed to the New York Hospital.
MARGARET RYAN, age 30, of No. 230 Cherry street, New York, was conveyed to the Chambers street Hospital, suffering from convulsions and asphyxia.
MINNIE SMITH, lives at No. 258 Houston street, New York, was injured internally.
MARGARET SMITH, age 25, was on the bridge with her husband and was thrown down the steps. She was rescued with difficulty and is supposed to have received some slight internal injury.
MATTIE O. STYLES, of No. 257 Grove street, Jersey City, injured internally, and was cared for at the Chambers street Hospital.
MARY THOMPSON, aged 8 years, of No. 113 Monroe street, New York, had her skull fractured and minor contusions about the head. She was lying at St. Vincent's Hospital in an unconscious condition last evening, and it is thought will die.
ELIZABETH TIERNEY, a young girl who lives on St. Marks place, went home without assistance.
MRS. CHARLES VOGELEY, of No. 32 West Twenty-sixth street, New York, internally injured. Conveyed to Chambers street Hospital.
Those reported last night as missing are as follows:
HENRY BARWICK, 17 years of age, of Seventy-sixth street and First avenue, New York. His father is sexton of the Methodist Church in Sixty-third street. He left home early in the morning, not saying where he was going.
JOHN CARROLL, aged 14, lives in East Twelfth street, New York.
DAVID COLE, aged 15 years, lives at No. 33 Eighth street, Jersey City.
RICHARD EAGLEHARDT, 15 years of age. Lives at No. 24 High street, Brooklyn.
JOHN GOLDEN, of No. 546 Canal street, New York.
GEORGE HASHAGEN 15 years. Lives at No. 157 Bleecker street, New York.
GEORGE N. MARKS. He was married and has a family. His home is at Fourth and Thirteenth streets.
IDA MINLEY, aged 19, living in Eighty-sixth street, New York, a sister of MRS. GEORGE SMITH, whose husband was killed; left her home in company with her sister EFFIE for the purpose of walking across the bridge. She had not returned up to a late hour last night.
EFFIE MINLEY, aged 25, a sister of ADA MINLEY, was in company with her and is also missing.
AMBROSE O'NEIL. Lives at No. 623 Washington street, New York.
FRANCIS O'NEIL. Lives at 271 West Eleventh street, New York.
MILES SMITH, of Forty-first street, near Second avenue, New York, 14 years old.
WILLIAM S. STRONG, fourteen years of age, employed at R. H. Macy's store, at Sixth avenue, and Fourteenth street, N. Y., left home with the intention of going to Rockaway with a friend.
EDWARD TAMMANY, age 14, or Morrisania. He left home at 7:45 A. M., to walk over the bridge. He had not returned at 10 P. M.
SAMUEL TOBINSKI, eight years of age, of No. 43 Eldridge street, N. Y., left home at an early hour and had not returned at 10 P. M.
MICHAEL VETTER, age 30 years. Lives at No. 43 Oliver street, N. Y.
SCENES AND INCIDENTS.
As the crowd was forced, with an irresistible pressure from behind, towards the steps a boy of 10 years who was being crushed shouted so loudly and piteously for his mother that a broad shouldered man endeavored to lift him up. The little fellow was too tightly wedged to be extricated. He was insensible when he reached the steps, and his face had been trampled out of all semblance to humanity before the rush was over.
A lady who was in the thickest of the jam declares that she had no idea that anything serious had occurred until the deadly work was at an end. Close by her side was a tall, delicate looking man who was trying to save his child. He fought like a maniac: "I was perfectly helpless," said the lady, "and was being pressed against the unfortunate little one. I knew the poor child was being crushed but I was powerless to resist the pressure, and the father struck as viciously at me as if I had been the author of his trouble. What became of them I do not know. They were swept slowly by me toward the steps and I did not see them again. It is a wonder that I did not faint. The direction of the current seemed to diverge for a moment and I got a chance to reach the railing. How I managed to climb up I don't know, but I reached the top of it and lowered myself down on the other side. Several others had already done the same thing, but none of them seemed to know that anything serious had happened. I was afraid of falling through the open space, but I managed to get into the roadway on the other side with nothing but a confused notion of what I had endured."
MRS. EDWARD COLBURN, of 137 South Eighth street, came out into Chatham street, leading a little boy with each hand. She had lost her husband in the throng. He had taken their eldest son with him. While she was talking with a reporter on Chatham street her niece, a girl of 10, ran up to her, crying: "Where is uncle?" MRS. COLBURN answered that she did not know. She said: "œIt was an awful experience. I saw one woman fall backward from the steps. As soon as she fell she was jumped upon by men who were forced after her. They trampled her to death. I was pushed up against the railing and turned around and around. My clothing was torn and I was exhausted. When I last saw my husband he was holding our son up in the air and being carried toward the edge of the steps by the crowd. I clung to the railing. At last some one from above grasped my wrists and hauled me out of the crush. A few minutes later they got my two boys up."
TORN FROM HER ARMS.
MISS MARY BARRETT, 18 years old, accompanied by her mother, an old lady, MRS. SOPHIE PRINCE, a married sister, her sister NELLIE, 15 years old, and her little brother FRANK, 9 years, met the full force of the rush at the top of the steps near the New York arch. A policeman who had secured a position of safety on the railing, shouted to them in an excited manner to go back, but before they could obey the order they were engulfed in the swirling crowd. MISS MARY BARRETT picked up her little brother in her arms, but in a moment he was torn from her grasp and trampled under foot, while she was swept to the outer edge of the crowd. She could see her brother, and attempted to turn back to rescue him, but she was roughly pushed away by a policeman, who said it served them right for going into such a crowd. MISS BARRETT said that the two policemen whom she saw appeared to have completely lost their heads and rendered no assistance whatever in extricating the people who were being trampled upon by the crowd. Little FRANK BARRETT was restored to the arms of his sister by a man who pulled the little fellow from under the feet of the panic stricken people. The child's left arm and leg were broken, and he was unconscious when he was carried out of the crowd. The other members of the BARRETT family escaped with slight injuries, but KATIE MAHER, a girl of 19, who was of their party, was severely injured.
RACHEL SHONLISKI SAVES HERSELF.
RACHEL SHONLISKI was one of a party of three girls who had reached the New York tower on their way to Brooklyn just as the panic set in. In an instant all three were swept from their feet. RACHEL clambered to the shoulders of a man who had fallen on his knees beside her, and from that position pulled herself up on the railing of the bridge. She remained perched on the railing until the panic subsided, and was the means of having the little girl, ANNIE GOLDSTEIN, one of the companions, who was very badly injured, taken to her home. SARAH GAERTNER was buried under a mass of struggling human beings, and when she was pulled out nearly all of her clothes were torn from her back. She said last that she thought she had been dreaming, and could recall nothing of the scene from the time she was swept down the steps until she found herself in the street wit the man who had picked up ANNIE GOLDSTEIN. When the rush was over and missing friends were being searched for RACHARIAS BAZARIAN, of 302 Plymouth street, whose wife was crushed to death, was found to have become insane. He applied at the New York Hospital for information concerning her and seemed to suddenly lose all control of himself. He raved and gesticulated wildly, and his friends could scarcely restrain him, while one of them went downstairs and there found the dead body of his wife. BAZARIAN was taken away apparently a hopeless maniac.
AFTER THE CRUSH.
When the pressure had become relieved a frightful scene was presented at the fatal stairway. The dead and dying were wedged together in a mass, and the bodies were piled four or five deep.
The first person pulled out was a stout woman, who had worn a blue dress. Shreds of the dress were hanging to the waistband, but every particle of her clothing from the waist down had been torn away. Singularly enough, the woman was only slightly hurt, and the gentleman who was with her escaped with a few bruises and the loss of his hat. Taking off his torn coat, he wrapped it around the woman, and the two then hurried off the bridge together. Another man was pulled out of the writhing mass almost unhurt, while the child he held in his arms was terribly crushed. A little boy was taken out with his legs badly hurt, but, forgetting his pain, he kept crying out, "Save my papa! Oh, save my papa!" Then a man struggled loose from the human pile in the stairway, seized the child, covered his face with kisses, and hurried off with the little fellow in his arms. Many of the less severely wounded made their way down planks which workmen had leaned against the railings into the roadways, where they walked away or were helped into passing wagons and carried off the bridge.
MILITARY MEN DOING GOOD SERVICE.
When the panic occurred fifteen men belonging to Company A, Twelfth Regiment, and under the command of Lieutenant HART, were on the southern drive. The soldiers, in prompt obedience to an order from the Lieutenant, climbed over the railing, and while some of them helped to remove the dead and injured, others scaled the iron girders above the railroad and helped to keep the crowd back on the Brooklyn side of the stairway. Bridge policemen and employees ran to the spot from all directions and did what they could to assist the sufferers. Drivers of wagons who were crossing the bridge left their vehicles and ran to offer assistance, and in a very few moments after the panic reached its height scores of men were hard at work trying to save life. The iron girders which partially inclosed the railway on either side of the promenade above the stairway served as footholds for many rescuers, and good use was made of them. Men and women held their children above their heads, and the little ones were seized by men clinging to the girders and quickly passed to other men who carried them out of harm's way. A large number of men and women were pulled out in the same way, some of them with their clothing torn to shreds and several of them more or less badly bruised and crushed. One woman who had been rescued shouted frantically for her children, and a moment later her two boys were rescued and given into her care. Although the loss of life occurred at the stairway, the crush of people was as great just above the steps, and the scene there was indescribable. Hats, canes, umbrellas and packages were thrown away. The women seemed helpless, while men stood yelling and shouting, and too bewildered to climb up on the girders when they had the chance. It was out of this struggling crowd that the rescuers on the girders saved scores of children and helped many grown persons to save themselves.
SCENES AT THE HOSPITAL.
A dense crown was assembled in front of the Chambers street Hospital last night until a late hour. Early in the evening ambulances and dead wagons were driving up bringing more victims from the scene of the disaster, and the crowds pressed so closely about the doors that the police were obliged to drive them back with drawn clubs. Inside the hospital a sad spectacle was presented. Mothers were sobbing over their dead children and anxious men and women were going from pallet to pallet looking for lost children or husbands, wives, mothers or fathers. One stolid looking German approached a stretcher upon which was the dead body of a woman. Bending over the body he commenced to talk to it, when he was informed that the woman was dead. "No, she is not dead; she is warm," he replied. But he was soon convinced, and turning coolly on his heel without expressing the slightest emotion, he said: 'She is my wife," and then sauntered leisurely out of the room.
One of the most terrible cases among the injured was a girl of about fourteen years of age, who was found under a number of heavy bodies, but still alive. On the way to the hospital she was taken with convulsions, and it was found necessary to strap her to the bed. One convulsion followed another, and her screams and groans could be heard all through the building. Upon another pallet was a woman of some 60 or 65 years of age, who was suffering from severe nervous shock, and keeping three strong men busy to hold her down upon the bed. She was not expected to live, as it was believed she had received severe internal injuries. The
BODIES OF THE DEAD
were arranged for identification upon the cellar floor of the hospital, and at about half past six a coroner's jury viewed them, after which those with missing friends or relatives were allowed to look over the cold dead faces. One woman in search of a lost little girl lingered around the stairs leading to the cellar, but her heart had failed her and she refused to see the bodies, muttering through her tears that she was sure her little daughter was among the killed. Another party who appeared to be a laboring man, and a stalwart built, rugged looking fellow came out from the cellar with streaming eyes groaning heavily. The house surgeon was kept busy all night over the injured, and the police force was maintained at the door until this morning. One of the assistant surgeons said that he had ascertained quite a number of the injured had been
REMOVED IN CARRIAGES
directly from the bridge to their homes, so that the exact number of those injured by the disaster could never be definitly known. As he was talking to the Eagle representative two more bodies were brought in, and they continued to arrive until after 8 o'clock. At first the dead, the dying and the injured were mixed up together in the hospital ward, so rapidly did they arrive from the scene of the disaster. People who supposed their dear ones were among the injured or dead clamered about the hospital entrance for admission, and the scene was one not easily to be forgotten.
The matron of the hospital said: "I have been engaged in this hospital for several years, but I never saw such heartbreaking incidents as I have to-day. You see quite a number of the injured and dead are children, and their parents have wrung my heart with their appeals and grief. That sufferer over there," she continued, pointing to a cot upon which a woman of about thirty was lying, is one of the unknowns. She has attempted once or twice to tell me who she is, but if unable to utter a word. The doctor believes she is suffering from severe internal injuries and that she cannot live until morning. She was found at the foot of the staircase directly on the hard plants of the bridge and under several bodies.'
"There are very few cases of ebrasures of the skin among the victims,' said the house surgeon, "and from my present knowledge on the cases I should say that the majority of the dead were either suffocated or injured internally. We have a number of cases of severe nervous shock among them which have a fair chance of recovering, if they are not too severely injured internally; but it accidents of that nature women are very often killed by nervous shock alone."
THE SCENE OF THE TRAGEDY.
The scene of the tragedy was, as stated, at the platform of the tower nearest to the New York entrance. The platform itself is sixteen feet by eight feet, and each flight of stairs leading to the footway in each direction is seven steps, sixteen feet wide with six inches rise. In this narrow space the frightful jam occurred, and the poor people were whirled around in the dreadful rush and pressed together in an inextricable mass. Ever since the opening of the bridge the steps on both sides of the platform have generally been blocked by people coming from New York and Brooklyn. Persons going from Brooklyn who do not intend to cross to New York generally on reaching this platform remain a short time, and then retrace their steps. It is, therefore, one of the most dangerous points on the entire structure, and frequent attention has been called to the necessity of preventing a blockade. The width of the stairway is two feet less than that of the passenger way either above or below, the difference being caused by the encroachment of the hand rails which separate the platform from the railroad track. The distance to the New York tower from the scene of the accident is 909 feet, and the distance from the point where the cables pass through the pathway is over 340 feet. At that point the width available for foot traffic is reduced from eighteen to about fifteen feet. From the New York tower to the head of the stairway there is a marked downward incline. The grade is said to be on an average of 3½ feet in a hundred. The distance approximately from the New York entrance to the foot of the steps is 1,550 feet and the incline throughout is very precipitate. The railroad tracks on each side are about four feet below the footway. From the New York entrance to that point the spaces between the ties are filled in with regular stone ballast and from that point outward the spaces between the ties are open, and with the girders of the bridge form a sort of lattice. Portions of the iron railing on each side of the platform were removed by the police so as to enable them to extricate the dead and injured by lifting them to the car track.
It was providential in one respect that the accident occurred at this platform and not at any of the others further on, otherwise more trouble would have been experienced in removing the victims. The footpath itself at no point was perfectly safe for the unexpected rush of pedestrians who have thronged it at intervals from the night of the opening, but the small platforms were perfect deathtraps in case of a panic. The fact that the steps of the platform were much narrower than the footpaths on either side made a jam there inevitable in case there were an unusually large number of people coming in opposite directions, which has been almost continuously the case. The danger has been much enhanced by the temptation of passengers to linger at that particular point before continuing their walk to New York or Brooklyn. Why two or three policemen were not always stationed at that particular point is a matter which will probably receive careful investigation.
A fine view of the New York shore is obtained from the fatal platform, and passengers were naturally disposed after the fatigue of the walk across the bridge to linger there for a few minutes and look at the shipping. On the day of the opening there was an immense crowd of spectators on the carriage ways on either side of the platform, and as the Presidential party moved from New York there was a dangerous jam even on the wide road roadways. From statements which have been made by several persons, it seems that there have been frequent dangerous crushes at this point since the night of the opening. On one occasion, it is said, a young girl tumbled down the steps, and was with great difficulty extricated, and that had it not been for the presence of mind of two gentlemen, who succeeded in stopping the rush from the Brooklyn side, a similar catastrophe to that of yesterday afternoon would probably have occurred. Close observers of the traffic have noticed that of all parts of the footway this particular point was the most unsafe, and that fact also seems to have been fully realized by MR. MARTIN and the other bridge officials.
FOREWARNINGS OF THE OCCURRENCE.
A gentleman whose name and residence are known to the Eagle says:
"A similar accident, but fortunately without serious injury to any one, occurred at the same place as that of yesterday on Saturday evening last. I left my office in New York about half-past five o'clock and started for my residence in Brooklyn by way of the bridge. I was advised by a friend whom I met on the way thither that I could not get through on account of the jam at the stairway mentioned, but I went on nevertheless. Just before reaching the stairway I found indeed that the crowd was very great, and seeing the impossibility of getting through it, I, with hundreds of others, climbed over the railing into the carriageway, and after proceeding about a rod further on, looked up and saw that there was a terrible jam of people from which a great many were vainly struggling to free themselves, being pressed back against the iron girder and unable to do anything but struggle feebly and call for help. The cry was then raised that a child had been killed, and that some persons were being trampled down. I and several others shouted to the people on the outside of the crowd to go back and thus relieve those in the center; but being only civilians no attention was paid to us, and the outsiders continued to accumulate and to press on those in the middle, regardless of the frightful scene to which they were contributing. Fearing that some would be killed, I ran back to the New York entrance and informed the policemen there of what was going on; but though there were about a dozen of them around, not one would leave, saying that I must see the roundsman. Not knowing where to find him, I ran over to the City Hall and appealed to the sergeant in charge, While doing so, another citizen and, I think, a third came in hurriedly and made a similar appeal for police assistance. The sergeant sent out some men at once. I took three of them and when we reached the scene of the accident we found that the bridge hands had laid some planks across the carway and were pulling out ladies and others from the steps where they were jammed in, and rending them on the roadway. The police finally got control and broke up the jam, compelling the people to pass along to the right each way. So I made my bow to the policeman and went home. I didn't wait to see if any one were hurt, but was told that there were no serious injuries, though it seems like a miracle that some were not actually killed. But my reflections are that a crush of this sort can only be dealt with from the outside, and that, as the bridge officials were well aware of what took place on Saturday last, as I relate, it should have been a sufficient warning to them to take measures in time, and, if it had been, yesterday's accident would not have happened. I think also that such jams might in future be prevented by having a railing running down the center of the stairway and compelling the people to keep to the right, as the law directs. The railing should be run out a reasonable distance beyond the stairway at each end of it."
On Saturday, City Treasurer FLEEMAN said: "I crossed the bridge yesterday afternoon, and when passing from the western tower to the New York entrance I was afraid I would be crushed to death, and I was surprised that some of the women and children did not meet that fate. It was about half past three o'clock, and after passing the tower the jam was so great that I was carried with others bodily along, and any person who lost his feet on such an occasion would simply have the life walked out of him by the crowd. I saw a young woman holding a small child over the rail to keep it from being crushed by the crowd, and she was herself to jammed against the rail that she screamed with pain, and it seemed for a time as if she would drop the child, but she was finally set free without much serious injury." MR. FLEEMAN suggested that a larger police force should be on the bridge on Sunday to prevent the crowding that might be expected and the accidents likely to result therefrom.
MR. MARTIN, the superintendent, on Sunday morning, looked on the constantly increasing crowds of pedestrians with considerable apprehension. A report reached the York street Police Station, at 11 o'clock, that there was a panic on the New York side, and that pickpockets were robbing the crowd in all directions. Captain CRAFTS sent several officers to the bridge with orders to place themselves at the disposal of MR. MARTIN. The traffic eased up somewhat about noon, but in the afternoon again increased to enormous proportions. About one o'clock MR. MARTIN visited Police Headquarters and had a consultation with Drill Captain McKELVEY, who was acting Superintendent. He admitted the inadequacy of the bridge police force to keep proper order and protect the passengers. He also said that the footpath was not intended to accommodate any such travel as they were having and anticipated in a few days that the rush would not be so great. Captain McKELVEY pointed out the necessity for the employment of a strong police force on the bridge and the selection of the best men who culd be obtained for the work. He added, "You can have all the men you want to-day. All you have got to do is to notify the police of the Second Precinct and word can then be sent to headquarters, and we will send one hundred officers if necessary to render you any assistance which may be required." MR. MARTIN did not deem it necessary to call for any more men than were already on duty at the bridge that day. Since the opening of the bridge Superintendent CAMPBELL has had one or two detectives on the bridge from eight o'clock until midnight, but yesterday he was obliged to send all his available force to the Decoration day ceremonies, and there was no representative of the Police Department on the bridge at the time of the accident.
WHAT IS SAID BY EYE WITNESSES.
WILLIAM JONSON, employed as a bathing master at the Iron Pier, Coney Island, says he was on the bridge about fifty feet from the place where the accident occurred. He saw the people going toward the New York side suddenly turn back, and then came the grand rush and jam down the stairs. He found himself in the midst of the crush, and climbed up as best he could on the iron railing. From this point, by placing one arm about an iron support he succeeded in rescuing quite a number, dragging them out by main force from the crush and handing them to a man stationed on the railroad track. Just at this time quite a number jumped over onto the railroad track, and he expected every moment to see some one fall between the iron beams to the street below, some seventy-five feet, but they scrambled along without accident. One woman grasped MR. JONSON firmly about the neck, but in trying to pull herself from the crowd tore off all her skirts. At last she succeeded, and the last he saw of her she was seated on the railing holding fast and apparently much more composed than many about her. MR. JONSON noticed that the police employed on the bridge appeared to be greatly confused, and private citizens in the crush and crowd did about everything at first toward stopping the panic and preventing further disaster. Women fainted on all side of him, and men pushed the weaker sex rudely aside, in some cases trampling over them in their terror. At last men, women and children began to climb over the railing into the railroad track in greatly increasing numbers, and in this way the crush on the foot path became gradually lessened, and employes and private citizens were enabled to get at the dead and injured. MR. JONSON rescued one woman who was buried under several bodies but, strange to relate, she was not seriously injured. MR. JONSON believed that if the police force had acted promptly a number of lives could have been saved.
ANOTHER EYE WITNESS.
A foreman belonging to Number 1 engine on the corner of Chambers street and Center said: "We received an alarm of fire from the bridge and arrived during the rush. Someone said they needed ladders, and we unloaded one of our ladders off the truck, but on taking it into the station we found there was nothing to do with it, so we set to and helped as best we could to get the people out into the street. I went out onto the bridge approach and saw two of three of the bridge policemen rushing about as though they were mad, but apparently doing little to quiet the people. Women with torn dresses and half fainting staggered along toward the station and others were being supported by private citizens. Near the bridge stairs there was a great jam and is soon became impossible for me to push my way further, so I jumped over the rail onto the track and proceeded in that way. Men were standing on the rail pulling and tugging at the people on the footpath, and most of them had completely lost their heads. The bridge police did little or nothing so far as I could see to quiet the panic, and I never saw such a dazed set of men in my life, but of course they are very new to the business. They should have had some of the regular force to coach them before they were given full charge of the bridge. A greenhorn in the Fire Department is always looked after by an old hand until he comes to have some experience. In the beginning he is just as apt to turn the hose on one of the men as on a burning building. The excitement is too much for him, but the old hands soon get him into trim. How the fire alarm came to be sent out from the bridge I do not know. I think the arrival of our trucks and engines tended to increase the trouble and excitement."
STATEMENTS OF TWO BROOKLYN VICTIMS
MRS. DALE and her son, F. E. DALE, of No. 79 Henry street, were in the panic and both were severely injured, the latter it is feared fatally. They got separated in the jam, the mother being whirled in one direction and the son in another. MRS. DALE was carried to the Brooklyn side of the river and her son was removed to the Chambers street Hospital in an ambulance. He was frightfully crushed and bruised, one of his legs was broken and he also received internal injuries. It was at first reported that he was dead, but inquiries at the hospital at a late hour last night by his friends showed that such was not the case. The physician, however, in attendance said that there was only a slight chance of his recovery. He was perfectly conscious and exceedingly anxious to learn how his mother was. To one of the doctors he dictated a telegraph dispatch to his mother, telling her not to be anxious about him. MRS. DALE was equally anxious about her son, whose actual condition was concealed from her.
MRS. DALE said, "My son and I left the house about half-past three o'clock with the intention of crossing the bridge. Seeing the immense throng at the entrance we hesitated at first to go over but finally pressed in with the throng. We crossed to New York safely, but before reaching the New York entrance concluded to return to Brooklyn. No trouble occurred until we got to the bottom of the steps leading to the platform. A gentleman was standing on the front of the platform waving his hand to the crowd and telling them to get back. 'There is a big rush coming from Brooklyn, You can not pass. Go back to New York.' My son and I turned round with the intention of doing as requested, but there was such a crowd of people massed in behind us that it was impossible for us to move in one direction or the other. All at once scores of people were knocked down and trampled on, and my son and I were soon among the number. He tried to shield me, but it was impossible, and suddenly we became separated. As I was being carried forward I got hold of the railing on one side. If it had not been for that I believe I would have been killed. Finally a gentleman extricated me, and I was carried across the bridge to Brooklyn and taken in a carriage to my home."
MRS. DALE is severely bruised on the arms and body, but the doctor says she will be all right in a few days. The doctors at the Chambers street Hospital refused to allow her son to relate his experience. MR. DALE is 24 years of age, and is employed as clerk in a New York business establishment.
Lewis M. Ebret's Experience.
MR. LEWIS M. EBRET, aged 34 years, of No. 7 Manhasset place, the cashier in Castro & Company's office in Broad street, New York, was in the crush and narrowly escaped with his life. He was returning from New York when he was caught in the jam at the foot of the platform. He was on of the last persons taken out from the piled-up mass of humanity and was unconscious for a few minutes after being extricated. He was taken in a wagon to New York, and after remaining in a drug store for half an hour, was assisted to his home in this city by a gentleman, whom he had never seen before, and who summoned a carriage for him. MR. EBRET was badly bruised on the head and face and also received slight internal injuries. When a reporter called on him last night he said he expected to be able to go out in a few days. As to the actual occurrence he had little to say. "It seems to me," he said, "like a dream. I was not paying much attention to the crowd at the time, and although there was a frightful mass of people jammed together in a narrow compass I did not anticipate any panic. It came upon us like a flash of lightning. I was whirled and twisted around and then fell with several people on top of me. My back pressed against the railing. People seemed to be mad, and the uproar was something which I will never forget. I have scarcely any recollection of any incidents, I was so much dazed."
What Superintendent MARTIN Says.
Superintendent MARTIN, in conversation with a reporter, said: "I am at a loss to say what caused it, except that it occurred as panics usually do, by the people becoming seized with fear and acting under the impulse of the moment. At any day during the hours when there is the most travel, a panic such as this might have occurred. It was one of those things that no human agency could foresee, and I am satisfied that it could not have been prevented. The result of it is deplorable, but it cannot be helped, it could not have been prevented. There were more people on the bridge last Saturday afternoon than there were yesterday, and yet there was not the slightest trouble and there should not be. You see that in such a case as this, no matter how careful the authorities may be, no matter what arrangements are made for the safety of passengers, yet, after all, the people have to depend very largely upon their own conduct in such circumstances.'
"Do you think, MR. MARTIN, that if you had more police the thing could have been prevented?'
"I don't know. You see the trustees have taken all the precautions to guard against accident that it was believed would be sufficient. We had as many policemen appointed as we considered would be ample to keep the people on the bridge moving. Our instructions upon this point are simple, but have been impressed upon the police with a view to show their importance."
"What instructions are they?"
"Well, first of all, the men are ordered not to allow people to loiter upon the bridge - upon any part of it, or under any circumstances. If they do it necessarily impedes travel and is annoying to those who have business which necessitates them making as quick time as possible. Then in the event of a crowd collecting, which it will do at times, their instructions are that the crowd must not be hurried either one way or the other in a body, for that would be sure to make a blockade at once, but each person must be made to move along in the way that he is going.'
"How many officers did you have on the bridge yesterday afternoon?"
"We had twelve of the regular police on the structure and eight more were specially detailed for police duty. In addition to these there were twenty-five New York policemen on duty beside, five being located at the New York approach and twenty were on the structure, so that there can be no blame in this respect, such a force of men should be amply sufficient. This panic, however, came so suddenly that the men could not be massed in time to do effective duty. I shall make it my business to find out whether any of our men failed in their duty at the time of the occurrence."
With regard to the men in charge of the entrance not closing the bridge when they were first apprised of the panic, MR. MARTIN said: "As far as that is concerned, I am inclined to think that they did right, because they have no power to close the bridge unless under orders from the proper bridge officers."
"Now that some experience has been gained by this occurrence, do you intend in the future to make and extra efforts to guard against a repetition of such an affair?'
"Most assuredly. I shall lengthen the railing which divides the promenade into two lanes at the narrow point where the cable comes down to the footbridge, and where there was a considerable blockade a few minutes before the jam occurred at the anchorage. By doing this and having men stationed there to turn those going to Brooklyn on one side, and those going to New York in another, the likelihood of a jam in that part of the structure will be prevented. Than I shall have the stairways divided by a strong railing in the same manner, so that on one side people can pass down, and on the other up. These changes will apply to both ends of the bridge.'
"Why are there stairs at all, MR. MARTIN? Don't you consider that they are objectionable in view of yesterday's event?'
"If the stairs had not been there the incline would have of necessity been very great, and to obviate this the steps were erected. It was considered that the steps would be less objectionable than so great an incline.'
"Is the roadway wide enough to accommodate the daily travel?'
"It does not seem to be so now, but that is largely due to the fact that our cars are not yet running. As soon as they are in full order the number of pedestrians which now crosses the promenade will be so materially reduced that I think the roadway will be found to give ample accommodation."
"No, sir: I do not. As I said, it is one of those things which baffles human prescience. A crowd might gather in a prairie and do harm. There was ample space for the one that did the damage yesterday, but the trouble was that the people became panic struck. They dreaded a danger of some sort - they could not tell from that point, and only made one great rush to get from the spot in which they were. A little common sense would have prevented the entire occurrence. There always has been a tendency to halt at these steps, and this is why we are planning to erect the rails so as to prevent the two streams from coming in conflict. There is also a tendency to crush where the cables dip below the walk and are railed off. There will be a center rail erected at this point also, and the greatest care will be used in future to prevent the clashing of opposite streams of people."
WHAT MAYOR LOW SAYS.
"I think," said Mayor LOW, to an Eagle reporter this morning, "that the most palpable lesson of the affair is the need of more police. It is impossible, of course, to say whether the presence of a larger police force at the stairs would have prevented the panic and the accident, but it is very clean to my mind that for the ordinary conditions that prevail on the bridge a much larger force than has been employed is needed there. The accident proves, of course, that the footway is not competent by itself to transport the people that want to cross, and it is unfortunate that it should have been so severely tested apart from the railway system which was intended to work with it. It is curious to think that more people probably were injured in that accident upon a bridge across which they could walk than have lost their lives and been hurt on all our ferries in the last twenty years."
WHAT TRUSTEE STRANAHAN SAYS.
MR. JAMES S. T. STRANAHAN, one of the trustees, said: "It was believed that the steps on either approach to the towers would be plenty wide enough. They are of greater width than the sidewalks on Broadway, and every one knows what crowds of people traverse them. The only reason why the accident occurred that I can give is because the people became panic struck. It is unfortunate that it happened upon the bridge, but if the same crowd had been confined upon any of our thoroughfares, and had become uncontrollable through fear, lives would have been lost also. When the railroad was planned it was found necessary to utilize the center portion of the bridge for the promenade; it was impossible to run the cars around the center tower, and it was therefore decided to place the tracks through the arches near the tower. Then this necessitated that the promenade at the tower should pass over the railroad. Instead of putting all the steps at the towers it was thought better to place them at the anchorage. The promenade might have been continued at the same height to the ends of the bridge, but then there would have had to have been even more steps, as the height would have been greater. The trustees of the bridge have considered the matter of travel and have largely trusted to the cars relieving the traffic on the promenade, so that it would render the repetition of another such occurrence almost an impossibility. The stairs are well built and were made as wide as it was possible for them to be constructed."
"Could more space for pedestrians be given, MR. STRANAHAN?"
"Well, if we find that the cars do not relieve the promenade as we consider they ought to brackets will be placed at the edge of the roadways, and a pathway will thus be gained."
"Do you think you have sufficient police on the bridge?'
"Yes, sir. There are plenty to keep order and do all the duty that is necessary to be performed."
The Brooklyn Eagle
Brooklyn, New York
May 31, 1883
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