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1884 - ENGULFED IN BURNING OIL. THE TERRIBLE SITUATION OF A PASSENGER TRAIN. A RAILWAY CUT FLOODED WITH OIL WHICH TAKES FIRE AND BURNS UP A TRAIN AND SEVERAL PERSONS.
Bradford, Penn., Jan. 15. - One of those calamities peculiar to the oil regions startled the people of Bradford today. A passenger train on the Bradford, Bordell and Kinzua Railroad was totally destroyed by fire. The train which was due in this city from Wellsville, N.Y., at 10 o'clock this morning when within three miles of the city ran into a river of oil which had escaped from a burst tank on the hillside, and running down the snow, had covered the bed of the railroad track for over a half mile. The grade at that point is very steep, and the oil coursed down its bank as if it were a stream of water. There is a sharp curve close by, and before the engineer knew it his train was passing over the highly inflammable oil. It ignited from the furnace of the engine, and immediately set the entire train on fire. Then followed a scene not easily portrayed.
The train, which was made up of a baggage car and ladies' coach, was filled with passengers. So great was the crush that many went into the baggage car. The terrible heat from the burning river of oil instantly cracked and shattered every window in the car. The flames leaped in through the doors, the windows and through the ventilators. The car wheels splashed through the burning oil scattering it along the bottom of the cars. There were seas of flames on all sides and death seemed to stare every passenger in the face. Those nearest to the ends of the cars dashed through the doors to be met by hissing flames which, lapping their heads, faces and hands, left terrible burns behind. The high snow banks which lined the road and came almost to a level with the car windows, afforded the imprisoned passengers a possible means of safety. Men, women and children jumped or were forced through the windows. The majority fell into the snow and rolled over and over down the steep hillside. All who were in the baggage car escaped with their lives, although several were badly burned. The heat in the engine cab was terrible. The engineer, PATRICK SEXTON, could see nothing but flame and smoke ahead of him. When the train entered the oil he thought it would speedily pass through it without great damage, and he pulled the throttle wide open. The burning oil, however, ran faster than the engine, and the wood-work of the cab was soon in flames. Down the grade, through the heat and flame and smoke, thundered the train. Seeing that he could not run through the flames, the engineer reversed his engine, and with his fireman, MIKE WALSH, jumped into the snow. They were terribly burned, but both managed to walk to the nearest boarding house, two miles away. The engine and cars were thrown down the embankment.
Out of a party of 40 or 50 passengers only 3 lost their lives, and they were ladies.
MRS. L. C. FAIR, of Klusua Junction, was burned beyond recognition. She had been married two years. Her husband was in the baggage car and was unable to go to her assistance. GEORGE McCARTNEY, the train news agent, was badly burned in attempting her rescue. MRS. KATIE MORAN, of Allens, Penn., was burned to a crisp. She was found hanging outside the coach grasping the window sill. MRS. LINDA JONES, of Rew City, was burned to a crisp. MRS. CONNELLY, of Rew City, who was at one time reported dead, escaped with slight injuries, and was able to go home this afternoon. Of the injured, PROF. FAUGHT TARPOIT, is not expected to live. PATRICK SEXTON, the engineer, is terribly burned about the face and hands. MIKE WALSH, the fireman, is horribly burned about the face and arms. W. H. BELNAP, Atken, jumped from the train and was injured internally. JERRY DENEGUN, a brakeman, had his hands badly cut. CHARLES HEIDICKE, the express messenger, was burned about the hands. CAPT. HOE, of Boston, Mass., was burned about the face and head. G. H. PEABODY, of Rochester, N.Y., was burned about the head and face, and his hands were cut. K. B. CRANE, of Bradford, was badly burned about the face and hands. MR. WRIGHT, of Rew City, Penn., was badly burned about the face and head. F. W. TOWNSEND, the conductor, was badly burned about the face and hands. GEORGE McCARTNEY, a newsboy, was terribly burned about the head and hands and is not expected to live. A. N. CARPENTER, of Little Genesee, N.Y., had his head, face, and left hand burned.
JERRY HAGGERTY, of Ceres, N.Y., was badly burned about the head. MRS. BLACK, daughter, and son, of Atken, were burned about the heads and hands. MRS. BLACK was the most severely burned. G. W. VAN, wife and son, of Indianapolis, were seriously burned. The boy was badly burned about the face and hands. JOHN KEFEER, of Atken, was terribly burned about the face and hands. T. P. FLETCHER, of Bolivar, N.Y., was badly burned about the face and head. B. C. EARLEY, of Andover, N.Y., was burned about the face, head and hands. MAUD PROCTOR, aged 10, jumped through a window and was uninjured. MRS. THOMAS PARKER, of Bordell, Penn., threw her 4-year-old girl out of the window and followed after her and escaped with slight burns and bruises.
As soon as word reached Bradford of the disaster a relief train supplied with cots was made up and sent to the scene of the wreck. President Carter was on board with a full corps of surgeons and rendered all the relief possible.
John Burke, of Dunkirk, N.Y., with his sister, was on the train. His account of the disaster is as follows: "The train was running at the rate of 45 miles an hour. Suddenly the car became dark. Jets and tongues of flames leaped upon the sides and through the ventilators of the car. The glass cracked with a snap and the heat became unendurable. I knew at once that we were passing through an oil fire. Turning to my sister Mary I said, 'We are passing through an oil fire; be quiet, it will soon be over.' People began to jump through the windows. On all sides were heard the crashing of the glass and the deafening roar of the flames. It seemed as if we were all doomed to burn to death. The situation was terrible. Women and children were picked up by strong hands and bodily thrown through the windows. They fared better than the few who dashed through the doors into the ocean of flames which surged to and fro like huge waves upon the bed of the road. Those who jumped from the windows landed in great drifts of snow while those who went through the doors had their hands, faces, and clothing badly burned. I started down the side of the car, but the heat was so awful that it made my head swim. It was impossible to move. The car swayed to and fro like a ship in a heavy sea. The windows offered the only means of escape, and I told Mary that we must jump through the window. I arranged her cloak about her head, picked her up bodily, and mustering all my strength, dashed her head foremost through the window. I then picked up a little girl who was crying and threw her out of the same window. And then I made the jump of my life, landing in a snow drift. My mustache and my hair were only slightly singed. My sister rolled down the bank, but escaped without a scratch. The only wonder to me is that any of the passengers escaped with their lives."
B. C. PARLEY, of Andover, N.Y., said to a Times correspondent that when the train ran into the burning oil the air became thick and hot. The coach swayed to and fro, the windows cracked, and the car was instantly filled with heat and flame. It was such a fiery breath that it seemed that all must perish. He jumped from the rear platform and fell on his face in the snow. It was simply impossible for him to render any assistance whatever to others. It was every man for himself.
GEORGE McCARTNEY, the newsboy, had a terrible experience. He was frightfully burned about the face and head. The flesh was burned from his hands. He was near the end of the car and jumped from the platform, landing in a pool of fiery oil, where he received his injuries which may prove fatal.
The remains of the victims were brought to this city and placed in the Morgue. This is the first accident in the history of the Bradford, Bordell and Kinzua Railway Company. No blame is attached to the officials, as the disaster was clearly unforeseen.
The New York Times
New York, New York
January 16, 1884
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