San Diego, CA Gunboat BENNINGTON Explosion, Jul 1905
The sight which met the eyes of hundreds along the street was one never to be forgotten. Wagons with a dozen wounded men were not rare. One had eight sitting or reeling against the sides, holding in their laps the heads of comrades near to death, all of them with faces black with smoke and grime and many clothed in nothing but trousers.
Some of those whose bodies were bare, not injured in vital parts, but suffering the agonies of torn flesh, sat up with lacerated bodies exposed to the wind. One, whose arm was twisted and whose face and breast were covered with blood, looked at his own hanging flesh and dropping blood and muttered only: "My God! My God!"
A corps of ten men with blackened bodies were hurried through the street to places where blood could be stanched, gaping wounds stitched, or more heroic treatment given.
Temporary quarters ashore were arranged for the wounded and sixty citizens volunteered and hurried in launches to the relief of those, one the ill- fated ship . Some of the volunters were unable to stand the sickening sight which met their gaze on the Bennington.
As fast as the wounded could be removed they were hurried in ambulances, carriages, wagons, and automobiles to the hospitals. For a long time the hot steam prevented access to the space between decks where most of the dead bodies lay, and it was not until late in the afternoon that the last were removed from the boiler rooms.
Several bodies were tightly wedged in by a bulkhead and the woodwork had to be hewn away to free them. Most of the bodies yet unidentified have been mangled, most beyond hope of recognition.
Commander Young hurried to his ship as soon as the news of the explosion reached him and assumed charge of the rescue work. He had the airtight compartments closed to prevent the listing ship from sinking and the magazines flooded to avert further explosion. He signaled the tug Santa Fe to tow the Bennington into shallow water, where the vessel was allowed to settle. It is owing to his prompt and efficient measures that the death list was not doubled.
When the explosion occurred the engineer was inspecting the boilers as a preliminary to the vessel's leaving port. He was not seriously injured.
Commander Young said last night that the boiler which exploded long had been considered unsafe. During a recent return from Honolulu the steam pressure was kept reduced in that particular one.
The ships inner works are a tangled mass of machinery and it probably will have to be dismantled in order to examine the injuries.
Cedar Rapids Weekly Gazette Iowa 1905-07-26