Oakland, CA Schooner Wasp Hits Bridge, Aug 1906


Oakland, August 7. – The steam schooner Wasp, heavily lumber-laded from Eureka crashed bow-on into the Southern Pacific drawbridge at Harrison street, in this city, while a narrow gauge train with hundreds of passengers was crossing. A panic ensued among the frightened passengers, who believed that the bridge with the train would be wrecked and toppled into the Oakland estuary.

The bridge wavered and trembled. With the creaking of the iron girders were mingled the cries of frightened passengers. For a moment it seemed that a terrible catastrophe was impending, but most fortunately the steel structure held firm.

The train sped over the bridge and escaped from the dangerous position, but not before women had fainted, and the faces of the men were blanched when the train arrived at the mole.

Only for the presence of mind of the bridge-tender, J. F. Braswell, an appalling wreck would have occurred. Seeing that the collision of the boat with the bridge was imminent, he mad no attempt to open the bridge. With the structure firmly set he waited in the tower above the waters for the crash which he saw was certain to come.

The prow of the vessel cut through the girders which form the outer support of the bridge as though they were pasteboard; and the structure shook dangerously. The iron stringers were cut, broken and twisted and those not cut were resistant enough to cave the bridge. The impetus of the heavily laden vessel was stopped and the craft was thrown back against the tide fully twenty feet.

Carried by the swift tide the Wasp ran up the esuary (sic) at unusual speed. The Webster street bridge, over which street cars and teams travel, was the first one in the way, and Bridge Warden Charles Emery barely managed to open this draw in time to permit the vessel to pass without causing a collision.

As this bridge swung open the vessel crowded into the opening, and having passed steamed on across the distance, about one block, between this bridge and the one used by the railway company which spans the estuary at Harrison street. The steamer kept on her course and just as she neared the bridge a train shot around the curve and onto the bridge. It was at this moment that the collision occurred.

Bridge-tender Braswell blames the captain of the schooner for the accident and declares that it is remarkable that the bridge, train and all were not thrown into the bay. He insists that this is what would have happened had he attempted to unlock the rails. Braswell claims that he had the signal flag out warning the steamer’s captain that the bridge could not be cleared in time. According to the statement of Braswell the captain of the ship paid no heed to this signal, but swept uyp (sic) the esuary (sic) at almost full speed. In this the bridge warden is supported by L. Owen and by Charles Emery.

Captain John Wehman of the Wasp disputes this, shifting the blame upon the bridgeman.

The Evening News, San Jose, CA 7 Aug 1906