New Haven, CT Sewer Explosion, Mar 1893



Gas Ignites In a Trench At East and Beach Streets----Patrick Monahan Badly Hurt and Two Companies Fatally Burned----A Great Column of Smoke.

At 10 o'clock this morning there was a terrific explosion at the corner of East and Beach streets, and the concussion was sufficient to shake a number of houses in the immediate vicinity.

A gang of sewer men began early this morning to clean the big East street sewer at the junction with Beach street. Patrick Monahan, James Reilly and Patrick Sweeney were at work down in the excavation when the explosion occurred and all three were more or less injured. Monahan was the most injured. The force of the explosion threw him with great force against the side of the trench and cut his head severely. His face, neck and hands were also burned and bruised. He was taken to his home, 245 Wallace street, in a wagon and Dr. Luby was summoned. His injuries were carefully attended and he was as comfortable as could be expected this afternoon. His injuries are not considered serious, and it is believed that he will get along all right under favorable circumstances.

Reilly and Sweeney went to the drug store of T. C. Trefry, 983 State street, where their burns were treated. Their faces and hands were burned and some of the hair on their heads and eyebrows singed. Afterward they were able to walk to their homes in Hamilton street. Their injuries were painful, but not serious.

The trench in which the men were at work was 18 feet deep. Monahan was down the lowest and took the brunt of the explosion. It is a great wonder he was not instantly killed. Reilly and Sweeney were just above Monahan and were the first to be pulled out. Monahan was rescued with more difficulty as the men had to descend and assist him. The companions of the sewer men expected to find the men dead, and were surprised to ascertain that they were not anymore injured.

The first intimation of the explosion was a heavy sound like the blast from a quarry. Then a great cloud of smoke burst out from the ground and ascended in the air fully 40 feet. The windows in near by houses and the ground shook. Most people thought the explosion was in some shop. A big crowd soon gathered around the sewer men. Word was telephoned to the Grand avenue precinct and he sent up several officers besides making a personal examination himself.

One of the men who had worked on sewers for six years said he never saw such an accident that the explosion was caused by an accumulation of sewer gas which ignited. It was dark on the lower level, and a lighted lantern was used.

Monahan said he had no idea of the cause of the accident. The gas probably ignited, however, either from the lantern or from the striking of a match to light one of the men's pipes.

There was such an excitement in the vicinity that it was quite a while before the work could be continued after the explosion. The crowd lingered about as if expecting another outburst from the earth, but finally the throng melted away and the companions of the injured men descended into the trench and resumed work. They seemed glad when the work was completed.

It is very seldom that such an accident happens, as the men are usually very careful in working the excavations. Not in many years has so severe a sewer explosion occurred in this city.

The New Haven Evening Register, New Haven, CT 7 Mar 1893