Covington & Newport, KY Bridge Construction Collapse, June 1892


A Frightful Accident at Covington's New Bridge


A Crash Followed by Awful Groans and Death and Suffering Ensues

Workmen on the New Structure Spanning the Licking River at That Point Meet a Terrible Fate by the Giving Way of the Temporary Work -- Many Spectators Go Down Also

Cincinnati, June 16 -- A terrible accident occurred yesterday at the new bridge which is being constructed over the Licking river, between Covington and Newport, Ky. The false work suddenly collapsed and fell into the river, carrying down ninety men.
The first estimate of the number of lives lost was thirty, but late reports make the total number forty. Among them were ANDREW and ALBERT BAIRD, the contractors. The construction of the bridge was begun early last fall, and will be used for foot passengers and street railway traffic. Two piers have been completed, and the work of fixing the heavy pieces of iron in place had begun. A track from the Newport side had been run out on the first pier to the heavy iron. The false work ran up fifty feet from the water.
But two men are known to have escaped with their lives. Not a stick of the false work, from pier to pier, remained, and the river was filled with timbers and iron work, with scores of men struggling for life. News of the terrible accident spread rapidly, and soon a crowd of hundreds had gathered and the work of rescuing the bodies was at once begun.
List of the Dead
A partial list of the killed follows:
C. D. CHAMPOI SEMPLE, of Boston, internal injuries.
THOMAS DOWN, Wheeling, left side crushed in.
An unknown man about 40 years old.
J. R. ROBY, Rulford City, Va., fractured skull, left arm broken above elbow and face mashed.
ELMER BARBER, Cincinnati, leg and arm broken and internal injuries.
WILLIAM _____, Ohio, three fingers and head crushed and both arms broken.
C. W. PIATENBACH, Wheeling, internal injuries.
RICHARD GORMAN, Dolphin, Pa. general injuries.
JOHN ADAMS, Cincinnati, nose broken and internal injuries.
FRANK ADAMS, Cincinnati, neck broken and internal injuries.
ROBERT BAIRD, Newport, jaw broken, arm and back broken.
ANDREW BAIRD, Pittsburg, brother of ROBERT, skull crushed and general injuries.
CHARLES GRESHAM, Covington, arms, leags and head broken.
EDWARD SULLIVAN, Ludlow, Ky., skull, jaw and right shoulder broken.
JAMES JOHNSON, Havre de Grace, Md., compound fracture of skull.
DENNIS HARLOW, Parkersburg, W. Va., general injuries.
E. A. NOLAN, Erie, Pa., leg broken and internal injuries.
CHARLES STALL, Ironton, O., forehead crushed.
CHARLES TYRE, Mitchell, Ind., head broken.
WILLIAM BURTON, Pendleton, Ky., head crushed.
PATRICK MURRAY, Greenbriar, W. Va., general injuries.
The number of killed will probably reach forty.
List of the Injured
DANIEL BRAKLEY, Hill Station, O., badly injured internally and about the head and legs.
BRUCE THOMAS, Indianapolis, head cut and right ankle sprained.
J. C. ARLING, Newport, Ky., head, arms and shoulders cut.
A. German, nicknamed "Skyhooks" name unknown, head cut and right arm dislocated.
CHARLES H. WILKERSON, Louisville, slightly bruised on shoulders.
BENJAMIN ARNOLD, Nicholasville, Ky., shoulder dislocated and head cut.
JOHN J. MURRAY, Newport, head cut and right ear mangled.
WILLIAM THOMAS, Xenia, O., bruised slightly.
JOHN PHILLIPS, Newport, left leg broken in three places below the knee, head cut and terrible internal injuries; will die.
"RABBIT" HEINIGER, left arm fractured and body bruised.
C. H. FETTERS, Ironton, O., left ankle broke, flesh of right leg torn away at calf.
A. THOMAS, head cut.
The Awful Crash.
When the crash came it was but a few moments until both banks were lined with people. A big portion of the false work was submerged, and with it were the unfortunate workmen. The scene was a horrible one. In a minute the air was filled with the shrieks of the injured and dying.
Those who could free themselves from the tangled network of timber, struggled to the surface of the water and tried to get ashore. One after another gave up the desperate and uneven struggle and sank into the muddy water. Though the banks were crowded, not a sould could go to the rescue of the poor fellows. As soon as possible police and volunteers went to work to get out the dead and dying. AMong the first to be taken out was one of the BAIRD brothers. His body was in a horrible condition, his back being crushed and broken.
Next to be taken from the water was JOHN SPONSOR. The man died a horrible death, a log weighing a couple of hundred pounds crashing through his abdomen, driving them through his back. The look of pain on his face was horrible, and silently told of the terrible pain the poor fellow suffered before he died.
One unknown man was taken out on the Covington side. He was found wedged in so tightly that a portion of his hand had to be chopped off before he could be taken out. All the dead bodies as they were taken out presented horrible pictures. The bones were crushed and splintered and in many instances forced through the flesh, presenting a sickening sight.
Cause of the Catastrophe.
The terrible calamity is due directly to the recent heavy rains. The traveler was fully seventy feet high and the false work sixty feet. Two men were at work on the top cord of the false work when the crash came. They fell into the river, but escaped with few scratches. They were J. P. LYNCH, colored, and BRUCE CONAS. LYNCH fell with the bridge and landed on top of it. CONAS fell underneath the work, but, singularly enough, escaped with a few bruises.
Superintendent SULLIVAN says there were sixty-three men at work on the bridge when the crash came. Those who escaped were at work on the upstream side of the work which is to the south. They fell with the wreck, but fortunately fell on top of it. Those on the down-stream side fell under the wreckage and were killed and injured. It is certain that those who cannot be found are lying at the bottom of the Licking river.
It is thought that in addition to the workmen caught in the wreck were a number of spectators, who were watching the men at work. At this time those names cannot be learned.
Work for the Stout-Hearted.
The steamer Hercules Carrel commenced the work of removing the iron and timbers from the river in thehpe of recovering the bodies pinned under the wreck. Although the excitement caused by the accident was intense, there was a noticeable absence of the heart-rending scenes usually accompanying such catastrophies. Most of the men were strangers and few had famililes, wives and children on the scene to add their tears and cries to the grim spectacle. As the accident occurred on the dividing line between Covington and Newport, the coroners of both counties will hold inquests. Bodies landed on the Covington side were taken in charge by Coroner WILSON, while those landed in Newport were placed under the care of Coroner DAVIS. The corner of the Newport pier is badly broken and appears to have been weak. The story was started that the pier, by breaking, had caused the disaster, but there is apparently no foundation to this.

The Salem Daily News Ohio 1892-06-16