Olean, NY Train Wreck and Explosion, Mar 1903 - Killed By Oil Explosion


Horrible Disaster Follows a Collision Near Olean, N.Y.


A Burning Railroad Wreck Attracts Hundreds When the Tank Cars Burst - The Sheets of Flame Instantly Envelope the Spectators - The Bodies of the Victims Burned Beyond Recognition.

Olean, N. Y. -- Fifteen were killed and forty persons were burned or bruised by an explosion of oil following a wreck of the Erie Railroad north of this city. Some of the bodies were incinerated and some were blown into the creek by the explosion.

The following are dead: JOHN STEMLINGER, aged seventeen years; NORMAN BROWIF [sic], aged eighteen years; JOHN TOBIN, aged sixteen years; JOHN McCREADY, aged eighteen years; JOHN McMAHON, aged nineteen years; WALTER SWIFT, aged nineteen years; MICHAEL BRICCOIL, aged twenty-two years; WALTER JACKSON, aged thirteen years; WALTER ROTH, aged sixteen years; RICHARD CONNELL, aged nineteen years; HERMAN BOLLMAN, aged fifteen years; ROFELO QUARINTO, CARMEN STIELIANO and MARTIN GALLAGHER, all of Olean; HENRY GODDEN, aged eighteen years, of Boardmanville.

At the General Hospital one of the patients said a young boy was blown into the creek near him.

It was about 9 o'clock p. m. when an Erie freight train west-bound broke in two on the hill two miles north of the city. At first the forward part of the train sprang forward with increased speed. Brakes were applied and the front portion was brought almost to a standstill at the iron bridge across Olean Creek. The rear cars, gathering momentum as they came down the hill, crashed into the front end of the train. Most of the cars were tank cars filled with refined oil or gasoline. One of the tanks caught fire soon after the collision. The exact cause of the fire is not known, but it is supposed to have started from a spark struck from the grinding pieces of iron in the wreckage. In a few minutes another car of gasoline caught fire and burst into flames with a terrific report. Portions of the iron domes of the cars were hurled a distance of several hundred feet. The flames shot high up in the air, presenting a brilliant spectacle.