Altapass, NC Railroad Explosion, May 1907


Four Other Laborers Were Fatally Injured.


Delayed Explosion Responsible for the Tragedy to Construction Gang on South and Western, in North Carolina--Thirteen Men Were Hurled Into the Air by the Blast--Death Was Instantaneous

Special to the Washington Post.

Bristol, Tenn., May 13.--Details of the explosion which occurred on the South and Western Railway, near Alta Pass, N. C. Saturday afternoon, and in which nine persons met instant death and four others were fatally injured, reached here to-night.

Miscounted the Blasts.

A force of about twenty men, under Foreman Jack Hyder were engaged in blasting rock in a deep tunnel. They prepared three blasts, and, retreating to a safe distance, only two blasts were fired, but several men, thinking all had been exploded, ventured back into the cut. They had started to work again, when suddenly an explosion hurled thirteen of them high into the air, instantly killing nine. The other four fell unconscious.

Stunned by the Explosion.

The remainder of the force, who were hauling away rock on the outside, were stunned by the terrific report, and when they recovered rushed into the cut to see the ground strewn with the bodies of their fellow workmen.

The dead and injured were all natives of the mountains, and were employed as common laborers. None of their names has yet been obtained.

The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 14 May 1907



Wrecks a Bridge and Hurls Eleven Cars Into Creek.

2 KILLED 1,200 feet away

Houses Damaged and Men Injured by Flying Rocks.

Premature Discharge of Powder Near Chattanooga, Tenn., Hurls Mass of Stone 400 Yards, Crushing to Death Two Men in Pile Driver’s Pilot--Dwelling Houses More Than Quarter of Mile Distant Wrecked--Powder Man Disappears.

Chattanooga, Tenn., May 16--Three men were killed outright, two so seriously injured that they will die, and three others badly injured, in addition to the crashing of a freight engine and eleven cars through a bridge into Chattanooga Creek, the destruction of three residences and a pile driver near by, as the result of a premature explosion of a blast about 4 o’clock this afternoon at the foot of Lookout Mountain on the Stevenson extension of the Southern Railway.

The dead:

WILL HYDER, fireman of pile driver for Nashville Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad.
CLINT SHAEFER, engineer of pile driver.
J FITZGERALD, Negro fireman, Southern Railway

The injured:

Samuel Mahon, engineer Southern Railway bruised about head.
Chris George, Greek Laborer, skull fractured and other injuries.
Chris Costa, Greek laborer, skull badly fractured.
Peter John, injured about head and body
Styles John, Greek laborer, injured about head.

The Washington Post, Washington, DC 17 May 1907


Rock Crushed Bridge.

The bridge was crushed in by several tons of rock hurled by the blast just as the freight train was going on the bridge. Other pieces of rock, hurled for 1200 feet crashed through the pilot of the pile driver of the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad, which was at work driving piles in Chattanooga Creek for a new viaduct, killing Engineer Shaefer and Fireman Hyder instantly. Other pieces of rock, hurled 500 and 600 yards, struck the residences on the side of Lookout Mountain, crashing through the roofs and floors of the buildings.

Powder-Man Disappears.

Three Greeks who were working on the new line some distance from the blast were struck by flying pieces of rock. Two of them are at the hospital in a serious condition. The blast was set off, it is said, by J. Ford, a powder man, employed by the contractors. He had only been employed for a short time by the company. At a late hour he could not be located.

The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 17 May 1907


Nine Killed by an Explosion in Mitchell County

Bristol, Va., Dispatch, 13th

Saturday afternoon while a force of men were at work blasting on the South and Western railway on the works of McCarty Brothers, near Altapass, N.C., an explosion occurred in which nine men were almost instantly killed and four others were seriously, if not fatally, injured. The men were all employes of the railway company and were natives of the Altapass section.

The force had drilled for a blast and after placing the explosive in the blast hole started to retreat. The dynamite fired prematurely and the men were hurled in every direction.

The Landmark, Statesville, NC 17 May 1907