Laurel Run, PA Train Wreck, Dec 1903 - Victims Total 64


Nearly All Who Lost Life Were Scalded to Death.


Somebody's Carelessness in Loading a Freight Car Caused the Wreck---Heroes Among the Survivors.

CONNELLSVILLE, Penn., Dec. 24.---In the morgues and hospitals here this evening a poll of the victims of last night's wreck of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's "Duquesne limited" was completed. It showed that there were sixty-four persons dead and nine injured.

To-day Connellsville has been thronged with morbidly curious people attracted by the wreck. Friends and relatives of those who suffered death or injury in the crash who came to this city found it difficult to get into places where those they sought lay, so dense were the crowds that surrounded the buildings. Companies of guards had to be organized to drive back those who had no right there.

Considerable money was found on some of the dead, and, tightly sewn in a belt on one man, was more than $400, which was afterward placed in the First National Bank.

Connellsville has never in her history passed through such intense excitement as now has taken hold of the town. Hearses and ambulances all last night and to-day have been rattling over the narrow streets hurrying the injured to the hospitals, the dead to the morgues. Undertakers have been overworked, and additional assistance has been secured from every nearby town. The supply of coffins in Connellsville was far from being sufficient, and orders for more coffins have been telegraphed to Pittsburg.

Undertakers are besieged with telegrams giving instructions for the disposal of the bodies. Some ask for the bodies to be held, while others ask that they be sent at once. Many of the victims of the wreck have been robbed. There are several who are known to have had large amounts of money and jewelry on their persons. Not a single cent was found in the pockets of several of these, and it was plainly visible that rings had been taken from the fingers. Robbers were on the scene early, and before many of the rescuers arrived they had secured considerable booty, much of which consisted of baggage and handbags that had been tossed about the cars in the wreck.

Coroner Arthur Hagen of Fayette County arrived in Connellsville to-day and immediately swore in the Coroner's jury. The jury is now viewing the bodies and taking evidence as to the cause of the disaster. It has been learned that the car that dropped the timbers which wrecked the limited was Gondola No. 3,087 of the Nickel Plate Road. It was loaded with huge ties three days ago a Friendship, Md., and billed for New Castle, Penn. Superintendent J. F. Irwin of the Baltimore and Ohio declares the blame must be fastened on those who loaded the lumber on the car. His theory is that the stakes at the side of the gondola were weak and gave way under the tension of the car when it rounded the curve. Superintendent Irwin has addressed inquiries to both the starting points and the destination of the car and will make a thorough investigation.

"I expect to learn to-morrow the condition of the car on its arrival at New Castle," said Mr. Irwin to-night, "and we have started a rigid inquiry as to the care taken in loading."

Mr. Irwin says there is absolutely no truth in the rumor that train wreckers purposely derailed the train.

"This could not have been possible," he said. "No human being could have achieved what that accident did. Merest chance and the possible carelessness of some one are the causes."

Many stories of courage and heroism were told by survivors to-day. None excels that of the brave and fearless work of Benjamin Nichols, steward of the dining car. When the terrible slide of the engine over the sleepers dragged the train, whirling sidewise along the road, Nichols was thrown from one side of the car to the other, but before the car came to a standstill he was making his way forward.

The smoker had been reduced to a mass of splinters and twisted iron. The crash had torn the escape valve from the top of the boiler, and the steam was shooting in great stifling volumes into the car which had been lodged on top of it, choking to death the struggling passengers who had been pinned fast in the wreckage.


The escaping steam was the first thing that attracted the attention of the plucky steward. Taking his coat off he ripped it into pieces and at the risk of his life, plugged up the pipe and shut off the escape.

This gave temporary relief. The wind cleared the car of the hot vapor for a few moments, and those moments Nichols improved by carrying out one of the injured, the first he could lay his hands on. He carried the man out through a window and placed him on the frozen ground. Then he returned to the car.

By this time other rescuers had arrived. Together they took out five, and then Nichols was overcome by heat and exhaustion and had to be taken away. After he had been refreshed he returned and worked until nearly daybreak.

Louis Hilgot, conductor of the train, was in the second day coach when the crash came. D. W. Hills, porter on one of the sleeping cars, said that as soon as he could get off his car he went forward and heard some one shouting from the top of the bank, and he recognized it as Hilgot's voice. How the man have been thrown there nobody could describe. He was in terrible agony, Hills said, but shouted at the top of his voice:

"I am scalded to death, but for God's sake some of you get a red lamp, and go flag No. 49 or she will be on us."

No 49 was the west-bound passenger due to arrive at that point at about the time of the wreck. It was flagged by Thomas J. Baum, baggagemaster at Hazelwood, who, unable to find a light, set fire to his coat, and waved it across the track, thus causing the train to stop before it plunged into the wreckage.


Two Reports of Local Victims Not Verified---How Wife of the Third Learned of Husband's Death.

The local police yesterday received a dispatch from the Chief of Police at Pittsburg stating that John Addison and John Seamean had been killed in the Baltimore and Ohio wreck at Connellsville, and asking them to notify the relatives.

In the City Directory the police found that a John Addison, real estate dealer of 115 Broadway, lived at 5 Attorney Street. To an inquiry made at a latter address Mrs. Addison said that her husband was alive and well. There is a nephew of the same name, however, a travelling salesman, whose present whereabouts were not known to her.

According to the directory there is a John Seamean at 361 West Thirty-sixth Street. He is not known there, the police say. There is no John Seamean in the directory.

A pathetic story connected with the wreck is that of Mrs. Edith Morrison, a laundress employed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. Just a year ago she married Harold B. Morrison, a sheet metal worker, in Pittsburg. Then the couple moved to Hazelwood, Penn. After a little while Morrison became ill and had to go to a hospital. Mrs. Dunn, the head laundress at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, is a friend of Mrs. Morrison, and she gave the latter work.

A few weeks ago Morrison recovered and was able to go back to work. He saved up his money for a home for his wife, and she worked on here and saved her money for the same purpose. The husband and wife planned to spend their Christmas together here in New York, and to get a little home with their savings. Yesterday morning Mrs. Morrison went down to meet her husband, and was told the train was late. She bought a paper and read of the wreck. In the afternoon she purchased another paper, which mentioned her husband as one of the victims, he having been identified by letters on his person which she had written him.

The New York Times, New York, NY 25 Dec 1903