Laurel Run, PA Train Wreck, Dec 1903 - Sixty Dead in Wreck


Baltimore and Ohio Train in Frightful Crash.


Of This Number Eighteen May Die---Every Passenger in the Smoking Car Killed.

Special to The New York Times.

CONNELLSVILLE, Penn., Dec. 23.---One of the worst wrecks in the history of the Balitmore and Ohio Railroad occurred at 7:45 o'clock to-night at Laurel Run, eight miles west of Connellsville, on the Pittsburg Division of the Baltimore and Ohio. The "Duquesne Limited," the fasted train on the road, was wrecked, killing sixty outright, fatally injuring eighteen, and slightly injuring more than fifty.

The wreck was caused by the breaking of the casings on a carload of bridge timbers on a freight train that passed Laurel Run not more than fifteen minutes before the arrival of the limited. The freight proceeded without noticing the accident, and the express train, running at a speed of more than sixty miles and hour, crashed into the timbers before the engineer even had time to apply the emergency brakes.

The baggage car was thrown over the embankment into the Youghiogheny River, and the smoker, which contained more than forty passengers, was thrown over the engine. The steam dome of the engine was broken, and the escaping steam and water filled the car, scalding the passengers.

Every occupant of the car was dead before the rescuers reached the scene of the wreck. The train contained six cars, one baggage, one smoker, one sleeper, and a dining car, all of which were badly wrecked. Engineer William Thornley and Fireman Cook were caught under the wrecked engine and cannot be extricated for several hours. The tracks are completely torn up, and traffic over the road cannot be entirely resumed for at least a day.

Nearly all the passengers in the smoker were bound for Philadelphia. Many of them were to take passage on an ocean liner on Saturday for the old country. Not one of these escaped alive.

The Known Dead.

Engineer WILLIAM THORNLEY, of Hazelwood, Penn.
Division Engineer S. G. HEATER, of Hazelwood.
Fireman THOMAS COOK, of Hazelwood.
HERBERT HOLMES, of Emmelton, Penn.
JESSE HINES, Tarborough, N. C., news agent.
CHARLES LINDFORD, of Confluence, Penn.
------- EDWARDS, Pittsburg.
J. W. MARTIN, Hancock, Md.
EDISON GOLDSMITH, Connellsville.

The other dead are mostly foreigners and negroes who were riding in the smoking car. The work of their identification has not yet begun.

The Known Injured.

W. H. HANCOCK, Pittsburg, slight injuries.
JOHN W. BROMLEY, of North Braddock, Penn., slight injuries.
ANNIE REESE, Greenwood, Pittsburg, slight bruises and cuts.
THOMAS J. DOM, Hazelwood, slight injuries.
LOUIS HELGTH, the "Limited" conductor, Hazelwood, slight injuries.
J. W. MARTIN, Hancock, Md., slight cut and bruises.
J. ALLFURTER, Bealton, West Va., seriously injured.
HENRY DAVIN, Rockwood, Penn., badly injured; will die.
C. H. LINEFORD, of East McKeesport, Penn.,; will die.
WILLIAM EDWARDS, of Cumberland, Md.
THOMAS TIPPLER, of 2,533 North Garret St., Philadelphia.
HARRY DEVLIN, Connellsville, seriously injured.
W. H. STODDARD, Connellsville.
E. H. KEIFER, Somerset, Penn.
JOHN K. POWERS, 208 North Street, South Cumberland, Md.
J. W. ALTMAN, Connellsville. A
ARON VERG, East Pittsburg.

The instant the cars stopped there was a wild scene. Many were pinioned beneath the wreckage, and the screams and cries that rent the air were beyond description. Many of the injured in their mad excitement plunged into the river. Others, pinioned beneath the heavy timbers, pleaded in agony for release.

So terrific was the force of the wreck that nearly every passenger suffered a moment's unconsciousness, and many of the men unhurt were unable to assist in helping the injured from the wreck on account of having fainted.

The killed in the smoker, just back of the baggage car, were literally roasted to death, the baggage and smoker immediately catching fire. Their bodies are lying, many of them burned to a crisp in the baggage room of the B. & O. Station to be removed later to the different undertaking shops in the city. The entire population has turned out to assist in caring for the living and in disposing of the dead. A peculiar feature of the accident is the fact that not a woman was more than slightly injured.

The wreck occurred on a curve and it was impossible for Engineer Thornley to see far enough ahead to detect the obstruction on the tracks. The big type engine plunged into the timbers at a velocity of sixty miles an hour.

The smoker was packed to its utmost capacity and all the passengers were cooked alive.

Baggagemaster Thomas J. Baum of Hazelwood, who was on the wrecked train, proved himself a hero. With his head and body frightfully cut, he managed to crawl from the wreckage, and, groping his way along the darkness, flagged the west-bound passenger train, No. 49. He had nothing with which to flag the train except matches and these he made use of in his desperation by taking off his coat and setting fire to it.

He stopped the train in time to prevent it from plunging into the wreck and adding further horror to an already indescribable disaster. Baum collapsed when he saw he had succeeded, and when the engine stopped he was lying within a few feet of it.

An operator at "Vr" Tower on the Pittsburg and Lake Erie Railroad, across the Youghiogheny River was he first to send word of the accident and to call for relief.

He was watching the Duquesque Limited as it was speeding along the Baltimore and Ohio tracks across the river. He saw the cars pile high in the air and then sink back on the tracks.

The screams of the injured and dying were plainly heard. In another second he was sending word to the railroad officials at Dawson and Connellsville.

For more than five hundred feet, both the east and west bound tracks are torn up. The engine was completely demolished and the big 7,000-gallon tank on the tender was thrown a hundred feet ahead of the other wreckage. The baggage car was thrown into the river, but was only slightly wrecked.

All the cars were derailed, and the trucks of all except the diner were torn completely from underneath the cars. Few people were badly hurt in the Pullman cars, and the diners, although few escaped without at least some injury.

As soon as the wreck was reported in Connellsville all the available physicians were summoned, including Baltimore and Ohio Railroad physicians.

A special train was made up and taken in charge by General Superintendent S. C. Sims and Superintendent J. F. Irwin of the Pittsburg Division. The relief train was run at full speed, and the scene of the wreck was reached about 9 o'clock.

Hardly had the bodies of the dead been removed from the coaches until thieves began robbing the dead of jewelry and money. Special officers were deputized, and with the aid of the Baltimore and Ohio police force and Connellsville officers the work of the ghouls was stopped. Several persons are under suspicion and arrests will follow to-morrow.

The New York Times, New York, NY 24 Dec 1903