Laurel Run, PA Passenger Train Strikes Debris, Dec 1903 - 70 Dead




Two Well Known Young Connellsville Men and Father C. E. FEINELLO of Italian Catholic Church Among the Dead -- Pitiful Scenes at the Wreck and on the Relief Train Coming Up to Connellsville.

The most appalling disaster in the history of the Pittsburg Division of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad occurred at Laurel run, two miles west of Dawson, last evening. Sixty-eight passengers and three trainmen were killed in a mad plunge of the Duquesne Limited on a sharp reverse curve, caused by some heavy timbers falling from a west-bound freight train to the east-bound track, along which the Limited was speeding at the rate of 50 miles an hour. Forty-three passengers met instant death of were cooked by hissing steam escaping from engine No. 1465. Five passengers died on the relief train between the scene of the wreck and the Connellsville station. Eight passengers and Conductor HELGROTH died at the hospital.
The scenes at the wreck were harrowing. Half a hundred passengers, most of them English speaking, were literally cooked alive in the smoking car. A second disaster was averted by the presence of mind of Conductor HELGROTH, fatally burned at the time, Conductor EDWARD BAKER, who was dead-heading over to Cumberland on the Duquesne, and Baggagemaster THOMAS DOM. They rushed up the track the instant the wrecked train had come to a stand-still and with matches flagged train No. 49, which was stopped by Engineer MOSE JOHNSTON only within half a car length of the wreck. HELGROTH fell fainting alongside the track after No. 49 was stopped and died at the hospital at 3 o'clock this morning. DOM was bleeding from a wound eight or ten inches long on the head and suffering from internal injuries when he realized the danger of a second disaster after his car had toppled over almost into the Yough river and ran up the track with HELGROTH and BAKER. The latter was riding in the rear of the train and was not injured.
Engineer WILLIAM THORNLEY, a veteran at the throttle, had the big Altantic No. 1465 doing 50 miles an hour or better on one of the best stretches of running ground on the Pittsburg Division when the accident happened. Fireman JOSEPH COOK, just a week off the Wheeling Division, was on the other side of the cab. The train was made up of eight cars, two Pullmans, a dining car, in charge of Conductor F. R. NICHOLS, three day coaches, a regulation baggage and a sealed express car. Some distance below Laurel run the Duquesne passed the west-bound freight. THORNLEY hadn't started to slow down for Dawson;; in fact he had his throttle wide open approaching the reverse curve just at the Laurel run bridge. While the curve is a sharp one, the track and roadbed are good at that point and passenger engineers bent on making their shedule do not shut off when taking the curve. There was not an instant's warning that death was at hand for half a hundred passengers. Before THORNLEY had time to push back his throttle a notch the mighty Atlantic plunged from the track after striking several 60-foot timbers which had fallen over from the west-bound freight onto the east-bound track. The engine passed over the obstructions, but the ends tilted and caught the tender, throwing it high into the air over the top of the engine and nearly 100 yards up the track, where it landed sideways, blocking both tracks. The ponderous engine plunged in between the two tracks for a short distance and then caromed over on its side to the right. The sealed express car went clear down to the river, ploughing to the right. The baggage car telescoped the engine and landed down over the bank clear of the tracks. The first day coach followed the baggage, but the momentum of the train by this time was losing force and instead of telescoping the engine the coach veered off to the right.
Fireman COOK had the hand of the steam gauge around to the 200 mark. As the smoker, crowded to the full capacity of every seat, ripped along the side of the big passenger engine the steam dome caught it just at the window height. Wrecked and battered open as it was, every ounce of steam from the engine routed forth its hissing messenger of death. From end to end the scalding cloud shot across the interior of the car. Not a single passenger escaped the deadly summons to another world. One inhalation was fatal. Every one of the dead passengers is burned. Some of them are scalded from head to foot. The skin came off with their clothes at the morgues in town last night and this morning as the undertakers and their assistants prepared the bodies for burial. The features of the dead were terribly and horribly distorted in many instances. Death came quickly, but its agony evidently was intense. Not a soul escaped from the smoking car. Those who were not killed outright were rescued within a few minutes by passengers from the Pullman cars and the other day coaches which followed the smoker. All of the cars were derailed, but they did not leave the road bed. The tracks were torn up for over a train length and the big timbers responsible for all the damage were splintered into hundreds of pieces and imbedded and tangled in the under mechanism of the cars. In the front portion of the coach immediately following the ill-fated smoker several passengers were killed. One of those was not taken out of the wreck until after daylight this morning. He was CHAS. ZEPLER, who was pinned in by the wreckage close to the roof of the car. He had left his wife and son but a few minutes before the accident, going forward from the day coach to take a smoke. He hardly had time to get to the forward end of the smoking car until the crash came. MRS. ZEPLER and her little son came to Connellsville last night, the former hoping against hope that her husband would turn up safe. The recovery of his body was broken to her as gently as possible and today she will accompany the remains to their home in Philadelphia. Another passenger, who stood close to the door of the second coach and the smoker was caught between the bumpers as the two cars crashed together. For 30 minutes he sat with feet dangling down between the bumpers, but held in a death grip about the waist until death relieved his sufferings. To ARTHUR MAY, an express messenger on No. 49, this passenger begged piteously either to be released or killed outright. No one could give relief, and strong hearts turned away and wept at the unfortunate man's life passed away in violent convulsions, frantically pleading with God for mercy and the chance to see his family once more.
No Survivors.
There is not a survivor of the smoking car able to tell the experiences of the few seconds during which the car was filled with steam. Two of the survivors, EDWARD DEVLIN and JOHN BROWNLEE, at the Cottage hospital, may recover. All the balance will die, DR. T. H. WHITE said to a Courier reporter today.
EDISON GOLDSMITH was sitting about the middle of the smoking car. Shortly after leaving Pittsburg he was invited back into the diving car by ANDREW HAAS of Connellsville to have dinner on the way up. He declined the invitation, remarking that his supper would be waiting at home and he didn't want to disappoint his mother.
M. K. SMITH, Division Operator of the Connellsville Division of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, was riding well up in the smoking car or the front end of the coach next the smoker, his exact place on the train being unknown. It was not until 5 o'clock this morning that SMITH was identified. He had been in Pittsburg Wednesday on railroad business and MRS. SMITH expected him home by 8 o'clock. She was assured by friends that he was not on the train and that he was detained at work by the wreck. None of MR. SMITH'S friends were aware that he was among the dead until his body was taken in charge at Morris & Company's morgue. There papers on his persons gave the startling information that he was among the victims. Friends then made a closer examination and readily identified him. At 6 o'clock MRS. SMITH was waiting for her husband to drop in for breakfast when the news of his death was broken to her.
J. WADE SHUPE, a prominent citizen of Mt. Pleasant, was not identified until about 8 o'clock this morning. Friends came for the remains this afternoon. MR. SHUPE was married and was a son of O. P. SHUPE, the well known flour mill man and capitalist.
Passengers To The Rescue.
The passengers on the Pullman cars were not shaken up much. The dining car was well filled at the time the engine jumped the tracks. Conductor NICHOL was hurled headlong down the aisle and dishes were scattered in all directions. A. D. SOLSSON and wife and W> H. MARIETTA and ANDREW HAAS were in the dining car. They were not injured. MR. HAAS and MARIETTA were among the first to rescue the dead and injured from the smoking car. Once or twice the wrecked cars were threatened with fire, but the flames were quickly checked. The wreck crew worked clearing up the tracks all night and had them open this morning.
As fast as the bodies were recovered from the smoking car they were laid side by side on a high bank above the railroad. Some of them were covered with handkerchiefs, etc., while others stared in awful hideousness under the glow of many torch lights. Steam blistered the tongues and lips of the victims to an awful size and they protruded in a sickening manner. Fireman COOK was found clear of his engine. Engineer THORNLY was under the wheels of the smoking car. The top of his head was crushed in. Otherwise he was not much marked or burned.
The Dead Trainmen.
WILLIAM THORNLEY, the engineer who lost his life in the wreck of the Duquesne Limited last night, was one of the best known men in the railroad service about Pittsburg. MR. THORNLEY was first engaged in the B. & O. service as engineer on September 15, 1883, when he began running as freight engineman from Pittsburg on the local division to Connellsville. He knew every inch of the road, and was regarded from his first week of service as one of the most careful men in the service. He followed his freight work several years and then was assigned to passenger runs on local trains, then to through runs. When the Duquesne Limited was instituted by the B. & O. between flour and five years ago, just after the reorganization was begun, one of the enginemen selected for the responsibility of seeing that the train was run on schedule time was THORNLEY. He had served continously since in this service.
MR. THORNLEY'S home is at 4905 Lytle street, Hazelwood. He was 52 years old and leaves a wife, one son and three daughters. For a number of years he lived in Connellsville.
Fireman COOK was recently married and has been connected with the B. & O. since 1900, when he came from Baldwin, Tenn. He was also regarded as a first-class man in the service, this accounting for his promotion from a minor passenger run to the place with THORNLEY on the limited engines about a week ago. He was a member of Iron City Lodge No. 18, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen.
Conductor HELGROTH was a popular passenger man. He ran extra on the through runs and had a wide acquaintance among the patrons of the B. & O. He is married an leaves a wife and family at Cumberland.
Baggagemaster THOMAS DOM for a number of years made his home in Connellsville, having runs out of here. He is not dangerously hurt. He is at the Cottage hospital. DOM lives in Pittsburg and has a wife and several children.
Arrival Of The Dead.
After the arrival of the relief train and the disposition of the dead and injured the crowd at the depot waited for the arrival of the morgue train. Forty-three bodies were unloaded from the train and taken to City Hall, which Burgess C. W. PATTERSON had thrown open. Prisoners were released from the cells to make foom for the corpses. From City Hall, Undertakers Morris & Co., J. E. Sims and J. L. Stader tood charge of all the bodies they could handle. Thirty-seven bodies are at Sims morgue, 15 at Morris & Co.'s and 16 at Staders'. All the nearby undertakers were telephoned for and came to lend their assistance in the work of cleaning up the bodies. It was a hard, long task, but under the circumstances it was very well handled.
Today the town is in a state of intense excitement. The morgues are crowded with visitors, viewing the unidentified dead. Rumors of identifications are rampant on the streets, each new name added to the list bringing with it a new aftermath of heart-rending sorrow. Early this morning people from all over the country flocked into town, uncertain regarding the safety of their friends known to be in Pittsburg yesterday. In spite of a drizzling rain great crowds are about the morgues, some morbidly inclined, others searching for news of missing friends.
S. E. GOOD of McKeesport, one of the dead, was on his way to New York where he was to be married tomorrow. His brothers identified his remains this morning.
The Dead and Injured.
The list of dead as identified at the morgues of J. E. Sims, J. S. Stader and Morris & Co., at 2 o'clock this afternoon are as follows:
C. A. WILSON, Connellsville, Pa., identified this morning.
LEO WUBBELER, Beaver Falls, Pa.
JAMES W. COAKLEY, Rochester, Pa.
M. MYEROWITCH, Johnstown, Pa.
T. J. FARMAN, Philadelphia, Pa.
GEO. F. RHEIN, Baltimore, Md.
JOHN K. POWERS, Cumberland, Md.
M. K. SMITH, E. S. GOLDSMITH and C. A. FEINNELLO, Connellsville.
W. A. GAED, Agent C. V. R. R., Martinsburg, W. Va..
HAROLD B. MORRISON, 131 Flowers street, Pittsburg.
J. WADE SHUPE, Mt. Pleasant, Pa.
G. J. WINKLER, a member of the fire department, Westmont, Pa.
WILLIAM SHEEDY, Patterson Creek, W. Va.
JOSEPH GREY, Brooklyn, N. Y.
E. REYNOLDS, York, Pa.
S. E. GOOD, McKeesport, Pa.
J. W. KETZNER, Cumberland, Md.
G. W. BIZER, Berkely Springs, W. Va.
B. MURRAY, Pittsburg, aged 12 years.
JOSEPH COOK, fireman, Glenwood, Pa.
LOUIS HELGROTH, conductor, Cumberland, Md.
WILLIAM THORNLEY, engineer, Glenwood, Pa.
J. EDGERLY, Butler, Pa.
RICHARD D. DUCETT, Baltimore, Md.
CHARLES M. GREY, Baltimore, Md.
J. TWILLY, Brooklyn, N. Y.
C. L. HESTER, Assistant Division Engineer, Hazelwood, Pa.
A. G. PROTZMAN, residence unknown.
GESSO an Italian.
Unknown Chinaman.
JESSE HINES, Tarbora, N. C.
F. B. NOLKER, Eldridge, Md.
CHAS. M. WAGNER, Berkeley Springs, W. Va.
JOHN H. WILLIS, Pittsburg, Pa.
CHARLES K. STENDORF, residence unknown.
CHARLES M. ZEPLER, Philadelphia, Pa.
W. A. KALP, Mt. Pleasant, Pa.
S. S. ROUSH, B. & O. employe.
ALFRED C. BANNARD, Pittsburg, Pa.
J. W. MARTIN, Hancock, Md.
JOHN ADAMS, Addison, N. J.
JOHN SIMON, Hungarian, New York.
Unknown Slav.
J. W. KECZNER, Cumberland, Md.
JAMES FOX, residence unknown.
JOSEPH ______ , residence unknown.
Fifteen Dead Still Unidentified.
EDWARD KEFFER, Somerset, Pa.; fatally.
HARRY DEVLIN, Connellsville and Cumberland; serious.
JOHN BROWNLEE, North Braddock; slight; left for New York, last night.
THOMAS DOM, baggagemaster; head cut; went to home in Pittsburg.

The Courier Connellsville Pennsylvania 1903-12-24


1903 accident

What happened to the non-English speaking and black passengers. Were they buried individually or in a mass grave(s).

You are very welcome

Mark -- You are very very welcome and I want to thank you for taking the time in sharing your families part in the tragic accident ..
I appreciate very much your taking the time to write.

Laurel Run, Pa Passenger Train Strikes Debris, dec 1903

I am the great grandson of baggagemaster Thomas J. Dom. My grandmother Edith, Tom's daughter was 10 years old at the time. She loved to tell the story of her father being a hero. As she told it, Mr. Dom asked her to get him some matches for his pipe before he left for work. She gave him a great deal of matches and he laughed and said that they would be plenty. Ironically, he used these matches to set fire to his coat to flag down No. 49 and save many more lives. She also said that when she was in school her teacher had the whole class go to the window to look out as Mr. Dom passed by with his head bandaged so that they could see a real live hero.

It is really wonderful to find this account of the accident and read about my grandmother's story, which was very accurate.

Thank you