Boca Chica, FL dynamite explosion, Aug 1909


Key West, Fla., Aug. 27. - As a result of the explosion at noon to-day of 700 pounds of dynamite at Boca Chica, twelve miles from Key West, on the Florida East Coast Railway, twelve men are dead, five probably fatally injured, and at least a dozen others are suffering from less serious injuries. The explosion was caused by a member of the railroad construction force carelessly throwing a lighted cigarette into a box of fuses.

Nine of the workmen met instant death, and the tenth died while being brought to the hospital here. The men were hurled into the air and the bodies of the dead were mangled almost beyond recognition, arms and legs being torn from the bodies of some, while the faces of others were mere masses of flesh.

When the explosion occurred the fifteen men were standing in water four feet deep and directly beneath them was the 700 pounds of dynamite, ready for the blast when the men should stop work for dinner.

According to one of the wounded, a workman - one of the nine to meet instant death - threw a lighted cigarette to one side, not noticing that it fell into the box containing the fuses which were connected with the heavy charges of explosives beneath them. A few seconds later the men, water, mud and tons of dirt were thrown seventy to ninety feet in the air.

Tugs at once brought the dead and the more seriously wounded to this city, the latter being placed in the Louise Maloney Hospital.

Those less seriously injured were placed on Stock Island, opposite Boca Chica, and will be brought to Key West later.

Most of the victims of the explosion arrived here from New York last Sunday.

The Dead - J. Kelley, G. Suckey, J. Brennan, T. Convery, J. Gallagher, T. Linnehan, J. Garrity, T. Travis, J. Mohor, T. Doran ann [sic] two unidentified.

Probably injured:

James Gallagher, aged 40, Brooklyn, N. Y.

Timothy McDonald, aged 54, Blacksack, Cork, Ireland.

E. Haneman, assistant foreman, aged 33, 140 Grand Street, Brooklyn, N. Y.

James McMahon, aged 45, 54 Fulton Street, New York.

James Sands, New York City.

Late this afternoon six additional of the more seriously injured were brought to the hospital here. Their injuries are not considered fatal. They are:

Pat Sullivan, Green Stick.

John Mullen, Patrick Giff, and Peter Bryan and Meekly Foley.

About fifty men were at work, all close together, when the box of fuses was discovered ablaze, and, had it not been for the sounding of the alarm by the dredge Manteo, it is doubtful if a third of the men would have escaped with their lives.

There is some contention as to the cause of the explosion. An inquest will be held to-morrow.

The Times Picayune, New Orleans, LA 28 Aug 1909