Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Bridge Disaster, May 1883

Brooklyn Bridge in 1899

were arranged for identification upon the cellar floor of the hospital, and at about half past six a coroner's jury viewed them, after which those with missing friends or relatives were allowed to look over the cold dead faces. One woman in search of a lost little girl lingered around the stairs leading to the cellar, but her heart had failed her and she refused to see the bodies, muttering through her tears that she was sure her little daughter was among the killed. Another party who appeared to be a laboring man, and a stalwart built, rugged looking fellow came out from the cellar with streaming eyes groaning heavily. The house surgeon was kept busy all night over the injured, and the police force was maintained at the door until this morning. One of the assistant surgeons said that he had ascertained quite a number of the injured had been

directly from the bridge to their homes, so that the exact number of those injured by the disaster could never be definitly[sic] known. As he was talking to the Eagle representative two more bodies were brought in, and they continued to arrive until after 8 o'clock. At first the dead, the dying and the injured were mixed up together in the hospital ward, so rapidly did they arrive from the scene of the disaster. People who supposed their dear ones were among the injured or dead clamered[sic] about the hospital entrance for admission, and the scene was one not easily to be forgotten.

The matron of the hospital said: "I have been engaged in this hospital for several years, but I never saw such heartbreaking incidents as I have to-day. You see quite a number of the injured and dead are children, and their parents have wrung my heart with their appeals and grief. That sufferer over there," she continued, pointing to a cot upon which a woman of about thirty was lying, is one of the unknowns. She has attempted once or twice to tell me who she is, but if unable to utter a word. The doctor believes she is suffering from severe internal injuries and that she cannot live until morning. She was found at the foot of the staircase directly on the hard plants of the bridge and under several bodies.'

"There are very few cases of ebrasures of the skin among the victims,' said the house surgeon, "and from my present knowledge on the cases I should say that the majority of the dead were either suffocated or injured internally. We have a number of cases of severe nervous shock among them which have a fair chance of recovering, if they are not too severely injured internally; but it accidents of that nature women are very often killed by nervous shock alone."

The scene of the tragedy was, as stated, at the platform of the tower nearest to the New York entrance. The platform itself is sixteen feet by eight feet, and each flight of stairs leading to the footway in each direction is seven steps, sixteen feet wide with six inches rise. In this narrow space the frightful jam occurred, and the poor people were whirled around in the dreadful rush and pressed together in an inextricable mass. Ever since the opening of the bridge the steps on both sides of the platform have generally been blocked by people coming from New York and Brooklyn. Persons going from Brooklyn who do not intend to cross to New York generally on reaching this platform remain a short time, and then retrace their steps. It is, therefore, one of the most dangerous points on the entire structure, and frequent attention has been called to the necessity of preventing a blockade. The width of the stairway is two feet less than that of the passenger way either above or below, the difference being caused by the encroachment of the hand rails which separate the platform from the railroad track. The distance to the New York tower from the scene of the accident is 909 feet, and the distance from the point where the cables pass through the pathway is over 340 feet. At that point the width available for foot traffic is reduced from eighteen to about fifteen feet. From the New York tower to the head of the stairway there is a marked downward incline. The grade is said to be on an average of 3½ feet in a hundred. The distance approximately from the New York entrance to the foot of the steps is 1,550 feet and the incline throughout is very precipitate. The railroad tracks on each side are about four feet below the footway. From the New York entrance to that point the spaces between the ties are filled in with regular stone ballast and from that point outward the spaces between the ties are open, and with the girders of the bridge form a sort of lattice. Portions of the iron railing on each side of the platform were removed by the police so as to enable them to extricate the dead and injured by lifting them to the car track.

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