Brooklyn, NY Brooklyn Bridge Disaster, May 1883

Brooklyn Bridge in 1899

It was providential in one respect that the accident occurred at this platform and not at any of the others further on, otherwise more trouble would have been experienced in removing the victims. The footpath itself at no point was perfectly safe for the unexpected rush of pedestrians who have thronged it at intervals from the night of the opening, but the small platforms were perfect deathtraps in case of a panic. The fact that the steps of the platform were much narrower than the footpaths on either side made a jam there inevitable in case there were an unusually large number of people coming in opposite directions, which has been almost continuously the case. The danger has been much enhanced by the temptation of passengers to linger at that particular point before continuing their walk to New York or Brooklyn. Why two or three policemen were not always stationed at that particular point is a matter which will probably receive careful investigation.

A fine view of the New York shore is obtained from the fatal platform, and passengers were naturally disposed after the fatigue of the walk across the bridge to linger there for a few minutes and look at the shipping. On the day of the opening there was an immense crowd of spectators on the carriage ways on either side of the platform, and as the Presidential party moved from New York there was a dangerous jam even on the wide road roadways. From statements which have been made by several persons, it seems that there have been frequent dangerous crushes at this point since the night of the opening. On one occasion, it is said, a young girl tumbled down the steps, and was with great difficulty extricated, and that had it not been for the presence of mind of two gentlemen, who succeeded in stopping the rush from the Brooklyn side, a similar catastrophe to that of yesterday afternoon would probably have occurred. Close observers of the traffic have noticed that of all parts of the footway this particular point was the most unsafe, and that fact also seems to have been fully realized by MR. MARTIN and the other bridge officials.

A gentleman whose name and residence are known to the Eagle says:
"A similar accident, but fortunately without serious injury to any one, occurred at the same place as that of yesterday on Saturday evening last. I left my office in New York about half-past five o'clock and started for my residence in Brooklyn by way of the bridge. I was advised by a friend whom I met on the way thither that I could not get through on account of the jam at the stairway mentioned, but I went on nevertheless. Just before reaching the stairway I found indeed that the crowd was very great, and seeing the impossibility of getting through it, I, with hundreds of others, climbed over the railing into the carriageway, and after proceeding about a rod further on, looked up and saw that there was a terrible jam of people from which a great many were vainly struggling to free themselves, being pressed back against the iron girder and unable to do anything but struggle feebly and call for help. The cry was then raised that a child had been killed, and that some persons were being trampled down. I and several others shouted to the people on the outside of the crowd to go back and thus relieve those in the center; but being only civilians no attention was paid to us, and the outsiders continued to accumulate and to press on those in the middle, regardless of the frightful scene to which they were contributing. Fearing that some would be killed, I ran back to the New York entrance and informed the policemen there of what was going on; but though there were about a dozen of them around, not one would leave, saying that I must see the roundsman. Not knowing where to find him, I ran over to the City Hall and appealed to the sergeant in charge, While doing so, another citizen and, I think, a third came in hurriedly and made a similar appeal for police assistance. The sergeant sent out some men at once. I took three of them and when we reached the scene of the accident we found that the bridge hands had laid some planks across the carway and were pulling out ladies and others from the steps where they were jammed in, and rending them on the roadway. The police finally got control and broke up the jam, compelling the people to pass along to the right each way. So I made my bow to the policeman and went home. I didn't wait to see if any one were hurt, but was told that there were no serious injuries, though it seems like a miracle that some were not actually killed. But my reflections are that a crush of this sort can only be dealt with from the outside, and that, as the bridge officials were well aware of what took place on Saturday last, as I relate, it should have been a sufficient warning to them to take measures in time, and, if it had been, yesterday's accident would not have happened. I think also that such jams might in future be prevented by having a railing running down the center of the stairway and compelling the people to keep to the right, as the law directs. The railing should be run out a reasonable distance beyond the stairway at each end of it."

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