New York, NY Chief Rush Killed in Auto Runaway Accident, Apr 1912


"Croker's Daredevil Chauffeur," Who Defied Death So Often, Thrown from Buggy.


Loosened Collar Causes His Horse to Bolt----Rush Fractures His Skull on Curbing.

Battalion Fire Chief John Rush, who guided ex-Fire Chief Croker's famous black horse, Bullet, to many of the city's three-alarm fires, and afterward became conspicuous as "Croker's daredevil chauffeur," was killed yesterday in Hudson Street in a runaway accident, following the bolting of a Fire Department horse attached to Chief Rush's buggy.

The news that Chief Rush had been killed while driving on his way to luncheon in what otherwise was a trivial accident proved a great shock to the Fire Department. In the old days firemen had gambled upon the chances of Bullet proving the end of Rush, and afterward only a few believed that he would survive his driving of the Croker automobile at a fifty-mile rate through the city's congested streets.

Rush was 46 years old, and had been congratulated many times recently for having passed successfully from the zone of great danger as a driver to one of more comparative calm and safety as a Battalion Chief.

A broken catch on the collar of Chief Rush's horse was the immediate cause of the fatal accident. In company with John Harvey, a fireman assigned to the Chief as driver, Rush started at noon yesterday to go from the headquarters of the Fifth Battalion, located above Engine Company 30 in Spring Street, to his home at 281 West Eleventh Street. It had been his custom for many months to drive home at noon for luncheon.

As Rush and Harvey proceeded through Hudson Street the horse's collar suddenly became loose, the snap joining its two sides at the bottom having parted. The horse bolted up Hudson Street toward Christopher, and Chief Rush seized the reins from his driver. He pulled the horse back on his haunches to stop him

Children Fillled[sic] the Street.

School children who had just been released for the noon hour blocked the street and the sidewalks, and as the horse reared and plunged Chief Rush steered with difficulty among them. One wheel of his buggy caught in a car rail and the buggy was overturned. Chief Rush and his driver were thrown out, the driver alighting on his feet without receiving the slightest injury. Chief Rush plunged headforemost into the curbing, and received a fractured skull and a long laceration on the right side of his head.

Department associates of Chief Rush first learned of the accident when the Chief's horse came dashing up in front of the firehouse of Hook and Ladder Company 5 at 96 Charles Street. The horse halted in front of the firehouse at the spot where Chief Rush was accustomed to stop on his frequent visits of inspection.

Firemen ran from the firehouse in the direction of a gathering crowd in Hudson Street. They found Chief Rush on the sidewalk unconscious, while an ambulance which somebody in the crowd had called was approaching. The ambulance was from St. Vincent's Hospital. Recognizing the seriousness of the case the firemen insisted that Dr. Archer of the Fire Department and Dr. F. D. Smith be called. The two physicians hurried to St. Vincent's, arriving there as soon as the ambulance.

A superficial examination showed that Chief Rush's skull had been fractured. Dr. Archer sent for Dr. Joseph Bissell and Dr. George Stewart, one of the physicians who attended Mayor Gaynor in St. Mary's Hospital, Hoboken. The four doctors decided after consultation that an operation would be necessary. They were preparing the operating table at 3:20 o'clock when Chief Rush died. He had no regained consciousness after striking against the curbstone.

His Rise Was Rapid.

Chief Rush entered the Fire Department on July 1, 1896, as an engineer. His subsequent promotions were rapid and were generally recognized in the department as having been fairly won through exceptional efficiency. He became a Lieutenant on Aug. 1, 1900, a Captain in April, 1904, and a Battalion Chief, assigned to the Fifth Battalion, on July 1, 1911.

"It seems a strange irony of fate that a minor accident should have killed Chief Rush." said Dr. Archer last night. "I had almost come to think he bore a charmed life. One gets such ideas of men who pass through seemingly impassable dangers unscathed. I remember once in 1907 I was in Chief Croker's automobile with Rush and Croker. Rush was taking us to a three-alarm fire in the car barn at First Avenue and Fourteenth Street. We were going up Second Avenue with the speed lever out to the last notch when suddenly the left front wheel of our automobile whizzed off.

"I guess it was all off with us. I didn't see how anybody could save us, going as we were at 50 miles an hour of over.

"I held to the side of the car, expecting every minute to smash against the curbing and be dashed to the street with a fatal force. But Rush kept his head, and on three wheels he drove the car for 190 feet to a clean stop in the middle of the street. I know about the 190 feet, for we measured them afterward, and it was a marvel to all who knew of the matter that Rush's career was not ended then and there.

"He was a man without fear or nerves, and so, of course, a splendid, resourceful fireman."

When Fire Chief Kenlon was informed of Battalion Chief Rush's death he spoke feelingly of his services to the Department.

"I regarded him as one of the ablest of our firemen, " Chief Kenlon said, "for no braver man ever stood in two shoes. His nerve in difficult rescue work won him recognition many years ago. His death is a great loss to the Fire Department, and a deep personal loss to me."

The New York Times, New York, NY 26 Apr 1912