Lumberton, NC Train Wreck, Dec 1943
This was at 12:50 a. m. Some 35 minutes later the northbound Tamiami East Coast Champion ploughed into the derailed coaches of the first train.
Magazine publisher William Wood, a passenger on the first train and eye-witness of the second wreck, said five cars of the northbound train "leaped the track and folded together like an accordion."
"It was like a bad dream, filled with screams, and in the dark you couldn't see what had happened," he added. He told of an expectant mother, whose legs and thighs were badly mangled and who kept saying, "I won't lose my baby, God help me, I won't."
"She had more spunk than I've ever seen in a woman before," he said. "After a doctor came up and examined her and gave her a sedative, and told her that her baby would be born. "Thank God," she said.
First arrivals at the scene told of the injured crying "Shoot me!" "Kill me!" and begging for help and water.
The trains were crowded with holiday travelers. Scattered about the wreck were packages in Christmas wrappings, Army blouses, Marine coats, and broken Christmas toys. One spectator reported seeing a white satin dress and white veil, evidently the wedding dress of some passenger.
After the first derailment, some of the passengers built bonfires of newspapers to stop two southbound freight trains. They frantically endeavored by the same means to warn the northbound engineer, without succeeding.
Many of the service men were en route to their homes for the holidays. Those who were not injured pitched in and helped in the rescue work and declined to board a relief train sent from Florence, S.C.
From army bases in the area, ambulances, wrecking crews, doctors, nurses and medical units sped to the scene before dawn. Laurinburg-Maxton Air Base sent a detachment of 40 men with acetylene torches and jacks, and it was their work which opened the way for the rescue of many trapped under the steel wreckage.
One railroad official said an automatic warning device on the parallel track did not operate when the southbound train's three cars were derailed because the cars did not fall over completely on the second track, and consequently failed to set off the signal.
Of the injured, 15 were taken to a Fayetteville hospital, 30 to Lumberton hospitals, several to a Florence, S. C., hospital and the injured service men were taken to base hospitals at Laurinburg-Maxton Air Base.
The Burlington Daily Times News North Carolina 1943-12-17
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