Huntington, WV towboat Defender explosion, Jan 1905


Big Towboat Defender Blows Up Near Huntington, Destroying Lives of Many of Its Crew.

Huntington, W. Va., Jan. 3. - One of the most horrible disasters on the Ohio River in years occurred almost opposite this city at 11 o'clock tonight. The two big towboats, Defender and Victor, owned by the Pittsburg Towboat Company, were returning to Pittsburg [sic] from Cincinnati, where they had just delivered large fleets of coal.

The Defender's boilers blew up just above the local wharf here. The report was heard for miles. In a very few minutes the big steamer was a mass of flames, the fire even spreading to the twenty barges in tow.

The report awakened the inhabitants of the city and soon every available craft was en route to the scene to aid in rescue. The number of dead at this hour is not known, but out of a crew of about twenty-eight only ten or twelve have been acounted for, and they are all seriously injured. The boat was in charge of Capt. James Woodruff of Pittsburg [sic]. He was hurled into the river by the explosion but later was picked up by a rescuing party and taken to the Ohio shore. His injuries are not serious.

The only dead body recovered and identified is that of Thomas Duffy of Pittsburg [sic], a fireman. Another dead body is that of a fireman from Corryopolis [sic], Pa., name unknown.

Robert Holland of Pittsburg [sic] and Joseph Moore of Oakland, Pa., were picked up by the resucing parties and are now in the City Hospital. They are horribly injured and can gove no details of the accident.

An engineer's young son is said to have been killed, and one woman, who was aboard, name unknown, is horribly injured. The steamer burned for over an hour and the smouldering hulk settled down just above the city wharf boat.

The victims recovered from the disaster were taken to different hospitals and private houses, and are in such a condition that nothing of an intelligent nature regarding the occurrence can be had from them.

Capt. Woodruff was taken across the river by some boys, who picked him up, and is now in a private house at Bradrick and is said not to be critically injured.

The steamer Victor was so far ahead of the Defender that her crew knew nothing of the awful disaster that had befallen her and is now pushing on under steam for Pittsburg [sic]. The steamer Chevalier, lying at the local wharf, when the explosion occurred, rendered valuable assistance.

The Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 4 Jan 1905