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The Ashtabula Horror

The Ashtabula Horror image
Parent Issue
Day
5
Month
January
Year
1877
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

The proportions of tho Lake Shore railway horror, writes a correspondent from Ashtabula, are now approximatoly known. Of the 160 passengers whom the maimed conductor reporte as having been on board, but fifty-nine can be fnund or accounted for. The remaining 100, bnrned to ashes or shapeless lnrnpe of charred flesh, lie nnder the ruins of the bridge and train. The disaster was dramatieaMy complete. No element of horror was wanting. First, the crpsh of the bridge, tho agoniziug monients of suspense as the seven laden cars plnnged down their fearful leap to the ioy river-bed ; then the fire which carne to devour abl that i had been left alive by tho crash ; then tho water, which gurgled up from under the broken ice, and offered anothcr form of death ; and, finally, the biting blast fllled with snow, which froze and bennmbed those who had escaped water and fire. It was an ideal tragedy. The scène of tho accident was the valley of the creek whieh, flowing down past the eastern margin of Ashtabnla village, passes under the railway three or four hundred yards east of the statioD. Here for many years after the Lake Shore road wns bnüt there was a long wooden tresüe-work, but as the road was improved this was superseded about ten years ago with an iron Howe truss built at tho Cleveland shops, and resting at either end upon high stone piers, flanked by heavy earthen embankments. The iron structure was a singlo span of 169 'f est, crossed by a doublé track seventy feet above the water, which at that point is now from three to six feet deep, aud covered with eight inches of ice. The descent into the valley on either side is precipitous, and, as the huls and slopea are piled wkh heavy drifts of snow, there was uo little difliculty in reaohing tho wreek after the disaster became known. The disaster oceurred shortly before 8 o'clock. It was tho wildest winter night of the year. Tbree hours behind its time, the Pacific express, which had left New York the night before, struggled along through the drifts and the blinding storm. The eleven cars were a heavy burden to the two engines, and when the leading locomotive broke through the driits beyond the ravine, and roüed on across the bridge, the train was moving at less than ten miles an hour. The head lamp threw but a short and dim flash of light in the front, so thick was the air with the driving snow. The train crept ajross the bridge, the leading engine had reached soiid ground beyond, and its driver had juet given it steam, when something in the undergearinpr of the bridgO snapped. Tor au instant there was a confused crackling of beams and girders, ênding with a tremendous crash, as the whole train but the leading engine broke through the framework and feil in a heap of crushed and splintereá ruins at the bottoin. Notwithstanding the wind and storm the crash was heard by people within-doors half a mile away. Por a moment there was silence, a stunned sensation among the survivors, who, in all stages of mutilation, lay piled among the dying and dead. Then arose the cry of the maimed and auffering ; the few who remained unhurt hasteued to escape from the shattered cars. They crawled out of windows into f reezing water waist-deep. Men, women and children, with limbs biuised and broken, pinched botween timbers and transfixed by jagged splinters, begged with thoir last brenth for aid that no human power could givo. Five minutes after the train feil the fire broke out in the cars piled against the abutments at either end. A moment later flames broke from the smoking car and ñrss coach piled across each other near the middle of the stream. In less than ten minutes after the catastrophe every car in the wreek was on fire, and the flames, fed by the dry varnished work and fauned by the icy gale, licked up the ruius as though they bad been tinder. Destruction was so swift that mercy was bafflea. Men who, in the bewilderment of the shock, sprang out and reached the solid ice, went back after wives and children, and found thein suffucating ud roasüng in the flames. The neighboring residente, startled by the crash, were lighted to tho scène by the conflagration, which made even their prompt assistaáce too late. Jiy midnight the cremation was ampíete. The storm hati subsided, but the wind still blew fierceiy, an4 the et ld was more intense. When morning came, all that remaiuad of the Pacitic express was a winrow of car-wheels, axlos, brait-irons, t frames, and twisted rails lying in a black pool at the bottom of the gorge. The wood had buraed complet ely away, an.l tho ruins were oovered with white asl:e. Here and there a mass of eharred, smoldering substonce sent up a littlo cloud of sickeniug vapor, whicli told that it was human flesh slowly yielding to the corrosión of the ñre. On the crest of the western abuiment, half buried in the snow, stood the rescued locomotive, all that remained of the fated train. As the bridge feil, its driver had given t a quick head of steam, which tore the drawhead from its tender, and the liberated eugino shot forward and buried itself in the snow. The other locomotive, drawn backward by tho fiilling train, tumbled over the pier aud feil bottom upward on the express car next behind. The engineer, Folsoni, escaped with a broken leg - how, he cannot teil, nor c?.a anyone else imagine. There are no rumains that can ever be identified. The three charred, shapeless lumps recovered up to noon to-day are beyond all hope of recognition. Old or young, male or female, black or white, no man eau teil. They aro alike in the crueible of death. For tho rest, there aro piles of white nshes ia which glisteu the crumbling particles of ealcined bones ; in other pluces masses of black, charred debris, half under water, which may contairi fragmenta of bödifS, but nothing of human seniblance. Tho suvvivors relate many Interestin g details of tho oatastrophe. Charles S. Carter, of Jirookljn, N. Y., waa in tho rear drnwing-rooni car playing cards with two others, one a Mr. Shepherd, of New York, tho othoru stTanger. Suddenly he heard tho glass of the carwindows begaa to oraskle, and the car plunged to the bottom ot' the ravine. Tho stranger was killed instanüy. Mr. Shepherd had a broken leg which was ampntated this inorning, and Cart-.r, tbongh (;omivli;;t bruised, wiw comparatively nnhutt. Carter sayS that tho front of the car was much toiVHï than the rnaa-, and that the iiiiites in the front begau to ent upward ■ J and spread wüh great rapidity. He . fcumedtotheasBiBtanceof Mr. Saepherd ( and with great difficulty suoceeded in jetting him out, the broken leg impedng their advanoe. When Shephord was airly out, Carter retnrned to the nssistance of a wom-in who was oalling for ïelp at the front of the car. He got her out, and, as sho was thinly ciad, gave ïer his overcoat.

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Subjects
Old News
Michigan Argus