New York Times, Wed, January 16, 1884
ENGULFED IN BURNING OIL
THE TERRIBLE SITUATION OF A PASSENGER TRAIN.
A RAILWAY CUT FLOODED WITH OIL, WHICH TAKES FIRE AND
BURNS UP A TRAIN AND SEVERAL PERSONS.
Bradford, Penn., Jan. 15. - On of those calamaties peculiar
to the oil regions startled the people of Bradford to-day, A
passenger train on the Bradford, Bordell and Kinzua Railroad was
totally destroyed by fire. The train which was due in this city from
Wellsvlle, N.Y., at 10 o'clock this morning when within three miles
of the city ran into a river of oil which had escaped from a bursted
tank on the hillside, and running down the show, had covered the bed
of the railroad track for over a half-mile.
The grade at that point is very steep, and the oil coursed down
its bank as if it were a stream of water. There is a sharp curve
close by, and before the engineer knew it his train was passing over
the highly inflammable oil. It ignited from the furnace of the
engine, and immediately set the entire train on fire. They followed a
scene not easily portrayed.
The train, which was made up of a baggage car and ladies'
coach, was filled with passengers. So great was the crush that many
went into the baggage car. The terrible heat from the burning river
of oil instantly cracked and shattered every window in the car. The
flames leaped in through the doors, the windows and through the
The car wheels splashed through the burning oil scattering it
along the bottom of the cars. There were seas of flames on all sides
and death seemed to stare every passenger in the face. Those nearest
to the ends of the cars dashed through the doors to be met by hissing
flames which, lapping their heads, faces and hands, left terrible
burns behind. The high snow banks which lined the road and came
almost to a level with the car windows, afforded the imprisoned
passengers a possible means of safety.
Men, women and children jumped or were forced through the
windows. The majority fell into the snow and rolled over and over
down the steep hillside. All who were in the baggage car escaped with
their lives, although several were badly burned. The heat in the
engine cab was terrible. The engineer, Patrick Sexton, could see
nothing but flame and smoke ahead of him.
When the train entered the oil he thought it would speedily
pass through it without great danger, and he pulled the throttle wide
open. The burning oil, however, ran faster than the engine, and the
wood-work of the cab was soon in flames. Down the grade, through the
heat and flame and smoke, thundered the train. Seeing that he could
not run through the flames the engineer reversed his engine, and,
with his fireman, Mike Walsh, jumped into the snow. They were
terribly burned, but both managed to walk to the nearest boarding-
house, two miles away. The engine and cars were thrown down the
Out of the party of 40 or 50 passengers only 3 lost their
lives, and they were ladies. Mrs. L.C. Fair, of Kinzua Junction. was
burned beyond recognition. She had been married two years. Her
husband was in the baggage car and was unable to go to her
assistance. George McCartney, the train news agent, was badly burned
in attempting her rescue.
Miss Katie Moran, of Allens, Penn., was burned to a crisp. She
was found hanging outside the coach grasping the window-sill. Mrs.
Libias Jones, of Rew City, who was at one time reported dead, escaped
with slight injuries, and was able to go home this afternoon.
Of the injured, Prof. Faught, Tarport, is not expected to live.
Patrick Sexton, the engineer, is terribly burned about the face and
arms. W.H. Belnap, Aiken, jumped from the train and was injured
internally. Jerry Denegan, a brakeman, had his hands badly cut.
Charles Heidieke, the express messenger, was burned about the hands.
Capt. Hoe, of Boston, Mass., was burned about the face and head. G.H.
Peabody, of Rochester, N.Y., was burned about the head and face, and
his hands were cut. K.H. Craney of Bradford was badly burned about
the face and head. F.W. Townsend, the conductor, was badly burned
about the face and hands. George McCartney, a newsboy, was terribly
burned about the head and hands and is not expected to live. A.N.
Carpenter, of Little Genesee, N.Y., had his head, face and left hand
Jerry Haggerty, of Ceres, N.Y. was badly burned about the head.
Mrs. Black, daughter and son, of Aiken, were burned about the about
the heads and hands. Mrs. Black was the most severely burned. G.V.
Van, wife and son, of Indianapolis, were seriously burned. The boy
was badly burned about the face and hands. John Kofoer, of Aiken, was
terribly burned about the face and hands. T.P. Fletcher, of Bolivar,
N.Y., was badly burned about the face and head. B.C. Earley, of
Andover, N.Y., was burned about the face, head and hands. Maud
Proctor, aged 10, jumped through a window and was uninjured. Mrs.
Thomas Parker, of Bordell, Penn., threw her 4-yea-old girl out of the
window and followed after her and escaped with slight burns and bruises.
John Burke, of Dunkirk, N.Y., with his sister, was on the
train. His account of the disaster is as follows: "The train was
running at the rate of 15 miles an hour. Suddenly the car became
dark. Jets and tongues of flames leaped upon the sides and through
the ventilators of the car. The glass cracked with a snap and the
heat became unendurable. I knew at once that we were passing through
an oil fire.
"Turning to my sister Mary I said 'We are passing through an
oil fire; be quiet, it will soon be over.' People began to jump
through the windows. On all sides were heard the crashing of the
glass and the deafening roar of the flames. It seemed as if we were
all doomed to burn to death. The situation was terrible. Women and
children were picked up by strong hands and bodily thrown through the
windows. They fared better than the few who dashed through the doors
into the ocean of flames which surged to and fro like huge waves upon
the bed of the road.
"Those who jumped from the windows landed in great drifts of
snow while those who went through the doors had their hands, faces
and clothing badly burned. I started down the aisle of the car, but
the heat was so awful that it made my head swim. It was impossible to
move. The car swayed to and fro like a ship in a heavy sea. The
windows offered the only means of escape , and I told Mary that I
must jump through the window.
" I then picked up a little girl who was crying and threw her
out the same window. And then I made the jump of my life, landing in
a snow-drift. My mustache and my hair were only slightly singed. My
sister rolled down the bank, but escaped without a scratch. The only
wonder to me is that any of the passengers escaped with their lives."
B.C. Earley, of Andover, N.Y., said to the TIMES correspondent
that when the train ran into the burning oil the air became thick and
hot. The coach swayed to and fro, the windows cracked, and the car
was instantly filled with heat and flame. It was such a fiery breath
that it seemed that all must perish. He jumped from the rear platform
and fell on his face in the snow. It was simply impossible for him to
render any assistance whatever to others. It was every man for himself.
George McCartney, the newsboy, had a terrible experience. He
was frightfully burned about the face and head. The flesh was burned
from his hands. He was near the end of the car and jumped from the
platform, landing in a pool of fiery oil, where he received his
injuries which may prove fatal.
The remains of the victims were brought to this city and placed
in the Morgue. This is the first accident in the history of the
Bradford, Bordell and Kinzua Railway Company. No blame is attached to
the officials, as the disaster was clearly unforeseen.