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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 
ventilators.
      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 
embankment.
      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 
burned.
      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.

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