Wreck death total at least 15, with 19 injured
Speeding fliers crash head-on, and flames trap passengers in wreckage of colonist car
Scene of horror enacted on Canadian National line north of Parry Sound—Rescuers struggle to extricate victims from tangled debris—search continues many hours after collision
Full extent of rail disaster has not yet been ascertained
Special trains rush medical aid to distant scene of tragedy and carry injured to hospitals, where several are in critical condition—Engineer overran switch, says official statement in explaining cause of wreck.
Parry Sound, March 20.—Roaring through the night two Canadian National transcontinental trains devoured distance. One steamed westward. The other was headed east. And they travelled on the one track.
Suddenly—near the little crossroad depot of Drocourt, some 42 miles north of Parry Sound—the headlights of the two engines blinked terrifyingly into each other. The men at the throttles, with eyes glued upon the gleaming rails ahead, must have tensed—and trembled. The grinding of the brakes—the shock and shiver of the rocking trains as the "emergency" took hold, and gripped—the wild, shrill shriek of the whistles—the screaming clouds of escaping steam—the sparks of fire from the sliding and slipping of reverseing wheels—the final, inevitable crash, heard for a mile or more, as the huge locomotives rushed together.
Another tragic disaster has been written in Canada's railway history.
Some one had blundered. Some one had failed. Some one had neglected or disobeyed orders. And the toll—the tool of death, of injury, of damage, of loss—was paid.
The list of the dead, injured and missing, so far as it can be completed, is as follows:
Ben Barstead, 1797 Dufferin Street, Toronto, conductor westbound train, believed burned to death in colonist car.
Ray Ferguson, 44 Alameda Street, Toronto, brakeman.
W. G. White, 164 Mississauga Street, West Orillia, Ont., brakeman.
George Millar, Huron Street, Toronto, news agent.
Horace Smith, Capreol, Ont., fireman, eastbound train, who died on way to hospital after arriving in Parry Sound.
Edwin Strutt, New Dundee, Ont., express messenger, died in hospital of scalds.
An unidentified man, his wife and two children, said to have been travelling on train No. 3 for a point between Saskatoon and Regina.
Robert M. Nelson, Madison Wis., en route, with his brother, to Cardston, Alta., for a holiday.
Paul Gouvreau, Parry Sound, engineer No. 4, both legs broken and face and body badly burned.
L. V. Savage, 767 Windermere Avenue, Toronto, brakeman, external and internal injuries.
Frank Frobe, 514 Victoria Park Avenue, Toronto, express clerk, possible fracture of the skull.
J. H. McRoberts, 182 Milverton Boulevard, Toronto, express clerk, badly shaken up.
Arthur Bateman, Brandon, Man., minor injuries.
Mitchell (initials unknown), Brandon, Man., head injuries.
Jacob Fourtney, Mildmay, Ont., head and back injuries.
Wilfred Fourtney, Mildmay, Ont., head and back injuries.
E. V. Alexander, South Parry, engineer No. 3, slight injuries.
Scene of tragedy
Map shows Drocourt, north of Parry Sound, where two crack Canadian National trains crashed head-on, with more than a score of casualties, killed and injured, resulting.
Trapped in car.
Railway authorities reported that parts of the trunks of four bodies had been recovered from the burned colonist car. The remains were charred beyond recognition. No other bodies had so far been located, but the search was being continued.
When the two mighty locomotives—both of the new 6000 type, the biggest in the C.N.R. fleet—crashed, the baggage car on the westbound train, No. 3, was telescoped into the colonist car, which burst into flames. An unknown number of people, most of them immigrants from England bound for new homes in Western Canada, were trapped in the blazing coach, while passengers and members of the train crew stood powerless to go to their assistance. Only five occupants of the car escaped. The number of dead will only be known when the work of recovering the charred remains from the smouldering embers has been completed.
Conductor Barstead met death in this car and Brakeman White died shortly after he had been rescued by Jacob and Wilfred Fortney of Mildmay. These two men were also able to get two Chinese to safety, but then they had to stand aside, forced to listen to the piercing shrieks of men and women and children trapped in the blazing coach.
As Engineer Verne Alexander, on the westbound No. 3, leaned from his cabin window he saw the glaring headlight of the onrushing No. 4 in time to warn his fireman, and both men jumped to safety. Put Paul Gauvreau, engineer on No. 4, and his fireman, Horace Smith, remained in their cabin to receive the full force of the impact and the scalding stream of steam which followed. Fireman Smith died on his
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Official statements issued by railway tell about tragedy
A. E. Warren, General Manager of the Central Region, Canadian National Railways, issued two statements yesterday on the Drocourt wreck, one at noon and one in the evening, which statements follow:
"At 3.58 o'clock this morning train No. 3, bound for Winnipeg, collided with train No. 4, bound for Toronto, at Mileage 44 on the Sudbury Subdivision, approximately 44 miles west of Sudbury. The engine and four cars on train No. 3 are reported derailed, and two cars on train No. 4.
"Complete reports of the accident have not as yet been received owing to the fact that the telegraph wires are down and the only means of communication is a telephone line, which is noisy. It is known, however, that four employees were killed and four are injured. The names of the dead are:
"News Agent Miller.
"The injured are:
"Based on the latest information from the scene of the wreck, it is feared that the death list will reach seventeen persons. The passengers fatally injured were in the colonist car of train No. 3, the interior of which car burned. This car and all others in both trains were of steel construction. The origin of the fire is not known at present. General Superintendent Mr. W. T. Moodie is on his way to the scene of the wreck by special train and will make a thorough investigation.
Taken to hospitals.
"The injured are now on their way to hospitals and as soon as the names of the injured and nature of their injuries have been ascertained a supplementary statement will be issued. The names of the dead will be made public as soon as the bodies have been identified. So far as is known, no passengers on train No. 4 are injured and no passengers in the sleeping cars on train No. 3 were injured.
"Immediately following the accident relief trains with doctors and nurses from Capreol, Parry Sound and Sudbury Junction were rushed to the scene. Auxiliary equipment from Capreol and Allandale was hurried to the scene to clear the wreck as early as possible. A special relief train also left Toronto this morning for the scene of the accident.
"The trains had orders to meet at Drocourt, and apparently train No. 3 [the inferior train] overran the meeting point."
Mr. Warren issued the following supplementary statement last night:
"Fireman Smith, reported injured in the earlier statement, died while being taken to the hospital at Parry Sound.
"Ed Strutt, express messenger, died in hospital at Parry Sound.
"The following passengers on train No. 3 are reported as injured and are now receiving treatment in
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Wreck to be probed by Railway Board
All available data will be laid before federal officials
Region headquarters of the Canadian National Railways were last night instructed by the Dominion Board of Railway Commissioners that the board officials would proceed at once to investigate the wreck at Drocourt.
This action is in accordance with the special duties assigned the board said a railway official last night, in stating that all the available information regarding the operation of the two trains, the orders given the crews, and any other details, must be placed at the disposal of the Commission's engineers.
This special investigation is conducted entirely independently of the Coroner's inquest, and is held to assist the members of the board in framing regulations that will prevent other wrecks in the future.
The local officials of the Canadian National Railways will furnish the information necessary to the investigation, which begins at once.
C.N.R. trains collide
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way to the hospital, and Gauvreau is in a critical condition.
Exepress Messenger Strutt was fatally injured when his baggage car was telescoped into the colonist car. It is not yet known where the other men killed were at the time of the collision.
With an investigation under way by the railroad officials, rescue workers and emergency crews continued their labors in the gathering dusk this evening at the lonely little station of Drocourt.
The cause of the collision, that marks the greatest railway tragedy in Canada since 1910, has not been definitely determined.
May never be identified.
Through an unexplained mistake in the interpretation of orders, the two crack trains, loaded with sleeping passengers, crashed head-on at Drocourt. Members of train crews met death when the heavy engines and the baggage cars of the trains were telescoped and passengers in the colonist car on the westbound train were burned to death, some before the eyes of helpless trainmen and passengers who had rushed to their rescue. Some of the dead may never be identified, owing to the fierceness with which the flames devoured all within the colonist car.
Railway officials estimate that 19 persons were killed, though late tonight but six of these, all members of the train crews, were listed among the identified dead. The passengers burned to death in the colonist car are believed to have been mostly immigrants bound for new homes in the West. Many of them were without relatives or friends in the Dominion.
The [interior of the] colonist car which caught fire was of wooden construction This type of car is fitted with a stove, which passengers are allowed to use for preparation of their meals during the long journey from the seaboard to the Prairie Provinces. The interior of these cars is wooden. It is believed that the crash overturned the stove and that the interior of the car took fire from the coals which were spilled out. The passengers, many of them asleep in their berths when the trains crashed, were caught without means of escape.
Survivors of the wreck recounted the horrible sights which were witnessed by the would-be rescuers. When they reached the colonist car they were forced to stand helplessly by while the trapped passengers screamed with pain as the advancing flames overtook them. A mother and her child sat beside a window of the car, one rescuer stated. They screamed as the flames advanced, but were not rescued.
Emergency trains were sent out from divisional points when news of the disaster flashed out. The injured were placed aboard and rushed to hospitals here [Parry Sound]. Some died en route.
All day today and by the light of flares tonight rescue workers toiled to remove the dead from the colonist car. Railway officials, however, admitted the hopelessness of the task confronting the identification of the remains. The official railway statement said that a man, his wife and two children were "believed" to have perished, and noted that "parts of the trunks of four bodies" had been recovered from the colonist car.
Apart from the dreadful deaths that came suddenly to those in the foreparts of the trains, the passengers escaped miraculously, due possible to the construction of the cars in the trains. After checking up, the railway was able to report that no passengers were killed or injured on the eastbound express.
On the westbound train, members of the train crew and the passengers in the colonist car were the only ones listed as dead or seriously injured.
The isolated nature of the scene of the wreck prevented full reports of the wreck being available late tonight. Drocourt is but a siding, where double tracks are provided for the passage of trains. The wreck disrupted telegraphic communication, and reports came by a single telephone wire that worked indifferently. Railway officials sent curious survivors of the wreck back to their cars to await relief trains, and survivors, as a result, could add but few details.
The track curves just before Drocourt Station is reached, and the engineers of the trains could have had no time to make effective use of the air brakes. One of the trains should have been waiting at the siding. An official investigation will attempt to place the blame.
The possibility that a "meet order" was overlooked is seen in a official statement issued by A. E. Warren, General Manager of the Central Region. The statement declared that "the trains had orders to meet at Drocourt, and apparently train No. 3 overran the meeting point."
Reports of the disaster are still incomplete. As news trickled through from the little waystation throughout the day, the magnitude of the tragedy increased. With the arrivail here of emergency trains from the scene of the wreck, confusion as to detail still reigns. Six of the injured are in the local hospital, while other survivors can narrate only the horrible scene that followed the crash.
Those who have returned here tell graphic stories of heroic attempts to escape cremation and of the frantic efforts of the uninjured to help their fellow passengers. All passengers in the sleepers were order out as a precautionary measure and they worked heroically in the snow among the dead and injured until they were put aboard relief trains.
H. E. Harcourt, a passenger, telling of his harrowing experiences, said: "When I got out of the car I saw several skulls and human bones burning. One woman screamed until she was burned to death."
Paul Gauvreau, engineer on the eastbound train, was brought to the hospital here and is expected to recover from his injuries. Both legs are broken and his face and body are badly cut. Gauvreau stated that his intimation of the crash came when he saw the headlight of the oncoming No. 3. He attempted to jump, but the trains came together before he could leap clear of his engine.
Express Messenger Strutt of Toronto was fatally injured from burns, dying in hospital.
G. V. Alexander, engineer of No. 3, states that he leaped when he saw the collision was inevitable. He did not clear the locomotive, and found himself beneath it when he regained consciousness.
The isolation of Drocourt added to the difficulties in recovering bodies and attending the injured. Little help, other than from the passengers and members of the train crews, was available in the sparsely settled section of the North country until the arrival of the relief trains from Sudbury and this point.
Survivors work frantically.
The injured were taken aboard the undamaged cars and given every possible aid to lessen their suffering. Survivors worked frantically in the darkness, digging into masses of twisted steel and snow to extricate those pinned under the splintered wreckage.
Most of the passengers were asleep in their berths when the terrible impact came and some were killed instantly. Others died when they were crushed beneath the wreckage, or were burned to death as they cried out for help.
Many of the passengers ran about horror-stricken, some with blood pouring from cuts and wounds, as they sought to learn the fate of relatives or friends with whom that had been travelling.
Sudbury and Capreol, as well as Parry Sound, send relief trains. With their arrival, the extent of the disaster became better known. The relief crews fought the flames in the colonist cars and recovered a dozen bodies, some of them charred almost beyond identification. From the terrible head injuries and mangled bodies of others, it was evident they had met death probably instantly and had been spared the added torture of flames. One report reaching here stated that perhaps only six persons survived the colonist car death trap. It was also said that an express and baggage car, as well as the colonist car, was burned to a twisted mass of steel. Reports from the hospital train as it pulled in here indicated that many of the survivors dressed in night attire, went to work uncoupling air hose connections between cars and by main strength of numbers shoved the undamaged ones clear of the burning mass.
Both locomotives were demolished, and the baggage car on No. 3 telescoped the colonist car. Fire almost immediately broke out, and it is believed that several of passengers in the colonist car were only slightly injured in the crash, but were burned to death before they could make their escape.
William and J. Fortney of Mildmay were passengers on the colonist car. They were slightly injured and are in the Stone Memorial Hospital here, which sent doctors and nurses on the relief train that left this point at noon. The Fortneys were asleep when the trains met and found themselves tossed about as wreckage came falling about them. The lights went out, and the car started to burn. According to their story, only half a dozen persons escaped from their car, although it was not crowded.
A passenger in front of them had his arm torn off and one leg broken. They dragged him from the wreckage as they made their escape, but he died shortly afterward.
After the dead and injured were brought here some of the survivors were taken by train to South Parry Sound Junction to make connections of the West. A relief train was also sent from Toronto direct to Drocourt.
Officials of the Canadian National Railways were handicapped in getting particulars of the disaster throughout the day because telegraph communication with Drocourt failed. The afternoon official statement issued by the General Manager of the Central Region said all telegraph lines were down and that the only direct means of communication with the isolated scene of the wreck was over a faulty telephone circuit. The burnt colonist car, said the statement, was of steel construction, as were all cars on both trains. The origin of the first was not known when the statement was issued.
American's brother missing.
Washington, March 20.—Representative John M. Nelson of Madison, Wis., today received a telegram from his son, Harold Nelson, aged 31, that his younger son and secretary Robert M. Nelson, aged 24, was missing in the wreckage of the two Canadian National Railways trains. The message, filed from Drocourt, read:
"Robert and myself in railway wreck at Drocourt. Robert missing, I am O.K."
The brothers were en route from Madison to a fishing camp in the Province of Alberta for a holiday.
Leaves a family.
Orillia, March 20.—(Special.)—William G. White, one of the victims of the transcontinental train wreck at Drocourt this morning, lived at 104 Mississauga Street West, Orillia. He was formerly manager of the Orillia Hotel, and went on the railway after selling out here. He leaves a wife, six sons and two daughters. One of his sons is a clerk in the Dominion Bank here. Harry White, Orillia, is a brother, and two sisters also survive. Deceased was about 45 years of age, and was highly respected.
Kitchener, March 20.—George B. Hallman of Davidson, Sask., who has been visiting all winter with his brother, J. A. Hallman, Preston Road, left Kitchener last night for the West, and was aboard the westbound wrecked train at Drocourt. Luckily he escaped without injury, a telegram to this effect being received by his brother to-day.
Port Arthur man on train.
Port Arthur, March 20.—Robert McVicar, assisatn foreman at the Canadian National Railways sheds, was believed to be the only local passenger on train No. 4, which was wrecked at Drocourt early this morning. He left here at 2 o'clock yesterday morning for Toronto, connecting with Canadian National No. 4 at Long Lac.
Official statement issued by railway
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the Stone Memorial Hospital in Parry Sound:
"J. Fourtney and Wilfrid Fourtney, travelling from Mildmay to Scottsburg, Sask., in colonist car, suffering from head and back injuries, but not reported as serious.
"Mitchell, initials unknown, travelling in tourists car, address, Great Western Life Assurance Company, Brandon, and employed as agent, suffering from head injuries, but extent not determined.
"The following are the additional injured of train crew:
"Express Messenger Frobie, possible fractures of the skull.
"E. V. Alexander, engineer train No. 3, slight injuries.
"Unidentified man, wife and two children, said to be travelling to intermediate point between Saskatoon and Regina, on train No. 3.
"Robert Nelson, from Washington, D.C., said to be travelling to Cardston, Alberta, on train No. 3.
"Parts of trunks of four bodies were recovered from the colonist car, all charred beyond recognition. No other bodies have so far been located, but the search is being continued.
"The engineers and conductors of both trains were men of long experience and clear records. Engineer Alexander of train No. 3 has been with the Canadian National Railways seventeen years. Prior to joining this railway he had seven years' experience as engineer on other railways. Conductor Barstead of train No. 3 had been in the service of the company twenty-four years and was senior conductor on his division."