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DOWN TO DEATH AND DESTRUCTION 09-10-1899


Train Plunges Through Trestle of C, N. & L. Bridge.  Four were killed instantly.

With a tremendous crash and with out a moment's warning a portion of a rock train and a locomotive plunged through 41 feet high trestle leading  up to the steel work of the Columbia, Newberry and Laurens railroad bridge across the Broad River yesterday afternoon at 1:30 o'clock and found a resting place on the island in the river.  Several lives were crushed out and the scene was one of horror.  The accident was due to no weakness of the trestle work but to the derailment or collapse of one of the heavy laden rock cars this simply tearing down the trestle for a distance of possible 200 feet from the point where it left the trestle fork evidently being hurled through the air as if from a catapult.  Only two days ago the trestle force, which is kept at work on the trestle and bridge in an average of nine months out of the year turned the trestle over with a report that it was in perfect operating condition.


All of the victims  must have been instantly killed.  Two of the bodies were badly mutilated.  The crash was heard up in the city.  This was due to the fact that the two flat cars that went through the bridge were heavily loaded with granite, which, when once the trestle began to give way made its destruction a mere matter of seconds.

The train that went through the structure was one composed of C, M. & L. engine No. 3 just a few days out of the shops with Engineer Weathersbee at the throttle and five flat cars loaded with granite, in charge of conductor Dawson.  It was coming from the rock quarry  just across the river and was moving backwards, the engine in the read.  Conductor Dawson was standing on one of the first three cars.  On the cars next to the engine were Will  Bates a white fireman of the C, M. & L. and James Watson the negro in charge of the explosives at the quarry.  Before leaving the quarry two negro boys who had been over to carry dinner buckets tried to get aboard but were put off.  They must have gotten back on the train some way, for both were among the dead.

When the train started across the bridge at not more than 10 miles an hour a regular freight train followed at a distance of 100 yards.  Roadmaster W. H. Shelley, of the C. N. & L road was riding on the engine of this train and was an eyewitness to the disaster.  He says when the rock train reached the highest point of the trestle and three cars had gotten on the steel bridge, he notice that something had gone wrong with one of the cars next to the engine.  In a second more the crash came.  The three first cars with Conductor Dawson going ahead on the bridge.  In less time than it takes to tell it the engine seemed to fly through the air towards the pier in the distance being hurled forward by the falling supports of the double-decked trestle.  Then the steam and dust rose and all was quiet.   The following freight train was at once stopped and the crew rushed down to save life.  If life were left in those who had gone down with the train.  The engineer and fireman were found as stated; beyond aid.  In a short time the body of J.S. Martin, a negro boy with head horribly mutilated being almost decapitate, was found.  On the other side the body of Stewart Martin, the other colored boy, was found.  When Jim Watson, who was standing on one of the cars felt the collapse starting, he jumped to his right through the air.  Though it was almost 12 feet to the ground the negro struck some willows, breaking his descent.  He was brumeled and more or less hurt but was able to get away.

The rescuers found that there was a man under the pile of wreckage.  It was proved to be the white fireman Mr. Will Bates.  All hands went to work and it took half an hour to extricate him.  As if by a miracle he had escaped.  He was slightly bruised and his nerves were out of gear, but he was uninjured.  He soon climed up the bridge and came on to the city.

The dead were covered with bushes and the news was sent to the city.  In a short time a force of men was at work clearing the wreckage preparatory to the rebuilding of the trestle.  Boats were secured and the bodies were taken to the bank of the canal.  Undertaker VanMetre was sent for and by 6 o'clock his wagons arrived and removed the dead to their respective homes.

The dead engineer lived in a pretty little cottage home on Gervais street nearly opposite the Coast Line depot.  There his remains were taken to the stricken young wife and three little ones.  He had brought the down passenger train in the day before and a short time before going over to the quarry yesterday morning was talking of exchanging runs with some other engineer.  When his body was taken from under the engine his watch was still running though it was so hot that one could scarcely hold it.

The civil engineer testified at a coroner's inquest that a car derailed and jammed the crossties at the end of the trestle.  Three cars passed over the trestle onto the steel bridge before the collapse. 

The trestle was repaired by noon the following day when the east bound passenger train was scheduled to depart from Columbia.
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