Milford, CT Train Wreck, Feb 1916 - Whistle Sounded Warning


Survivors Here Believe Freight Engineer Tried to Signal Stalled Express.


Passengers Say the Coaches Averted More Deaths---Dramatic Accounts of Rescues.

Passengers who had been in the New Haven wreck near Milford, some of whom had been injured, arrived at New York yesterday on various trains from shortly after 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when the relief special drew into Grand Central Terminal from Bridgeport, until late at night.

The survivors agreed on one point, namely, that the steel coaches prevented a much greater loss of life. When the trains crashed there was a tremendous shock, which threw the coach at the rear of the express across the track into the rear of the freight train on the next track, and hurled the firebox of the locomotive underneath the coach. The iron sides of the car withstood the impact, and though many passengers were hurt, there was little of the general danger from fire and splintered cars that has marked wrecking of wooden coaches.

Comments on the New Haven management were not especially unfavorable, the most severe being directed a the way in which the medical aid had been given. It was declared that while every doctor near Milford was summoned at once to the accident, the injured were just as quickly piled into two undamaged cars and hauled to Milford, where they were forced to lie without medical attention until the surgeons could get back.

No one seemed to know how the wreck had occurred, but none blamed the railroad directly. The sound of a steam whistle blown for a minute and a half before the two trains net was noted by nearly all the survivors, who were unable to account for the signal except by the fact that the engineer on the freight had had some inkling of the danger threatening the standing express and was trying to warn the approaching local.

Yale Graduates on Express.

The express train was pretty well crowded for yesterday was the mid-year reunion time for all the classes of Yale university, and a great number of graduates were returning to New York by the train which was wrecked.

Among the injured was Morgan J. O'Brien, Jr., of the class of 1911, who was with John R. Kilpartick, Allan A. Corey, and J. Ford Johnson. Mr. O'Brien, who is the son of a former Justice of the New York Supreme Court, was so severely cut about the head that surgeons in Bridgeport took five stitches in his wounds. For all his injuries he smiled when asked about them.

"I certainly have a deep respect for those steel coaches," was his comment as he hurried through the station.

Other graduates who were in the accident were Clement M. Gile of the class of 1914, who was the star pitcher for Yale's championship baseball team in 1913, and Hugh Harbison of the same class, a member of the 1913 football team and the track team. Neither was hurt.

The uninjured passengers were said to have been remarkable calm just after the crash, and many went coolly about the work of rescue, Sister Felicie, an num, after being flung to the floor of her car by the shock, climbed through a broken window and spent the whole afternoon working to relieve the suffering of the injured until she finally returned to New York, worn and weak.

Mr. Gile said that the accident occurred so suddenly he scarcely realized what had happened.

"Harbison and I were sitting together in a coach two or three cars from the rear when suddenly a freight train going slowly past us began the most awful whistling you ever heard," he said. "It kept it up for about a minute, and I had just turned to Harbison to ask him what it all meant, when bang I and we were hit.

Saw Man Rescue Woman.

"I was thrown back against the seat and lost my hat, which, by the way, I did not recover, and then we both jumped up to see what had happened. Even them we didn't believe it was serious until we came out on the platform and saw a man crawling out from the wrecked coach, which was lying right across the tracks. He was moaning and dragging something slowly from the smoking car. As we looked, I go positively sick as I saw the man pulling out an unconscious woman, who was badly cut across the forehead, with a wound that laid her scalp back.

"We both ran back to the car then and tried to help the injured out. Several trainmen came along to help us with axes, but there was no need, as there was no fire, only scalding steam. We walked to Milford, and from there took the trolley for Bridgeport, where we caught the train we ran into the claim agent for the railroad the very first thing, and he offered me $10 for my lost hat, and also for the bump my head got, and for the blood I had got on my clothes.

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