Brooklyn, NY Malbone Street Transit Train Tunnel Wreck, Nov 1918
SCORES KILLED, MANY HURT ON B.R.T.
First Car Crashes Into Tunnel Pier and Other Cars Grind It to Splinters.
INJURED MAY REACH 100.
Dispatcher, as Strike Motorman, Sends Crowded Train to Doom at 70 Miles an Hour.
TO ARREST B.R.T. OFFICIALS.
Rescue Hindered by Jam of Debris In Narrow Tunnel -- Hardly a Soul Escapes from First Car.
A Brighton Beach Train of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company, made up of five wooden cars of the oldest type in use, which was speeding with a rush hour crowd to make up lost time on its way from Park Row to Coney Island, jumped the track shortly before 7 o'clock last evening on a sharp curve approaching the tunnel at Malbone Street, in Brooklyn, and plunged into a concrete partition between the north and south bound tracks.
Nearly every man, women, and child in the first car was killed, and most of those in the second were killed or badly injured. Rescue work in the wreckage, jammed into the narrow tunnel, was extremely difficult, and the counting of the dead proceeded slowly. At 11 o'clock eighty-five bodies had been taken from the wreckage, and the police announced that no more bodies were in the tunnel. The names of many of the injured were not obtained, but the police estimate that at least 100 had been injured.
District Attorney LEWIS announced at midnight that the train was being run by a train dispatcher. This man had been pressed into service in the rush hour because of the strike of motormen, which began in the early morning. At 2 o'clock this morning, as a result of the wreck, the motormen called off the strike, leaving the adjustments of their grievances to the Public Service Commission. The District Attorney ordered all the officials of the B.R.T. who could have been responsible, and members of the train crew put under arrest. He said the B.R.T. officials had withheld the name of the man who was operating the train.
Mayor HYLAN arrived at the Snyder Avenue Police Station shortly after midnight and consulted with District Attorney LEWIS and Commissioner ENRIGHT as to what steps should be taken in ordering the arrest of the officials of the B.R.T.
Just before one o'clock this morning, the missing motorman, ANTHONY LEWIS, who is 20 years old, was arrested at his home, 100 Thirty-third Street, Brooklyn, by Detectives McCORD and CONROY, and brought to the Snyder Avenue station, where he was immediately taken into a room to be questioned by the District Attorney, Mayor HYLAN and the Police Commissioner.
After Motorman LEWIS had been escorted to the Snyder Avenue Station and questioned, it was stated that his story indicated criminal negligence in hiring him to run the train. Mayor HYLAN said:
"This man confessed that he had never run a train over that Brighton Beach line before. He also admitted that when running around that curve, he was making a speed of thirty miles an hour."
A post on the curve warns motormen not to go faster than six miles an hour in this part of the road. When he was asked at the examination why he had taken a job for this he was unfitted, Motorman LEWIS replied: "A man has to earn a living." He said that the only experience he had had in running a motor was in switching about a year ago, but that he had been taking instruction for two days on the B.R.T. before running the train yesterday.
On the way to Flatbush the motorman said he had no intention of running away. He said he remembered nothing until he found himself at home, following the accident. He does not know how he managed to get out of the wreck, nor how he got home. He says he has an indistinct recollection of having boarded a trolley car but cannot remember what car it was. He was seated in a chair, pale as death, when the detectives reached his home. He was very nervous and seemed to be on the verge of a collapse.
After the conference with District Attorney LEWIS at the Snyder Avenue Police Station, Mayor HYLAN said:
I have ordered Police Commissioner ENRIGHT to station policemen at every terminal and carbarn from which trains leave, with instructions not to permit any green motormen to take out a train. No man will be permitted to run a train, unless he has had at least three months experience."
Mayor HYLAN said that he did not wish to discuss the legal and possible criminal phases of the accident until he had completed his investigation.
District Attorney LEWIS, after his conference with Mayor HYLAN said:
I have ordered Colonel TIMOTHY S. WILLIAMS, the president of the B.R.T. and Vice President JOHN J. DEMPSEY to appear at my office today and give me an explanation of LEWIS'S running the train".
A few minutes before the accident the motorman missed a switch, according to passengers, went some distance on a wrong track and then backed up and switched again to the Brighton Beach line for Coney Island. After that the train moved at such high speed as to frighten many passengers. Some thought the motorman had lost control of the train, and others supposed he was going at unprecedented speed to make up for time he had lost. A naval officer who was a passenger said the train was making fully seventy miles an hour when it left the track.