Huntersville, NC Train Wreck, Jul 1917


Fireman ERNEST A. KESTLER and J. E. WALKER, Colored Passenger, Instantly Killed-Investigation Leads to Belief That Train Was Wrecked on Purpose-Coroner HOVIS Will Hold Investigation Today-Engineer J. C. LANYOUX and WALTER E. SLOAN Painfully Injured, but Will Recover-Train Was Not Running Fast.

Fireman ERNEST A. KESTLER, of Barber, and J. E. WALKER, colored, of Charlotte, were both instantly killed when train No. 26, running between Charlotte and Winston-Salem was derailed at a curve, one and one-half miles north of Huntersville on the A. T. & O. railroad, at 5:05 o'clock Tuesday morning. The train turned over down a fifteen foot embankment. The finding of railroad tools, stolen from the tool house of the section master of the road at Huntersville, and the rail connections unbolted, with the spikes pulled up from the ties for ten feet from the connection and the rail prized out from the track, are almost convincing evidences that the wreck was purposely caused. Coroner Z. A. Hovis has decided to hold an inquest this morning, when the cause of the wreck will be further investigated. He visited the scene of the wreck Tuesday.

Engineer J. C. Lanyoux, of 315 North Graham street and Walter E. Sloan, of Statesville, were painfully though not seriously injured. Engineer LANYOUX and Mr. SLOAN were brought to Charlotte by DR. L. W. Hunter, of Huntersville, Tuesday morning immediately after the wreck, and taken to the Presbyterian hospital, where an examination showed that Engineer LANYOUX was scalded about the chest, and back, and on the right arm and leg. It appears that MR. LANYOUX was also struck in the side, being bruised considerably. MR. SLOAN suffered a sprained back and several cuts about the shoulder and face. Late Tuesday night they were said to be resting comfortably. Neither one is considered very seriously injured.

Several Passengers Injured.

Others less seriously injured were: Mail Clerk J. S. SHOAF, Mooresville, bruised and shocked; DR. ADAM FISHER, Charlotte, cut over shoulder; ARTHUR G. BANKS, colored, Charlotte; WASHINGTON ORR, colored, Charlotte; T. J. HEAD, colored, Mooresville; HENRY J. FREDERICK, colored, Charlotte: S. L. SPRINGS, colored, Charlotte; HENRY HOUSTON, colored, Charlotte; JAMES SHEPARD, colored, Charlotte; BABE ROSS, colored, Waynesville; CATO THOMAS, colored, Charlotte; KATE ALEXANDER; ROBERT WATSON, colored, Charlotte; THOMAS SMITH, colored, Charlotte; COL. S. C. L. A. TAYLOR; H. M. JOHNSON, colored, Paw Creek.

Those suffering minor injuries were taken in automobiles to Huntersville and Davidson, coming later to Charlotte.

The bodies of Firemen KESTLER and J. E. WALKER were brought to Charlotte in an automobile by WATT CROSS, of Huntersville. Fireman KESTLER's body was taken to the Z. A. HOVIS & SON undertaking establishment. It was sent to the home of his mother in Barber Tuesday evening. WALKER's body was taken to COLE's undertaking establishment.

Only Three White Passengers.

There were only three white passengers aboard, and about fifteen negroes. The white passengers were MRS. ESTHER HORNE, of Knoxville, Tenn., DR. ADAM FISHER, of Charlotte, and WALTER E. SLOAN, of the Comptometer company, of this city, but a resident of Statesville. The train was in charge of Conductor J. W. FRAZIER, of Charlotte. He was uninjured.

First aid was rendered to those injured by DR. ADAM FISHER. According to ENGINEER LANYOUX, DOCTOR FISHER did "wonderful work." MRS. HORNE is said to have displayed rare presence of mind, in that when the train had turned over down the embankment, she immediately, upon finding herself uninjured, turned off the gas lights, in the coach, saying that there was danger of the car burning up. She then, with the aid of DOCTOR FISHER, lifted MR. SLOAN, who they found injured, out of the car, placing him on the ground, where DOCTOR FISHER attended to his injuries.

Within a few minutes after the wreck occurred there were a large number of farmers living in that section of the country, at the scene, aiding the injured. Several farmers went to Huntersville and Davidson for medical help, while others looked after the injured.

It was necessary to take crow bars and prize broken parts of the engine off FIREMAN KESTLER, his body being fastened under the left side of the cab, of the engine. His head and shoulders were badly crushed.

A large ditch had to dug under the center of the coach in order to reach WALKER. According to negro passengers WALKER was asleep with his head laying on his arm in the window. It is thought that when the train turned over, the negro slid out of the window. His head was caught in the cornice of the top of the coach. He head and body were badly crushed.

Mail Clerk SHOAF was thought at first to be dead. Rescuers breaking into the mail car to search for him, however, found the mail clerk endeavoring to break out himself. He suffered a few minor injuries.

Place of Wreck.

At the place of the wreck there is an embankment about fifteen feet high, with a slight curve to the left.

The inner rails of the curve were disconnected, the train going off on the left side of the track and the inner side of the curve.

According to ENGINEER LANYOUX, the train was going about twenty-five miles an hour, rounding the curve, when he felt the wheels of the engine bumping on the crossties. Suddenly the engine seemed to be swerving to the left. Realizing he said that the engine was turning over, he placed his hat over his face, to keep steam from scalding him. He doesn't know whether he was thrown out of the cab, or whether he crawled out the cab window. He remembers falling against his fireman as the engine went down the embankment.

As soon as he could regain his strength, he looked about to see where his fireman was, he said. He found him pinned under the left side of the engine, with the throttle of the engine pinned tight across his breast, and a broken section across his head.

ENGINEER LANYOUX was given assistance by DR. FISHER and others reaching the scene. After viewing the result of the wreck he walked across a field to the main highway, about two hundred feet, where he was assisted into an automobile.

MR. SLOAN said that he was lying on the rear seat of the first-class coach, endeavoring to go to sleep. The first he realized that something was wrong was when he found himself sliding from his seat. He was thrown against the top of the coach, he said.

Was Not Going Fast.

The train was composed of two passenger coaches and the baggage car. From the appearance of the train, following the wreck, it could not have been going at a very fast rate of speed. For it seems that the engine wheels rolled along on the crossties for about 150 feet, after it had left the track. The engine was turned upside down. The tender and baggage car and first coach were turned over on the left side. The last coach was upside down.

The engine was badly wrecked, the cab being practically demolished, and sections on top of the boiler destroyed. Mud covered the engine, the result of steam rushing out from the bursted boiler. The three wooden coaches were not wrecked. The glass in the window panes on the upper side of the coaches was not broken, except three panes, which were smashed by persons endeavoring to help the injured out of the cars.

An inspection of the rails after the wreck left every indication, according to railway men, of having been disconnected by parties with the intent of wrecking the train.

Spikes were found pulled out for about ten feet along the disconnected rail. The bolts holding the rails together had been unscrewed and one rail prized out from the track. An investigation of the field surrounding the scene of the wreck was made and the searchers found a railroad wrench and a crow bar. It was reported that the section master of Huntersville had found the lock broken to the tool house in Huntersville and a wrench and crow bar stolen.

Much indignation was expressed by people viewing the wreck during Tuesday at the seemingly criminal act on the part of unknown parties. People living in and near Huntersville were of the opinion, during the excitement resulting from the mishap, that it was the work of German sympathizers. However, many were of changed opinions when the excitement had abated.

Thousands View Wreck.

Thousands of people from Charlotte, Huntersville, Davidson and Statesville went to the scene of the wreck during Tuesday, many taking their lunches and spending a large part of the day watching the train crews repairing the broken rails. It will be several days, railway men said, before the wrecked train can be removed. However, the tracks were cleared within four hours following the wreck, so that the regular trains were not delayed.

FIREMAN KESTLER, who was killed, is twenty-six years old and survived by his mother, two brothers and one sister, all of Barber's Junction. The body was sent to the home of his mother Tuesday night, where the funeral will probably be held today, arrangements not being made Tuesday.

J. E. WALKER, the negro who was killed, was a school teacher and had just returned from Des Moines, Iowa, where he stood the examination for entrance into the officers training camp for negro men. He passed the examination but failed physically, his eyes being defective. He was for five years head of the printing department of Straight university, colored, of New Orleans, La. He is survived by his mother and two sisters.

An investigation of the cause of the wreck is being made by railway officials, they being confident that it was wilfully caused by unknown parties. CORONER HOVIS will hold an inquest in Huntersville this morning.

The wreck of Tuesday is the second on that road resulting fatally within the last three years. Three years ago, ENGINEER JONAS CURLEE, of Charlotte, and his fireman were killed when their train left the track near Davidson. The wreck was caused by some boys placing railroad spikes on the track.

The Charlotte Observer, Charlotte, NC 18 Jul 1917