Pittsburgh, PA Wabash Bridge Collapse, Oct 1903


Fatalities Attend Collapse of New Structure at Pittsburg.

Eye-Witness Tells a Story of Shocking Casualty Above the Monongahela River -- Steamboat to the Rescue.

Pittsburg, Pa. -- By the breaking of the ropes carrying five beams to their position, letting tons of iron fall upon the movable crane at the Pittsburg end of the new Wabash bridge being built by the American Bridge Company over the Monongahela River, almost a dozen workmen were hurled to death by a fall of more than 100 feet, striking the water and two barges beneath.

Eight of the dead have been recovered. Five are seriously injured. Several bodies are yet pinned under the wrecked barge. The part of the bridge extending out over the river from the Water street side is a total wreck. The dead follow:
WILLIAM C. FLEMING, forty-five years old, married, with three children;
GEORGE WELLS, aged thirty years, of Herron Hill;
W. JAMES McLOUD, of Espien;
JAMES CAMPBELL, Philadelphia;
G. WILLIAM KITLINGER, of Sheraden, married;
FRANK DALBY, of New Castle;

The Injured:
ADOLPH VOSBURG, of Duquesne; fractures below left elbow and of left femur.
FRANK HOOVER, Allegheny; injured internally; recovery doubtful.
WILLIAM JAY, aged twenty-six, of Beaver Falls; bruised, not dangerously hurt.
A. J. FOWLER, aged twenty-eight, of Paterson, N.J.; left foot crushed; amputation may be necessary.
EARL CRIDER, Allegheny; hurt about the head.

The bridge is of the cantilever pattern, and is building from both sides of the river toward the center by means of overhead travelers.

The men had been at work on the Pittsburg end but a short time, when suddenly the traveler which projected beyond the finished part of the bridge dropped and fell, landing on a section of the bridge which was being placed in position. So unexpected and sudden was the crash that few of the workmen on the wrecked section were warned in time to escape.

The falling bridge landed on top of a barge load of steel anchored at the pier, and several of the workmen there were carried down.

John McTighe, a cousin of the Superintendent of Police and a blacksmith's helper employed at the city machine shop, happened to be on the Monongahela wharf, watching the men at work when the accident occurred. McTighe, in giving a description of the accident, said:
"The men were preparing to ram in one of the pins on the bridge when the accident took place. Before I knew what had happened I saw the entire top of the 'traveler' collapse and the next minute the men were falling through the air."

"It was a terrible sight. The men turned over and over as they fell, and their bodies looked like so many flies."

"One of the men who fell from the top of the structure alighted on his head on the barge and rebounded several feet, falling into the water. His crushed body was taken out later."

"One man was at work some distance above the barge, having hold of one of the ropes which was used in hoisting. He managed to escape and I saw him about the place later."

"When the 'traveler' snapped the hoisting engineer realized what had taken place. He opened the whistle of his engine and blew a loud warning. This continued until the breaking sections of the bridge threw his steam pipes out of gear."

Near the new bridge was the United States snagboat E. A. Woodruff, whose crew with their skiffs soon had recovered four bodies, most of them badly crushed. Another victim was rescued alive, but succumbed to his injuries before he reached the shore.

The towboat John D. Watson came across the river from the opposite bank and joined the work of rescue. It succedeed[sic] in taking two mangled bodies from the river.

A dozen skiffs along the bank took two bodies from the steel-laden barge, while five men, more or less crushed, were taken to the shore.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1903-10-23


Wabash Bridge Disaster

My great grand uncle was Frank Hoover - who survived the injuries he received when the Wabash Bridge collapsed, only to die of smallpox a year later. His obituary, published in the Citizen's Press, Franklin, Pa - Feb. 25, 1904 - mentions a lawsuit and that he had expected to receive $20,000 in compensation. I've not been able to find anything else about this. Does anyone know if there were lawsuits and the outcomes? Thank you. P. Harry

History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania 1889 Read it online

Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania : personal and genealogical, with portraits Read it online

History of Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania 1886 Read it online

Allegheny County : a sesqui-centennial review 1938 Read it online

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