Charleston, SC Train Wreck, Feb 1920
Full responsibility for the head-on collision, February 21, between Southern trains No. 13 and No. 16 in the six-mile yard near Charleston is to be placed upon the crew of No. 13, according to the report of the state railroad commission following a hearing in Charleston by the commission to investigate the cause of the wreck. Train No. 13, in charge of Conductor SPIZIGER and Engineer CONION, was en route from Columbia to Charleston, while No. 16 was just leaving in the opposite direction. Twenty-four passengers and eight railway men were injured in the collision, five of whom were still in the hospital when the hearing was held February 25. All of these were employees of the railroad, Engineer CONION being unable to testify at the hearing on account of injuries.
Train No. 13, according to testimony taken at the hearing, left the union station at Columbia about 20 minutes late on account of minor repairs, while train no. 16 was on time and therefore had the right of way. Orders had been issued, the commission's report says for the two trains to pass on the double track from the Charleston union station and the six-mile crossover. No. 13 was not to go beyond the crossover switch until No. 16 had passed. These orders were produced at the hearing and admitted by Conductor SPIZIGER, Baggagemaster PEACOCK and Flagman SHIRER of No. 13. Engineer CONION was unable to testify.
The report of the commission follows in part:
"From the testimony submitted, the commission found that train No. 13 not only crossed over the six-mile crossover switch and entered the single-track main line but ran 600 feet north of this point. There may have been some excuse for Engineer SULLIVAN of No. 16 not being able to see No. 13 while it was approaching, as he was on the outside of a curve, but there can hardly be any reasonable excuse advanced for the engineer of No. 13 not seeing No. 16 approaching, since he was on the inside of the curve with his view unobstructed for more than 1,000 feet. How Engineer CONION can clarify this situation of course we cannot say, but the wreck occurred at 7:30 o'clock on a clear morning, not even foggy, and with absolutely nothing to obstruct his view.
"The crew of No. 16 was not examined at the hearing as it was found that train No. 16 was on time and could not be blamed for the unfortunate accident.
"There was only one conclusion to be reached in face of orders and testimony given, and that is that the crew of train No. 13 was responsible for the wreck.
"At the time this hearing was held five persons, all employees of the railroad, were in the hospital. It was impossible to see any of the passengers that were injured, but information obtained was that the injuries were of such character that unless some unforeseen development appeared, such injuries would not prove serious. The commission attributes the slight injuries sustained by the passengers to the fact that these were steel coach trains. Had it been other than this kind of equipment, the casualty list would have been much greater.
"As to damage of equipment. One end of one express car was crushed in. Both engines were very much damaged as the trains came together at a speed of 18 or 20 miles per hour. Necessarily this would cause much damage to this kind of equipment, and as a result both engines were left in a very much damaged condition."
The report on the wreck was signed by FRANK W. SHEALY, chairman of the commission.
The (Columbia, SC) State, February 27, 1920