Eden, CO Train Disaster - First Report, Known Dead - part 2
Five cars were in the train, Two of them miraculously escaped on the brink. The train was westbound, proceeding at a high rate of speed, flying timbers of the bridge breaking the telegraph wires.
The station agent in Pinion, several hours after the disaster, found the train fireman wandering around in a dazed condition seeking the engineer. The agent gave the alarm.
The first relief train with citizens left at 9 p. m., the second going two hours later, carrying CALHER, the local undertaker with it.
A downpour of rain for three days had undermined the bridge supports, which caused the structure to collapse under the heavy train.
The first searchers found Engineer HINMAN seated in the cab under water, with his hand grasping the throttle.
Fireman MAYFIELD said when the engine reached the creek, it reared up and turned to the right before it fell. He escaped in a manner unknown to himself. He could not say whether or not the bridge was gone, before the train reached it.
The accident occurred but half a mile from Fountain Creek, a stream of some importance.
The baggage car and smoker have not yet been found. The chair car lies nearly a mile away, half buried in sand, which doubtless covers many bodies. The express car and locomotive are near the site of the bridge. The safe in the former was found open and empty. So crowded was the train that passengers stood in the aisles of the first coach.
The water which filled Dry Creek was caused by a cloudburst. The creek is nearly waterless this morning.
The exact number of the dead will never be known. There is no record of the number aboard the train, and the swift water carried the corpses of bodies. Three were recovered in the Arkansas river this morning. The body of JAMES SMITH, conductor, was not found. It is not known if his papers will show the number of passengers. The smoker was found four miles down the stream. The trucks were torn off in the fall, which lightened it and caused it to float away.
With the break of day fifty policemen from Pueblo under Chief SHOUP and nearly a hundred anxious friends and relatives were on the ground assisting in dragging the raging torrent for bodies.
The country around here is in a feverish state, and all citizens have joined in an effort to assist in finding the bodies of the dead.
Business is practically suspended in Pueblo. All sorts of conveyances filled with people are hurrying along the wagon road from here to the scene of the wreck, and the entire town seems anxious to be at the scene.
The work of recovering bodies is progressing slowly in spite of willing hands. To add to the general horror, ghouls are at work robbing the dead bodies. A large force of policemen was taken from the work of searching the stream and given orders to shoot any one seen attempting to rob dead bodies.
The wife and five children of EDWARD GARTLAND, manager of the West Side gas house were on the train and undoubtedly perished. MRS. JOHN MOLITER of Thirteenth street, with two children, were on the train and it is believed that they have perished.
Rio Grande officials at 1 o'clock say the loss of life may exceed seventy, other conservative estimates saying it will be eight-six and perhaps run to 130. Identification is slow as the recovered bodies are covered with slime.
The wreck was due entirely to a cloudburst that had come down Dry Creek. A wall of water filled the channel, which, at this point, is 50 feet wide and 15 feet deep, and weakened and undermined the railroad bridge so that when the train passed, rushing along at the rate of forty-seven miles an hour it crashed through the bridge. One of the cars has not yet been found, while another was carried nearly four miles down stream. Banks of the river are still lined on both sides far down the river beyond this city with people anxious to recover bodies, but the work has been necessarily slow. Up to 3 o'clock about 40 bodies have been recovered.
A statement of officials of the D. & R. G., based on a statement of a brakeman who passed through the train at Colorado Springs, says that there were not more than seventy people on the train, but this is believed to be less than within twenty-five of the true number.
The story of the wreck as told by Fireman MAYFIELD is disconnected. He says he was coaling when he felt a jerk, and the next thing he remembered he was struggling in the stream. He managed to crawl to the bank because the engine in falling had listed to the right side. He sat a moment on the bank dazed by the suddenness of the shock. He then hurried to Eden, where the news was wired to Pueblo and relief and wrecking trains were immediately sent out. Passengers of the first wrecking train tell a pitiful story of the sight that met their eyes when first they reached the spot at which the disaster occurred. Huddled in a group were half a dozen passengers more or less badly injured trying to make themselves comfortable by building fires out of the wreckage of the cars. No attempt could be made at any rescue work. There was no way to reach the doomed passengers. Their dying shrieks filled the air and made the night hideous. Two hours after the trestle had given way the water had gone down but two feet, although today the creek bed is practically dry. The scenes are pitiful at the wreck, where stricken parents, brothers, sweethearts, husbands and wives search in vain for loved ones.
EDEN, Colo., Aug. 9. --- Gradually the list of victime [sic] of Sunday night's disaster is becoming more definite. At noon today a careful compilation of the figures shows the number to be just one hundred. Of the identified dead there are 63, of unidentified 6 and reported missing 28, making a total of a hundred lives.
Of those who were hurled into the gulf of water only four saved themselves. The exact number of dead will probably never be known, as it will be impossible to tell positively just the number of passengers on board the ill-fated train.
PUEBLO, Aug. 9. --- This city is traped [sic] in gloom. Over sixty-five representative citizens were hurled to death in the Rio Grande wreck of Sunday. Nearly all the business houses are close, and slowly the bodies are being taken from their temporary resting places at the morgues to their homes. The city is crowded with mourners as well as by hundreds of the morbidly curious, and every train which arrives here is filled with passengers from Denver and Colorado Springs.
PUEBLO, Colo., Aug. 9. --- A rigid investigation has already begun on facts and conditions which made possible the frightful wreck. Coroner A. L. FUGARD has already begun an inquest with the following jury: C. R. ROBINSON, A. B. ALLEN, J. R. MILHOOVER, J. N. COLLINS, D. H. SPURGEON and JOHN McCONNELL. The jury left for the scene of the wrecq [sic] at 10 o'clock and proposes making a thorough investigation into the cause of the trouble.
PUEBLO, Colo., Aug. 9. --- The body of a surpassingly beautiful woman was taken from the Arkansas river at Vivian, twenty-two miles below the scene of the accident. All the woman's clothes were torn from her body in the long journey down the swift running stream, and when found she had nothing on but a single glove. There is scarcely anything by which she can be identified by except her beauty, which is of a remarkable and delicate type. Although her clothing was torn from the body, she had suffered practically no bruises, and her body was white and glistening from the water as though she still lived. Mud and sand so covered and was so clotted in her hair that it was impossible to tell the color of it.
The body of an unknown man was also brought in, but it was so mutilated that it is doubtful whether it will ever be identified.
F. M. JONES, the station agent at Eden, who was the first one to go to the aid of the stricken people on the train, gives the following version of the accident:
â€œI was sitting in my office, a distance of a mile from the scene of the wreck, when suddenly a loud noise, followed by a series of lesser reports startled me. I had heard of No. 11 passing Pinion from the operator there, and at this time she was overdue more than six minutes, and unusual thing for the train is a 'flyer.' Becoming thoroughly alarmed I seized my lantern and ran up the track to the place where the bridge should have been. The faint rays of my lantern threw just enough light for me to distinguish three cars, but between them and myself there was a chasm fully 50 feet wide, through which roared the torrent almost level with the ground on which I stood. Opposite me I could make out the outlines of the three cars, but the other four that usually make up No. 11 were nowhere in sight. I started across the mesa in the direction of the river, which was high and making much noise. After walking about half a mile I saw the brink of a dark object. It was almost stationary in the middle of the stream, with one end swinging toward the left bank. I slipped off my clothes and plunged in, swimming in the direction in which I had come, as I knew the strong current would carry me down stream. By proceeding in this course I managed to get to the object, which proved to be the chair car, half on its side and held in position by an arm of land extending into the stream, probably about fifteen feet. The roof of the car was gone, and inside there was not a soul to be found.
Durango Wage Earner Colorado 1904-08-11