Terre Haute, IN Train Collision Kills Many, Sep 1944



Twisted Cars, Baggage And Bodies Line Rail Right of Way.

Terre Haute, Ind., Sept. 14 -- (UP) -- The speeding Dixie Flyer passenger train of the Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad and a northbound mail train collided in a heavy fog early today and the Vigo county coroner said at noon that 29 persons were killed and 40 injured, some critically.
The accident occurred in North Terre Haute, about two miles north of here, piling bodies of soldiers and civilians -- injured, dead and dying -- among tons of twisted railroad cars, baggage, mail and spilled milk cans along the right-of-way.
The office of CARL BAUERMEISTER, chairman of the Red Cross disaster committee, said that all of the dead, except one, and most of the injured persons were soldiers. Further information was withheld at the request of military authorities, the office said.
Railroad officials said that the trains crashed head-on in a heavy fog about 2:30 a.m. They said the single track was protected by automatic safety block signals. The two engines were demolished, two baggage cars and three tourist cars on the 14-car flyer were derailed and the first two cars on the 15-car mail train damaged.
Most of the casualties were soldiers riding in the first three cars of the fast train bound from Chicago to Miami. Some of the soldiers had returned to this country only recently from the fighting in Italy. They had been at Ft. Sheridan, Ill., were enroute to Florida.
The most definite report on the dead and injured came from the offices of the fifth service command at Columbus, Ohio, which announced that at 7 a.m., five hours after the trains collided, the bodies of 20 persons had been carried from the wreckage and 64 others had been removed to the hospitals and improvised first aid stations.
The passenger train struck the north bound mail train at North Terre Haute with such force that the tops of the first car on each train were sheared off when hurled against the locomotives.
Among the known dead was:
LOUIS RAUSCH, 55, fireman of the flier, Evansville.
Engineer FRANK BLAIR, 55, Farmersburg, Ind.
JAMES C. TURNER, 39, Chicago, Negro porter.
T/Sgt. GEORGE HOEKSTRA, 10050 South Racine ave.
T/Sgt. EDWARD C. GILLMAN, 208 Peoria avenue, Dixon, Ill.
Among the known injured are:
Engineer CHARLES ROHLFER, 55, engineer on mail train, Evansville.
The fireman of the mail train escaped by jumping just before the crash.
Reports on the total number of casualties varied, and the names of the soldiers were withheld by military authorities until after next of kin could be notified.


Terre Haute, Ind., Sept. 15 -- (UP) -- A twisted mass of wreckage, still sprinkled with campaign ribbons and the personal effects of army, air force personnel, today marked the spot where 29 persons died in the head-on collision between the Chicago & Eastern Illilnois railroad's luxurious Chicago-Miami express and a northbound mail train north of Terre Haute early yesterday.
Captain WESLEY JONES, army public relations officer on the scene, announced officially that 26 of the dead were army airmen, many of them veterans of 40 to 50 missions in the Italian and European campaigns. Three of the victims were train crewmen.
There were 39 men in the first car of the passenger train, all of whom either were killed or injured, when the flyer crashed into the stationary mail train in a heavy fog. The 36 air forces officers in two other military Pullmans were unhurt and continued to Florida to rest and for reassignment.
Railroad officials reported that 37 persons were injured in the accident and Vigo Country Coroner DENZIL M. FERGUSON set the figure at 65. Hospitals reported that all civilian passengers hurt had been treated for slight injuries and released. One crewman was injured and remained in the hospital.
The first three cars of the passenger train contained army personnel. Some of the men were on furlough and others were enroute to Miami for reassignment.
All of those seriously injured were air force men with the exception of one train crewman. Physicians said that all civilians injured were released from hospitals but the trainman.
Railroad officials said the wreck occurred when the engineer of the Dixie Flyer, FRANK BLAIR, 52, Farmersburg, Ind., apparently failed to see block signals in the heavy fog.
BLAIR and his fireman, LOUIS RAUSCH, 55, Evansville, were killed. RAUSCH was pinned in the wreckage of the engine and his body had to be cut out with blow torches. JAMES C. TURNER, 39, of Chicago, negro porter, was the other crewman killed.
The wreck occurred about five miles north of Terre Haute, approximately one mile from Atherton where the mail train was to await passage of the flyer.

The Vidette-Messenger Valparaiso Indiana 1944-09-14 & 1944-09-15