Jersey City, NJ Towboat UNIT Boiler Explosion, Dec 1867


A Steam Towboat Blown to Pieces--One Man Killed and Three Injured.

A boiler explosion occurred early yesterday morning on board the steam towboat Unit, while lying at the Scranton coal dock in Jersey City, resulting in the destruction of the boat, the killing of one man, and injury to three others. At the time of the accident there were four persons on board, viz.; JOHN DURNING, engineer; JOSEPH HANDY, steward; SAMUEL BRITTON, fireman, and HUGH BOND, deck hand, all of whom were asleep at the time in the forecastle except BRITTON, who was killed.

It appears that the Captain, W. R. LOVELAND, on leaving for home the night previous, gave directions to BRITTON, to have steam up at 5:30 o'clock in the morning. About 4 o'clock yesterday morning BRITTON was roused up by the steward, and he at once went to work to get up steam; and while doing so, in response to a question of the engineer, he stated that there was plenty of water in the boiler. The next known by DURNING, BOND and HANDY, they found themselves struggling in the water, but managed to reach the dock and save themselves by climbing up the piles. The entire upper part of the boat was shattered and blown in all directions, and the hull immediately sank, with the exception of the bow, which was held up by the line attached to the dock. Upon search being made for BRITTON, his mutilated remains were found upon a coal-heap some 200 feet distant, with life extinct. The deceased was a single man, 22 years of age, and resided in Trenton. DURNING, who was badly burned about the upper part of the body, and received a severe scalp wound, was conveyed to the New York Hospital. BOND and HANDY were scalded about the head and face, but not badly as to prevent their being about. The Unit was owned by Messrs, C. & E. J. PETERSON & Co., of No. 53 South street, New York, and their loss will probably amount to $6,000 or $8,000. The steam-drum situated over the boiler, and weighing some 600 pounds, was blown into FOGG's wood-yard, about 800 yards distant. The boiler is an upright marine boiler, 13 feet long, 5½ feet shell, 6 feet front, and was manufactured by NAFEY & LEAVEY, of Philadelphia, in 1862. It is stated that the safety-valve was out of order, the boiler very defective, and that a hole was blown through it a few days since, which was repaired by the engineer. Coroner WARREN will commence an investigation on Saturday.

The upper deck of the tugboat Monitor, which was lying alongside of the Unit, was badly damaged, and the force of the concussion caused the hull to spring a leak, and the pumps were kept at work to prevent her from sinking.

The New York Times, New York, NY 20 Dec 1867