Elizabeth, NJ Train Plunges Off Drawbridge, Sept 1958

Train Dives Into Bay; At Least 15 Killed

2 Diesels, 2 Coaches In Water


BAYONNE, N. J. (UPI) – A communter[sic] train plunged off an open drawbridge 50 feet into Newark Bay today and the Coast Guard reported at least 15 persons aboard had been killed.
Two locomotives and two passenger cars of the train fell into the bay, at least 35 feet deep.
One other passenger car dangled from the trestle and two others remained on the track, a spokesman for the Jersey Central Railroad said.
Coast Guard and police boats converged swiftly on the scene to attempt rescues. The Jersey City police said they had received an emergency call for skin divers and equipment.

Nine Rescued
Nine injured were rescued shortly after the accident and taken to Bayonne Hospital. One of them subsequently died.
The railroad said the train usually carried about 90 or 100 passengers at that hour although the five cars had a capacity of about 375.
The accident occurred at 10:13 a. m. That was some time after the usual morning commuter rush.
The train originated at Bay Head, N. J., about 60 miles south of New York at 8:28 a. m. It had stopped at Elizabeth at 9:57 and was en route to Jersey City.
Authorities said it probably was more than usually filled bringing back from the Jersey Shore persons who had spent the weekend at beach spots to the south.

Boat Passes
The drawbridge is a wooden one on a mile-long trestle. It had been raised to permit a boat to pass through when the passenger train sped off the tracks and into the water.
The two locomotives were diesels.
EDWARD McCARTHY, who owns the Elco Marina boating dock in Bayonne, was at dockside when he saw steam gushing from the water beneath the bridge.
McCARTHY immediately put out in a small boat. In three trips, he brought back three bodies and nine survivors.
THOMAS MESSINA, a brewery truck driver also at the scene, said the first two passenger coaches appeared to be completely submerged.

Tanker Rescues Some
MESSINA said an oil tanker had been approaching to cross under the bridge, but that it had passed through when the train fell into the water. The tanker immediately put down its launches and began taking aboard survivors.
Small boats from throughout the busy New York harbor flocked to the scene. Four tugs of the Moran Co., usually engaged in towing ocean liners to piers, were on the scene.
Two New York City fireboats and three police department launches sped to the scene.
Every available ambulance in Bayonne and Jersey City was summoned.
A railroad spokesman said the tracks on the bridge are fitted with a precautionary device which is supposed automatically to halt trains when the draw bridge is open.

Helicopters Overhead
Helicopters from Floyd Bennett Field also hovered above the scene to help if they could in rescues.
The entire drawbridge lifts vertically about 50 feet above the tracks so that a long gap is left in the tracks.
New York Fire Commissioner EDWARD F. CAVANAUGH, JR., went to the wreck scene to determine whether additional city equipment was needed.
Passengers on the train include commuters who live in New Jersey and work in New York.
A railroad spokesman said that if the signal system was working, the engineer should have seen the “bridge up” sign and stopped the train. It appeared that safeguard as well as the automatic halting device both failed.
A temporary morgue was set up at the city's garage in Bayonne.
The Bayonne Hospital reported that it had treated 20 survivors. Eleven were admitted and the other nine were released after treatment.

Syracuse Herald Journal New York 1958-09-15

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