New York City, NY Ferryboat WESTFIELD Explosion, July 1871
She had been seated in the ladies' cabin with her only child, a boy five years old, on her lap. They were both blown into the river by the explosion, and the child, on being rescued, ran home to his uncle, and exclaimed, "Mother's killed!" It was too true; the child escaped unharmed; the mother, in whose lap he was sitting, was wounded mortally.
There on the slabs of the Morgue, with lights around them, and the jets of pure water sprinkling their mangled and scalded bodies, lay thirteen corpses. There was no room for more. Nearest the entrance was a highly respectable young woman, 22 or 23 years of age, with clear cut, handsome features, dressed in black, who had been drowned.
But for the pallor on her face, she might have been thought asleep. A woman lay next to her. The poor woman was so near her confinement that, when her body was brought in, her child was half born. Lying halfway between and half upon these two women was a little child about eighteen months old, fearfully scalded, and with her body distended with sea-water. In the dead-house adjoining and in the court yard were rows and rows of rough pine coffins; some containing those drowned or killed on the spot, others those who had died in the hospitals and who, when stripped of their clothes, presented a sickening spectacle. In this court yard a man appeared with a small bundle in his arms, and said, "Here's another poor little baby." A man sprang forward, crying, "Let me look at it;" he groaned as though his heart would burst, and turning to the hospital man, said; "May I take her away? .. when did she die?" "About five minutes ago," replied the man; "I'm very sorry, but you can't take her away tonight." The poor fellow turned away saying, "Perhaps I'd better not. It might kill her mother in her present state." The mother, too, was terribly scalded.
The fragment of the exploded boiler was inspected by hundreds. It was a piece of iron five feet in length, about two feet in width, and weighed fifty-seven pounds. It had been twisted almost in a cylindrical form, and each edge was rough and uneven, as though a giant had torn it from its place as ordinary strength would tear a rotten fabric. One of the edges had this appearance much more marked than the other, and awakened the awe of the unlearned and experts alike at the tremendous power which had been exerted to rend it from the boiler. This edge is difficult to describe. If the reader has ever torn a cotton fabric, and noticed the ragged edge which he caused, he can form some idea of the appearance of this fragment. And it was the general testimony of the experts who examined it that the boiler had been made of good iron, was in proper condition for service when it exploded, and that the extremely thin part at the seam, which has been mentioned, was not responsible for the disaster, as if the boiler had first given way there, which it was claimed it had not, it would only have leaked, causing some annoyance, but no danger. The inference which these experts seemed to draw, and which some of them distinctly did draw, was that the explosion was due to beglligence, or, in plain words to a lack of water.
One engineer of long experience declared that he is no believer in dispensatioins of Providence in connection with steam boilers. In almost every case, he said, an explosion is due to allowing the water to get too low and suddenly forcing in a new supply, and he believed that such had been the fact in this instance. Engineers, he continued, rarely are brave enough to accept the risk due to their negligence. If they allow the water to get low they will take the chance of forcing in a supply of cold water rather than take the hazard of a discharge by admitting their fault, and insisting on the delary necessary for the boilers to cool.
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