Lackawaxen, NY Train Wreck, Aug 1899


Freight Ran Into a Landslide and Passenger Train Followed.


The Engineer and Fireman Killed and Many Injured – Passengers Hurled Down a Thirty-Foot Embankment – Fire Added a New Peril – Thieves From Port Jervis Loot Baggage and Clothing.

PORT JERVIS, N. Y. (Special). -- The Erie passenger vestibuled train No. 7, for Buffalo and Cleveland, leaving Jersey City at 7:30 o'clock, was wrecked and burned two miles east of Lackawaxen, only two cars escaping the flames. The train consisted of a mail car, express car, cafe car, and three Pullman cars. The wreck occurred during a storm which caused a landslide. An east-bound Erie freight train was first wrecked, and the passenger train plunged into the freight wreck. The engineer and fireman of the passenger train were killed, and fifteen passengers and a number of the crew of both trains were injured. The killed are STEPHEN OATWATER, engineer, and FRANK SELLS, fireman, both of Port Jervis.

The wreck, which occurred shortly before midnight, was preceded by a cloudburst and storm which lasted two hours. A section of the bank fell on the east-bound tracks directly in front of the freight train. Several trees went down with the rocks and the earth, and the freight cars and engine were turned over directly across the west-bound tracks of the Erie Road. Sixty freight cars constituted the train, though only twenty-two were derailed, and the debris was piled up on the westbound tracks just as the No. 7 Buffalo and Cleveland express put in an appearance, running at the rate of fifty miles and hour. The engine of the express train crashed into the wreck, and the baggage and mail car, combination and buffet car, and two Pullman sleepers were piled up on the tracks immediately in front of the wrecked freight cars. The first sleeper was split into two parts as a result of the accident, and the passengers were thrown thirty feet down a bank. Fire at once broke out and four cars of No. 7 and nine of the freight cars were burned.

Baggage Master BECKER, who found himself under the baggage car door, recovered consciousness to discover that he was alone in the heart of the wrecked passenger cars. He managed to crawl from his position only to find a blaze starting in front of him, while half of a car was somehow braced up immediately over him. He called for assistance, but there was no response. Then he saw the passengers who had been hurled down the thirty-foot embankment, endeavoring to extricate themselves from the debris and make their was up the bank. They were clad only in their night clothing, and many of them were bleeding and moaning.

At once the uninjured passengers and members of the crew began a systematic work of rescue. Blankets were brought in from the Pullman cars and wrapped around shivering, hysterical woman and half conscious men. Word was telegraphed to Port Jervis, a relief train was at once arranged for, and Dr. Cuddeback, Dr. Swartout, Dr. Johnson and several trained nurses returned for the purpose of caring for those needing immediate assistance. The relief train soon reached the scene of the accident, and nearly all of the injured persons were removed to the hospital.

Several thieves from Port Jervis, who, it is supposed, reached the scene of the wreck on the relief train, ransacked the clothes of the passengers during the period of excitement. F. VIEU, of New York, lost clothing containing $800 in bills and a gold watch. F. S. KILPATRICK, of Denver, lost $100, a gold watch, a diamond pin and a diamond stud. On the way to the hospital he noticed a man wearing his trousers. Together they went through the pockets, but found the money gone. The man said the trousers had been given him by one of the trainmen, but claimed that the money and valuables must have been taken before he received the present of the clothing.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1899-08-04