New York City (Queens), NY Footbridge Collapses, Jan 1894



It Was a Temporary Wooden Structure, at the Foot of Mecker Avenue, and Gave Way Under the Strain of a Crowd of Workmen. It Is Feared That Several Were Drowned.

The new iron bridge over Newton creek at Meeker avenue was the scene of an accident last night which created more excitement on the Queens county side of the creek than did the late Berlin accident on the Long Island railroad. The scene of the two accidents is withing a stone's throw. About 6 o'clock the employes of G. H. NICHOL'S chemical works, the Queens county oil works and HABERMAN'S tin factory on the Queens county side, assembled at the entrance to the bridge on their way to their homes in Williamsburgh from work. There are two draws in the bridge.
The draw on the Kings county side was open for the purpose of allowing several tugboats belonging to the Newton Creek Towing company to pass. One of these was the tugboat Cloud. The workmen, with their dinner pails in their hands, crowded on the Queens county draw bridge, awaiting the opening of the gate to pass over the temporary structure, which has been erected pending the completion of the new iron bridge.
Suddenly sixty men and boys rushed out on the bridge. They had scarcely gone thirty feet from the Queens county side when the structure gave way and every one was thrown headlong into the creek.
The water at this point is about nine feet deep. Those on the shore who saw the accident screamed and called to the captains of the towboats to come to the rescue of those who were struggling in the water.
Planks were thrown out from the Queens county side and the crews of the boats jumped into the creek and saved many of those who could not swim.
At a late hour to-night there were three men reported missing and three more were in hospitals. Those reported missing are:
GEORGE MILLS of Meeker and Kingston avenues, Williamsburg.
MICHAEL SMITH of Meeker avenue.
PATRICK BRIORDY of Meeker avenue.
The injured are:
TIMOTHY CANNON of 108 Eckford street, Greenpoint, perforated leg. Taken to St. John's hospital, Long Island City.
JOHN TORNEY and JOHN McAVOY of Williamsburgh, bruised begs and contusions of scalp. Taken to St. Catharine's hospital, Williamsburgh.
A score or more of others were slightly injured, and after being dragged from the water were taken to their homes or were able to walk there. Of these no accurate list can be obtained.
THOMAS CAVANAUGH of 146 Driggs avenue, Brooklyn, was almost drowned. He was taken to Toner's hotel, near Calvary cemetery, where he told the following story of the accident:
"The responsibility for the accident," he said, "is equally divided between the people themselves and Bridge Keepers FLAHERTY, RIPPER and HICKEY. The people crowded each other to go on the bridge and the bridge keepers were foolish enough to open the gates and let them pass through. Fortunately, there were no women in the crowd. If there had been most of them would have been drowned. There are a number of women employed in HABERMAN'S tin factory, but they had left the place about an hour before. The only thing I can remember about the breaking of the bridge is that when I stepped out on it it fell asunder and I fell with it into the water. Then the real struggle commenced for the possession of a plank which some one threw into the water to us. Five of us clung to the plank, and no sooner would we get on top than the cothers would draw us underneath. Finally I was pulled ashore by a fellow workman, named PATRICK DUFFY, who, in his efforts to save me, cut both his legs badly."
MICHAEL J. AHEARN of 172 Meeker avenue, one of the rescued men, said that the tugboats gave no assistance whatever. He said that but for the timely arrival of men who were employed in Calvary cemetery, a score of more of men would have lost their lives.
A patrol wagon from the Williamsburgh station and two ambulances, one from St. Catharine's hospital in Brooklyn, and the other from St. John's hospital in Long Island City, arrived soon after the men were taken out of the water.
Then they went to Toner's hotel where they built a roaring fire, and sent to their friends for a supply of dry clothing.
The bridge where the accident occurred is about two hundred and fifty feet from one side of the creek to the other. The draw, which gave away, was 53 feet long.
There are six bridge keepers detailed for duty there, three during the day and three at night. Those on duty at the time of the accident were DANIEL HICKEY, JOHN FLAHERTY and WILLIAM RIPPER. HICKEY says that he repeatedly cautioned the men not to crowd each other on the draw, but it was of no use.
That part of the draw which broke down, HICKEY says, is only four and a half feet wide, yet the men used to crowd each other three abreast in their hurry to get home when there day's work was done.
HICKEY says that he does not think any of those reported missing were drowned. He thinks they were taken care of by friends until their clothes were dried.
Among the first to run to the scene of the disaster was ANNIE FOLEY, the 20 year old daughter of OWEN FOLEY. She secured a rope, hastened on the bridge and threw it to the drowning people. She succeeded in rescuing three people.
In addition to those reported missing are the following, all residents of Williamsburgh:
JOHN KERWIN, single, of 374 Lorimer street.
HUGH MARKEY, married, Van Pelt avenue, near North Henry street.
BERNARD BOYLE, single, 54 Herbert street.
AUGUST BLUM, married, 199 Hewes street.
PATRICK KELLY, 151 Meeker avenue.
NICHOLAS LOGAN, Nassau avenue, near Meeker.
It is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 persons collected on the two sides of the creek.
Sergeant COLEMAN, who reached the scene first of the police, thinks that not less than seven or eight persons lost their lives.
Beside those taken to the hospitals, as above stated, ANDREW BURNS of North Sixth street, JOHN KELLY of Driggs avenue and L. DREXEL, were removed from the water in a bruised and lacerated condition.
Steps to investigate whose carelessness caused the disaster will be immediately taken.
The penny bridge, as it has long been called, is under the general supervision of a bridge tender employed in common by the authorities of Kings and Queens counties, which it connects. For many years there have been annual discussions in the board of supervisors in the two counties concerning their respective rights regarding its management and maintenance.

Brooklyn Eagle New York 1894-01-13



It Is Feared They Were Drowned In the Newtown Creek Disaster.

Of the three score or more of workmen precipitated into Newtown creek shortly after 6 o'clock last evening by the sudden collapse of the temporary Meeker avenue foot bridge, eight persons are still missing to-day.
They are:
AUGUST BLOUM, 199 Howes street.
PATRICK BRIORDY, aged 30 years, single, resides at the corner of Meeker avenue and North Henry street.
BARNEY BOYLE, age 21 years, single, 54 Herbert street.
MICHAEL CONCANNON, age 31 years, 108 Newell street.
JOHN KERWIN, 374 Lorimer street.
WILLIAM MARTIN, 48 years old, single, 197 Driggs street.
HUGH MARKEY, married, Van Pelt avenue, near North Henry street.
CHARLES B. McGRUDER, widower, with three children, 184 Leonard street.
The bodies of the above unfortunates are generally believed to be wedged in the muddy bottom ot the oily creek.
To-day mothers, fathers and brothers are making anxious inquiries for missing ones around the scene of the ill fated draw.
Hundreds of curious and idle perople are congregated on either side of the creek. The frail wooden portion of the draw that gave way and was carried into the creek with its load of human freight, was tied to some piles to-day to prevent the structure from floating down the creek.
Men in rowboats hovered over the scene all the morning, dragging the bottom of the creek with grappling irons in the hopes of finding some of the bodies, but up to noon had met with no success.
B. NAFIS, the chief clerk of the Nicholas Chemical works said to-day that MARTAIN, BRIORDY, MARKEY and McGRUDER were all employes of the works. MR. NAFIS said that none of the four missing men was at his post of duty to-day, and he was of the belief that their bodies were at the bottom of the creek.

Brooklyn Eagle New York 1894-01-13