Cleveland, OH Water Works Tunnel Explosion, July 1898


Ten More Lives Lost in Constructing Water Works Tunnel.

Explosion of Gas the Cause--- Immense Difficulty Surrounds the Work and Men are Constantly in Danger.

Cleveland, Ohio, July 11.- The lives of ten men were snuffed out in the twinkling of an eye this evening in the big water works tunnel that is being constructed until the bottom of lake Erie, as a result of an explosion of gas. The following are the names of the killed:

JOHN PARKS, foreman, 32 years old and single.
JOHN FRADEY, Italian, 22 years old and single.
TONY BRUNETTI, Italian, 22 years old, single.
JOHN -------, Italian, 18 years old, single.
EMERSON SMITH, brick layer, 44 years old, married.
JOHN MCCAULEY, 21 years old, married.
WILLIAM TUCKER, colored, 26 years old, single.
GUS WATTS, 25 years old, wife and several children.
FRANK CLEMENTS, married, several children.

The tunnel is an immense affair, being projected to extend outwards from the shore four and a half miles. It has been under construction for more than a year. The work is attened [sic] with great difficulty. About six weeks ago there was an explosion of gas in the shore end of the big hole which killed eight men and injured a number of others. Soon afterwards a large pocket of quicksand was struck and work stopped for some time.

The work was finally resumed and progressed uneventfully until this evening when the latest and most horrible accident came.

The explosion occurred a few minutes before 7 o’clock this evening. It is not known how it happened for every witness is dead and the bodies are lying where they fell 6,000 feet out under the lake. The only man in the tunnel who escaped death is Con O’Donnell, the lock tender, who was stationed 3,700 feet from shore. He says there were ten explosions, the concussion being something terrible, for it threw him off his feet and for hours he was in such a dazed condition he could scarcely remember what happened. He finally groped his way out. Patrick Varner and Martin McCauley ventured in the tunnel after the accident occurred. They made their way to a lock 5,200 from shore, but they were overcome by gas and fell to the floor. When they failed to return a young man named James Clements, son of one of the men who was killed, who is employed as a mule driver, went to their rescue. He found them almost unconscious lying over a mule cart and succeeded in helping them to a well at the shore end of the tunnel. The would-be rescuers say that all lights are but beyond the 5,000-foot lock and that they could not get any further.

Fort Wayne Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN 12 Jul 1898