Celilo, OR Train Wreck, Dec 1921
Special Train Is Rushed.
A special train was then rushed to the wreck from The Dalles, where the injured were cared for until the hospital car was put in readiness. The special, carrying 11 of the more seriously wounded, then proceeded to Portland. The hospital train was met at Stevenson, Wash., by another corps of surgeons and nurses under the leadership of Dr. Donald H. Jessop, chief surgeon for the railroad company. Other surgeons included Dr. Curtis Holcomb, Edward Kane and M.K. Hall.
The arrival of the train in Portland was delayed nearly 40 minutes because of a small wreck in the yards at Vancouver, and a large crowd of anxious friends and relatives were at the union station when the special pulled into the Portland yards. Police Sergeant Bunn and more than a dozen bluecoats were kept busy holding back the big crowd drawn to the station.
According to passengers who escaped with minor or no injuries, a night of terror and agony followed on the bleak right of way after the crash. The cries of the injured mingled with those of the frantic and hysterical, and it was many hours before calm reigned over the desolate scene.
Cots Carried Over Snow.
The relief train with doctors and nurses arrived at the wreck scene from the Dalles an hour and a half after the crash. Because of the heavy snow, it was necessary to pack the cots and stretchers several hundred yards over the ice and snow to reach the victims.
Mrs. Cole, the most critically injured of the surviving wreck victims, was seated in the forward end of a wooden day coach on train No. 17 with her mother, Mrs. J.W. Walling, her son Jack, aged 5, and an infant of a year. When the crash came Mrs. Cole was thrown into the mass of wreckage, with her son Jack so pinned beneath her that he was suffocated. In some unknown manner her year-old baby escaped any injury. The infant was taken in charge by other passengers and was brought safely to Portland and placed in charge of Mrs. Neal Crounse, a cousin of Mrs. Cole. Mrs. Walling, was seated beside Mrs. Cole, was killed almost instantly.
Consciousness Is Retained.
“Baby and I are all who are left,” Mrs. Cole whispered to relatives as nurses lifted her tenderly into an ambulance at union station yesterday afternoon. In spite of her intense suffering, she had remained conscious throughout the trying ordeal and knew that her son and mother had been killed.
L.J. Kirk of St. Paul, Or., was another passenger in this car who met almost instant death. He was caught in the debris of twisted steel and wood when the coach crashed into the steel coach ahead.
Many of the passengers in this day coach had jus boarded the train a short time before the crash. The stub operating between The Dalles and Biggs had carried the Cole family to Biggs to be transferred on the Portland train.
The marine mail car guard, A.H. McBride of Spokane, was lying on a cot in the mail car when the trains came together. He was hopelessly caught beneath the wreckage. Rescuers could hear his cries for help as the sought frantically to reach him but he was dead before he could be extricated.
Train Traveling Slowly.
Incoming passengers said that the eastbound train was traveling a slow rate of speed after leaving Celilo. It was under orders to proceed with caution. The westbound train however, was said to be traveling at about 30 miles an hour. The meeting point was on a sharp curve. The enginemen of neither train had an opportunity to apply emergency brakes to avoid the crash, so near were they to each other when the headlights flashed forth out of the darkness.
Both trains were far behind schedule at the time. The westbound train was more than eight hours late, having been held up east of Pendleton because of high water. The eastbound train was two hours late because of the detour which had to be made over the S.P. & S. tracks out of Portland to Celilo.
Much of the first aid relief administered to the injured passengers was done under the direction of Miss Jane Pearl Autry, a trained nurse of Portland, who was a passenger on the westbound train. Miss Autry, who escaped any injury, hurried from one passenger to another applying a bandage here, giving a drink of water there and in other ways caring for the wants of the sufferers.
Heavy Engines Smashed.
Both of the heavy engines were pounded into an inseparable mass through the force of the impact. Although the remained upright on the tracks, the boilers were driven into each other and almost totally demolished.
The body of George Bristow, fireman on train No. 17, was caught between the cab and tender. Death was instantaneous. Not until the wrecking crew arrived from The Dalles could his body be removed. Although several coaches as well as the engines were a tangled mass of ruins, the track was not torn up at all, according to trainmen and passengers. The wrecking crew was still at work last night in clearing away the wreckage.
Word received last night from The Dalles is to the effect that complete identification of the four bodies taken from beneath the wreckage yesterday afternoon probably never will be made. The bodies were so badly mangled as to make this identification almost impossible, and so far as is known there were no effects about the torn clothing to lend any aid to the officials. Trainmen believe, however, they were men who were employed during the past week in clearing away snow from the tracks at that point on the division, and that they were beating their way from Biggs or farther east into The Dalles.