New Cumberland, PA Railroad Construction Explosion, July 1905




Harrisburg, Pa., July 9. -- Eight men were blown to pieces and two others injured by the premature explosion of a blast of powder on the Pennsylvania Railroad improvements near New Cumberland at 7:30 o'clock, this morning. The accident occurred directly across the Susquehanna River from the scene of the Pennsylvania Railroad wreck, May 11, in which 23 persons were killed and many others injured.
All the victims of today's disaster were employes of H. S. Kerbaugh & Co. Inc., contractors, who are building double tracks for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The bodies of the men were terribly mangled and particles of flesh and bone were scattered for a distance of 200 yards from the scene of the explosion.
The dead are:
JAMES WISEMAN, aged 50, dynamite boss, Buffalo, N.Y.
ARTHUR GREEN, colored, 23 years old, steam driller, Harrisburg.
ROBERT THOMPSON, colored, 23 years old, steam driller's helper, Harrisburg.
FRANK MULLACH, a Slav, 43 years old.
Three Italians, known only by numbers.
The injured:
WILLIAM REED, colored, 20 years old, a stream driller; skull fractured and injured internally.
G. C. MILLER, 58 years old, of Idaville; bruised about body but not seriously.
Not a trace of the two negroes killed can be found and it is supposed their bodies were blown into the river, which is being dragged.
An inquest was held, this afternoon. The jury rendered a verdict of premature explosion from an unknown cause and no blame attached to the contractors.
All the killed and injured were laborers aside from WISEMAN, whose body was terribly mangled. What could be found of it was identified by the fact that he had dyed his hair. His scalp and a portion of his head was found on a hill, 200 yards from the blast. WISEMAN has been with the Kerbaugh Co. for five years and had gone to the scene of the explosion to personally superintend the preparations for what is called a "big shot" to be fired, tomorrow morning.
A "big shot" consists of a series of blasts, the holes having been drilled in a row and the charges being set off simultaneously by an electric spark. Five of the holes had been filled with powder and the men were at work on the sixth when the explosion occurred. It is supposed that a small stone had gotten into the hole and the iron bar with which themen were "tamping" down the charge, caused a spark by scraping on the stone and that this ignited the powder.
One Italian escaped because a fellow workman playfully snatched his hat and ran with it. The owner ran after the man with the hat and had just got out of range of the explosion when it occurred. An Italian water boy was hurled 50 feet. Every stitch of clothing was torn from his body. A leather belt containing $312 in paper money, supposed to belong to one of the men, was picked up near the scene of the explosion. Pieces of flesh and bone were found fastened to the telegraph wires over the railroad tracks.
The force of the explosion was felt for miles and broke many windows in Harrisburg and towns across the river.

Daily Kennebec Journal Maine 1905-07-10