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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

History in Stone 2

From The Daily Colonist, May 27, 1896:

Victoria's Queen's Birthday carnival, so auspiciously inaugurated with unalloyed enjoyment for citizens and visitors, was abruptly terminated yesterday afternoon by a catastrophe so sudden, so awful and so appalling in the loss of life entailed by it that no thought was left for aught besides. Electric car number 16, in charge of Conductor Talbot and Motorman Farr, was hurrying to the scene of the sham battle, freighted to its capacity and beyond with holiday makers when in an instant mirth was turned into mourning and between fifty and sixty souls were hurried into eternity. The central span of Point Ellice bridge had again given way, precipitating the car into the waters of the Arm, where a majority of the imprisoned passengers – men, women and little children—to whom the world had a moment before been all sunshine were drowned before aid could reach them. The crashing timbers and ironwork of the bridge piled upon the ill-fated car as the waters received it, and doubling up, pierced it also from below, so that many were killed even before the water was reached, while the others were less mercifully held below the muddy waters – the tide was at the flood and running high – by the rapidly accumulating debris.

News of the calamity spread quickly and by 3 o'clock – the heavily freighted car plunged through the bridge at exactly ten minutes to 2 – a crowd of thousand filled the streets at the approaches to the death-trap bridge – eager to be helpful, frantic with anxiety as to the fate of loved ones who might have been on the car, or dazed, almost stupefied for the time, by the magnitude of the disaster which had come upon the city. The hour was not without its heroes who were quick to think and act, and to these heroes, women and men, the salvation of many lives from the waters is due, as well as the winning back from death of many who had to all appearances passed into the shadowland. The work of the rescuers lasted through all the afternoon, and by evening the greater number of the bodies had been recovered, although it is practically certain that yet others are still to be removed from the fatal waters.

The jury empanelled by Coroner Crompton in the evening viewed in all forty-seven bodies, and their inquiry has been adjourned so that the work of recovery may be completed. The calamity is without precedent in the history of the Pacific Coast – without parallel in the loss of life involved since the memorable Pacific disaster. So many victims has it claimed that there is scarcely a home in Victoria that has not lost some relative or friend. Ours is a city of desolation and of sadness and in its mourning Seattle, Tacoma, New Whatcom, Port Townsend and the other cities of the Sound are joining , for each has contributed among the holiday makers who formed the burden of the submerged car some of its well-known citizens.
Wikipedia has some additional information about this disaster.


Paul in Powell River said...

Great picture, with the fall colours in the background. Love the history lesson.

Dean Lewis said...

Cemetaries are like museums filled with stories of the past such as this.
"The calamity is without precedent in the history of the Pacific Coast" says it all, and the incident still ranks as the worst in Canadian public transit history.

In the 1950's another infamous bridge collapse occurred at Vancouver's Second Narrows Crossing bridge while under construction. When eventually completed it was named the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge.

JoJo said...

WOW! That's some story! Never heard of this disaster! I love the way reporters used to write. Somewhat poetic, even when reporting on a tragedy like this.