The Accident at the Richelieu Bridge—What incident in life is more common than death? Yet what incident is more capable of being invested with the very highest interest by the circumstances which surround it? We expect the aged to depart from us, as we expect the ripe fruit to fall from the tree. We are not astonished when after long diseases even the young pass away. Millions daily go out of the world into eternity without exciting a remark or an emotion, except in those households where the vacant chair serves to remind survivors of the friend whom they have lost. Yet let one man in the enjoyment of health and in the actual pursuit of business or pleasure fall in our presence, and we are struck by the event as if he had not gone through an experience which will be common to us all. Why seek to analyze a sensation so usual. It is enough that long experience proves it to be natural to mankind, and that being so, it is no wonder that the intelligence which it became our painful duty to make public yesterday morning should have filled the streets with rumor and emotion. It is indeed rare for so many circumstances to combine to give zest to a fatal occurrence. Here were some four hundred persons, men, women, and children, most of whom had left their native countries with the hope of making for themselves a happy home in a foreign land. They had passed the most dreaded dangers of the Ocean passage, and were doubtless congratulating themselves on the prospect of their speedy arrival in the land of promise for which they had sacrificed so much. Who can estimate the variety of hopeful expectation which was working in the bosoms of the living freight, which loaded the Grand Trunk cars on the morning of yesterday? Many probably had children, some parents awaiting them. Some were going to homes which friends had already prepared for them; others were longing to make acquaintance with the localities which were to be the scenes of their future toils and hoped-for rewards. In one moment, all this mass of life, all this mental movement, was suspended. A shriek from one or two persons, who could alone be conscious of the sudden disaster,—a crash—a plunge—and all that train, machinery, cars, drivers and passengers, became a confused, motionless, drowning mass. The mortality of many not inconsiderable battle-fields, to which men had gone forth fitted for the work of destruction, and where men have been occupied for hours by mutual slaughter, might have been equalled or surpassed in the twinkling of an eye. Of the large number of living beings who, the moment before, were moving rapidly to their destination, impelled by the most complete work of human art and ingenuity, all were placed in imminent danger, and a remnant, by no means inconsiderable, was left on the spot, to prove the littleness and weakness of humanity. Steel, iron, brass, wood, baggage, and human limbs were precipitated, in one dreadful amalgam, into an abyss where many not slain at once by the shock, were suffocated in the water which rolled beneath the road over which they had just been travelling. Our telegraphic and other reports furnish our readers with the fullest details of this overwhelming calamity. Most of those who will peruse these lines were acquainted in some degree with the nature of the locality where it occurred. The railroad, after leaving the station at Belœil Mountain, makes a pretty rapid descent from the low plateau at the foot of that elevation to the level upon which the Richelieu River is crossed by the bridge, at something like a mile from the station. The road not only makes this somewhat rapid descent, but makes it on a sharp curve, so that the bridge cannot be seen until the train is nearly upon it. The draw is, however, in an arch, which crosses the deep channel of the river on the north side; but at the hour when the accident occurred there was, probably, not sufficient light to enable the driver of the engine to see the danger into which he was running, even when upon the bridge He has escaped from the general ruin which he appears to have been one of the chief agents in producing; but it is manifest that a sad and weighty responsibility rests upon him, and upon all others, if there be others, who, by active misconduct or no less fatal want of precaution, have in any degree brought about this melancholy catastrophe. So far as appears at present, the oral responsibility extends no further than this man. It was his business, we believe, in any case to stop before going on the bridge, in order to make himself sure that everything was safe—not to trust to absence of warning. But it is stated that warning was not absent. The red light—the beacon indicating danger—was, it is said, extended by the person in charge; but without leading to any relaxation of the rash career of the train. The exact facts will of course come out only after the Coroner's inquest shall have been held on the crowd of victims. It is proper that at the inquiry it shall be ascertained if the running on without stopping was an unusual circumstance, or whether, though opposed to the regulations of the road, such a neglect of orders did not frequently occur without provoking punishment. In the first case, the sole condemnation would seem to rest with driver and conductor, and the public will no doubt all rejoice, if it shall turn out that the crime and the blame of this dreadful massacre is limited, as we are at present disposed to believe, to one or two individuals. Of course there will be a reckoning of another kind between those who survive the deceased and the Company; but if it shall turn out that every precaution was adopted and every rule laid down which could ensure safety to their passengers, the loss thus occasioned to them will be just matter of sympathy on the part of the public. Upon that point we await the more complete information which we shall, no doubt, obtain from the evidence which will be given at the inquest. In the meantime, it is consoling to reflect that the calamity has not been rendered more shocking than it was from its nature by any exhibition of insensibility on the part of the managers of the road. On the contrary, all these gentlemen, especially Mr. Brydges, appear not merely to have directed every measure which could relieve the sufferers or show proper respect to the dead; but, by their personal labour in the exciting business which had to be transacted yesterday at the bridge, they showed how much their own feelings were stirred by the miseries which they witnessed. Nothing could be more manly or tender than their conduct on this sad occasion.
Grand Trunk Railway!
12 Cars Precipitated Into the Richelieu River.
About 100 Lives supposed to be Lost.
Sick and Wounded Brought to Montreal Last Night.
About 384 out of 500 Passengers Saved.
Great Excitement in the City.
It is with feelings of the most painful nature that we record this morning the particulars of, perhaps, the most frightful accident that has ever occurred in this country. The melancholy affair of the Desjardins Canal will be in the remembrance of all, but the horror of that sad occurrence appears to have been exceeded by the terrible tragedy of the Richelieu.
Of course exaggerated stories were set afloat, and early yesterday morning the city was startled by the intelligence that a train of twelve cars had broken through the bridge at St. Hilaire, and that only one or two lives had been saved. The accident was not of such a dreadful character, but shortly after we received a telegram which confirmed the report of a terrible catastrophe having occurred, and conveyed the intelligence that it had been attended with great loss of life. The details, as received, were issued from our office in the form of an extra at about nine o'clock, and created the most profound sensation throughout the city. It was known at that time that the train consisted of twelve cars, which were loaded with emigrants, the greater number of whom were supposed to have been killed in the crash into the river, the drawbridge on the Montreal side having been left open.
At a much earlier hour, however, than that at which the public became acquainted with the first particulars, information of the occurrence had been conveyed to C. J. Brydges, Esq., Managing Director of the Grand Trunk Railway, and about four o'clock in the morning he arrived at the scene of the calamity in a special, being accompanied by Drs. Howard, Scott, Hingston and Brousseau, J. Jones, Esq., Coroner of the District of Montreal, and others, who made use of every effort in their power to relieve the sufferers. About ten o'clock another special train was despatched from the station, but was detained at Point St. Charles in consequence of having to wait for a Quebec train to pass in. The special, however, got under way a few minutes before twelve o'clock, noon. It consisted of three cars and the engine and tender. One of the cars was occupied by the passengers, another was piled up with beds to convey the injured to this city and in the third, refreshments, medical comfort's &c., were stored for the use of the sufferers at St. Hilaire. This very necessary provision was made by the Grand Trunk Company, who indeed, made every exertion after the accident, to alleviate the sufferings of the unfortunate people whose long journey had been brought to such a tragic end. Among the passengers by this train were following.—O. J. Courant, Esq., Judge of the Sessions of the peace, who brought out Mr. McLoughlin, Chief of the Government Police, Sergeant Wilson, and eight men of the force, to take charge of the wounded, the baggage, &c., on the ground; his Worship, Mayor Beaudry, a number of members of the press of Montreal, and representatives from the different benevolent societies, amongst whom we observed, James L. Mathewson, Esq., President of the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society, John J. Arnton, Esq., Vice-President, and W. Glendinning of the same Society; Messrs. Reinhardt, Storer, and Julius Henry of the German Society; Councillors Devlin and McCready; Joseph Daly, Esq., Emigration Agent, who was accompanied by the assistant agent and German Interpreter, A. Jorgenson, Esq., who, with Dr. Hingston and Messrs Reinhard, Storer, Henry, and others who spoke the German language, rendered the most valuable assistance during the day. Several other gentlemen were also on board, who lent their assistance at the wreck. This train, on which our correspondent was a passenger, arrived at St. Hilaire Station in about sixty-eight minutes, or at one o'clock.
The terrible nature of the calamity could only be fully realized by those who visited the spot. Here the scene was heart-rending indeed. The piteous cries of little children frightfully wounded; and of others seeking their parents—the latter perhaps buried in the sickening pile of debris which blocked the channel under the draw-bridge. The country people had flocked in from every quarter, and they cannot receive too much praise for the admirable manner in which they behaved. Having probably received some hint of the accident, they carried in quantities of milk, bread and other refreshments, which were much required, and which they distributed during the whole day with no niggardly hand.
The accident occurred apparently through the negligence of the engine driver, who as we shall have occasion to notice presently, has been placed under arrest. The "Neckar," a large packet, similar to those which bring the emigrants to New York, left Hamburg about the 18th of May, and arrived at Quebec on Monday last, bringing out five hundred and thirty-eight emigrants. These consisted of Germans, Norwegians, and Poles, whose destination was principally Western Canada, a few being bound for the Western States. All had considerable means with the. On Tuesday night they were forwarded, with the exception of about thirty of the of the poorer class, by special train from Quebec. There must therefore have been fully five hundred, if not more, on the cars, which proceeded without accident to Belœil Mountain. Here the Richelieu is spanned by an iron bridge on the top of which the cars pass. A draw-bridge form the connection between the last pier and the abuttment on the Montreal side. The bridge is about 1100 feet in length to the opening of the draw-bridge, and about forty-five feet above the water, which is some ten feet deep in the canal under the draw-bridge. It appears that the rule of the Company is that this draw-bridge should always be supposed to be open, and that the train should therefore come to a dead stand on coming to the bridge, and not attempt to proceed until the proper signal has been given. But at fifteen minutes past one on Wednesday morning, the special train approached; the draw-bridge was open to permit the passage of a steamer which had some barges loaded with grain, in tow, and, as we are informed, the train did not pull up at all, notwithstanding the established rule, and the display of the danger signal—the red light—which should immediately have warned the conductors of the train to stop it, and not go on any further until the light was changed into a white one. The position of the bridge gives a view of the signal from a distance of 1,625 feet. Hence the mystery of the conduct of the engine driver, Burney, who, it is stated, could have stopped the train in from five to six hundred feet. Burney, it is said, admits having seen the danger signal, but alleges that he found it impossible to stop the train in time. Particulars as to this point, however, will probably be elicited at the Coroner's Inquest. All we know at present is, that the train was not stopped, but came dashing on at a considerable speed—the drawbridge was swung round, and the cars crashed headlong one after the other, into the yawning abyss, bringing death and destruction upon the unfortunate occupants. The locomotive and tender, with the first five cars, (baggage) went in first of course, the six passenger cars piling down on top of them with terrific violence, being precipitated a distance of some seventy feet. At this very moment, as we already mentioned, a steamer was passing through with six barges in tow, and the accident would undoubtedly have been of a doubly mournful character had it not so happened that the cars fell on one of the barges, sinking it of course, but preventing the wreck from being submerged to such an extent as it would otherwise have been had the canal been clear. The last three passenger cars, falling on the accumulated debris of the others, shunted slightly to one side, and over to the opposite embankment, that is on the Montreal side. From these the living were chiefly taken, the other cars containing few who had escaped a watery grave, or mortal injury in the horrible crash. A large number of the employes of the Company had been sent out at an early hour, and on our arrival at one o'clock, we found that every exertion had been made to rescue the living, and recover the bodies of the dead. No one was taken out alive we believe, after 12 o'clock, when a little child was found, singular to say, altogether uninjured lying in its dead mothers arms. We are told that the man in charge of the barge sunk, had a narrow escape along with his family. He heard the train thundering along, looked up and saw the draw open, and, being then immediately underneath, had just time to snatch his wife and little children away before the cars descended on his vessel.—Forty-five dead bodies were recovered early in the day, only eighteen of those being adults. The remains were conveyed to a shed by the river side, where they presented a most sad spectacle. Many of the dead were terribly disfigured and injured, and some of the children were only a year or two of age, families, in fact, having apparently perished together. In the lower part of the same building were placed a number of the wounded, and a public house close to the spot, with two sheds beside it, were also used as hospitals for the injured. Here the Medical gentlemen had abundance of work on their hands. Besides the Doctors above mentioned, Drs. Rollin and Larocque of Longueuil, and Drs. Bibeault and Moore, of Montreal, were present, Mr. Lomar, President of the German Society, also drove out in a carriage, having missed the train. Mr. Brydges, Mr. Taylor, his private secretary, Mr. Bailey, and Mr. Martin, also of the Grand Trunk were all indefatigable in their exertions on the ground, supplying the sufferers with necessary refreshments and attending to their other wants. Harrowing scenes presented themselves in the temporary hospitals, where the wounded were placed together, in the most comfortable positions possible, as soon as their injuries had been attended to. Many of the wounds received by the unfortunate people, were about the head and face, rendering the scene of the rows of bodies still more hideous, whilst many of those rescued appeared to suffer intensely. Only one amputation was performed, ant that on a woman, who bore the operation in a most heroic manner. The knee joint had been badly fractured, and amputation had to be performed above the knee, but the brave woman appeared more distressed at the sight of her husband's grief than at her own misfortune or the pain she was suffering. The Government Police did good service in keeping the people from crowding round the abode, and permitting the free access of fresh air to the sick. Many poor creatures were wandering about, seeking relatives or friends, bemoaning their sad fate, and the melancholy ending of their hitherto prosperous voyage, and dissipation of their hopes and anticipations formed on coming to try their fortunes in a new country. It was now that the Germans, and other interpreters, who went out, proved useful in making known the wants and inquiries of the poor people. During this time, further exertions were being made to get at those still buried in the cars submerged in the river. No one who had looked into one of those which might be reached from above, would ever desire to see another sight. It was truly appalling. The bodies were swollen and frightfully disfigured, and the stark, stiff hands and feet of the dead rising out of the water, were sufficient to shock any spectator. The firemen from Acton, lent their assistance for a time, and a large number of the Grand Trunk workmen were laboriously engaged in cutting off and hoisting up the heavy wheels, in order to get at the cars, and extricate the bodies still lying in them. Preparations were also going on to convey the wounded to Montreal in a special train, composed of a large number of cars, some of them filled up with beds for the very badly injured. The work of carrying up the wounded from the sheds was one of no very easy accomplishment. Shutters and stretchers of various sorts were used for the purpose. Everyone gave what assistance they could, and worked willingly. The task was at length completed, having occupied from a quarter past two until a quarter past four, when the train started for Montreal. It was a moving hospital. There were on board three hundred and eighty-four of the emigrants, the greater number of whom were injured, some of them very seriously, and some so badly that it was scarcely supposed they would reach Montreal alive. It should be mentioned here, that at the time this train started, eleven other bodies had been taken out of the debris, making a total of fifty-six recovered up to that period. Four hundred and forty were thus accounted for, leaving some sixty out of the five hundred, still supposed to be buried in the wreck of the train. Telegrams had been sent in during the day to the General Hospital and the Hotel Dieu, by the Medical gentlemen, directing all needed preparations to be made for the accommodation of the wounded. Mr. Brydges also sent in orders to prepare the stores at Point St. Charles for those who would scarcely bear removal to the city immediately. Of the three hundred and eighty-four saved, about 248 are adults, and the balance, 136 children. The names of the saved so far as we could learn them last evening were as follows:—Joachim Benecke and wife, latter severely injured; Bartel, wife, and two children; Elis, and wife; Lutt, wife and three children; Moratzki, wife, badly, and one child; Buchholz; Latz, slightly; Rickman, Mauer, Clausen, Goll, wife badly, and three children; Bants, Kurch, wife, badly, and six children; Ablera, wife, badly, and 1 child; Cordes, Schwartz, Driring, wife and 2 children; Ed. Boke, badly, and wife; Klippert, Dahlke, wife badly, and eight children; Maack, Erhadt and wife, Katbe, slightly, wife and 1 daughter; Celin (wife and 3 children dead), one child alive; Riesier, severely, wife severely, 2 children severely; Schmidt, severely, wife severely, 2 children severely; Franix Galitzky, wife badly, 3 children, 1 dead and 2 wounded; G Bei, wife slightly, one child (and one dead); Miensinsky, wife slightly, and 2 children; Pheifer, slightly, wife and 5 children very badly; Schroder; Carl Bomemann, severely; Halloff and wife, do; P Cuveina and wife, do; Kakovich, do; Dan Gehring, do, wife and 3 children, do, 1 child killed; Kehler, wife and 2 children, do; Fritz Kono, wife and 1 child, do; Carl Kono and wife, do; Hunpe, Mohuke, wife and 3 children; Piallas, wife and 8 children; Haiman, wife and 1 child; Haberkort, wife and 2 children; Frantz Pierhe, wife and 2 children; Patz, wife and 1 child, slightly; Johan Hunck, wife and 2 children; Catherine Hunck, slightly; J Jansen, H Lund very severely, H Jacobsen, J Peersen, O A Petersen, Gven, Mousen, L Anna arsen, Jonas Anderson and wife; Jonas Datter, Jonas Jonasen, Margarita, Jonas Datter, Lars Gustav Jonasen, Lisa Haahousdatter, Lars Johnsen, Greta Andersdatter, Ciara, Christine do, Fraulz Johan, Hannah Larsden, Henda Larsden, Gven Larsden, Sella Gven, F Shaner, interpreter, severely; J. Bei, wife and three children, one dead; W Guttner; Frohlke, wife and two children, slightly, one child dead; Weidenberg, wife and one child; Honstein, severely; J Weber, slightly, wife severely, and two children severely; Plath, wife slightly, and eight children; F Schraunn, severely, wife and two children; Mohl, severely, and wife dead; Kuffel, wife slightly, five children and one dead; Pawitzky, wife slightly, and three children; Rlealer, wife severely, three children severely and one dead; Jurna, Watsick, dead, Pafnofski severely, wife and one child slightly; Gommoro, wife and three children; Schaner and wife; Siege, Fraulx, Pavlofski, wife severely, and one child severely; Stotenberg and wife; Hahn, wife and child; J Muller, Kanke, Johan Kruger, Marie Kruger, Schvarck and wife slightly, Donarski, wife severely, and three children severely; Freiheit, wife one child; Kloids, severely, wife and one child; Radi, severely, wife slightly, and three children severely; Johan Mick, severely, wife and one child living, one dead; Mariam Mick, severely; J Lipsha, Bernard Hartle, severely, wife and two children; Pielot, Frautz, Burrech, wife and three children; Scharkoski, slightly, wife severely, four children.
Of course it was impossible yesterday to obtain the correct list of names of the dead and wounded, but those will shortly be published.
On the train arriving at Point St. Charles, it was found that a number of guardsmen had been sent out to keep back the crowd, and here the worst of the sufferers were left, whilst the remainder of the train proceeded to the Bonaventure Station. One woman died, however, on the way from St. Hilaire, and another, we believe in the General Hospital after removal there.
At the Bonaventure station more of the Guards were on duty, along with the police, and the station and yard around it had been kept clear, so that the wounded might be easily placed in the vehicles sent out for their conveyance to the hospitals. We are informed that the waggons of the Military Hospital corps was sent out for this purpose, as well as the express waggons of Messrs. Bancroft and Larin.
Great excitement appeared to prevail in the city at the time of the arrival of the train, and the house-tops all abut the station and in the vicinity were black with spectators, who had climbed up to try and get a glimpse of the wounded as they were brought out of the cars. The removal to the hospitals was performed as speedily as possible, but the waggons were somewhat incommoded by the crowd pressing round as they came out of the station yard.
Up to eight o'clock last evening, the total number of bodies recovered was eighty-six; but it is suspected that there may be a dozen yet buried. This will bring the number up to about that we first stated.
Mr. Coroner Jones returned to Montreal yesterday, and lodged Burney, the engine driver, in Jail. The inquest could not be opened yesterday, it being a holiday; but this morning a Jury will visit the scene of the calamity, leaving Montreal at a quarter to seven in the morning, and then proceed to investigate the cause of the accident.
Action of the German Society on the Accident.
A general meeting of the German Society was held last evening in the rooms occupied by the Society, not Craig street, Gerhard Lomer, Esq., in the Chair. The business was, of course, confined to a consideration of the measures proper to be taken to meet the consequence of the sad accident of the morning. The Society determined at once to take lodgings for such of the passengers as were not so badly wounded as to make it necessary to send them to the Hospital, chiefly those who were, last evening, taken to the sheds at Point St. Charles. A Committee of gentlemen and ladies was also named to visit the patients at the Hospitals. Resolutions of thanks were passed to the military authorities and the men sent by them, for the assistance thus rendered. It was stated that the Secretaries of St. George and St. Andrews Societies, had written to the President, offering any aid in their power, especially in the case of the St. Andrews Society, the use of the "Home", so long as it may be required for the use of the passengers. Among other business, a resolution was passed, appointing a Committee of the Society to accompany the Coroner and jury, this morning, to St. Hilaire, in order to render any assistance in their power, in the investigation of the cause of accident. The following are the names of the gentlemen who went out to the bridge yesterday, for the purpose of rendering assistance: Messrs. Lomer, Hausgen, Drescher, Vwagner, Reinhardt, Rev. Mr. Werner, Mr. Isaacson, the Notary, also accompanied these gentlemen. The society will hold another general meeting at its rooms, this evening.
The Wounded at the Hospitals
At midnight las night we visited the two hospitals to which the wounded persons were conveyed, and found that at the Hotel Dieu all the patients were going on pretty well. At the English Hospital one woman had died, and another was at that time at the point of death. The rest at that hospital were all believed to be doing well, and in a fair way to recover.
The Passengers at the Grand Trunk Sheds.
Passengers to the number of three hundred, those of them, of course, who were the least injured, were upon the arrival of the train bringing the passengers from the wrecked train, provided with accommodation at the Sheds of the Railway Company at Point St. Charles. They were there attended on by Mr. Joseph Daly, the Government Emigration Agent at this port; by Mr. Jorgensen, the Government interpreter for emigrants, and by Mr. Brooke, a partner of Mr. Henry Chapman, who is the Consul for Prussia, Norway and Sweden, but who happened not to be in town. Dr. Scott was also retained to attend upon these persons. They were all provided with food and such other accommodation as the case required and the circumstances permitted. Among the assistance afforded were a number of nurses, male and female, some of the former being chosen from the regiments of Guards now in town. Mr. Brydges, we learn, gave orders that nothing was to be spared in providing for the wants of these persons. Their baggage is expected to arrive as soon as it is sorted, probably a great part of it this day, and such of them as are not required to give their attendance here for the purpose of legal inquiry, will be forwarded as soon as possible. Mr. Jorgensen expects correct lists of the passengers by the Neckar to-morrow, and from them he will be able to make up a correct list of the lost.