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Canadian Transport Sourcebook > All works> Miscellaneous texts > Quebec Mercury, June 30, 1864

The frightful accident which has happened on the Grand Trunk line at St. Hilaire, shews the necessity which exists for a vigorous administration of the law where the lives of the public are in question. Had it not been for the impunity with which the administrators of the laws have suffered men to escape on other occasions of accident and the tenderness with which juries have behaved towards those guilty even of wilful offences on railway lines, it is very probable that this accident would not have occurred. It is impossible to over estimate the importance of a calm and equitable administration of justice, but the health of the people is the highest law, and men who seek and obtain employment in situations in which hundreds of lives are entrusted to their vigilance ought not to complain of being treated with a rigor and harshness proportionate to the greatness of the charge entrusted to them. The very reverse of this has been the case. Instead of keeping the servants of companies, the men on whose competence and care the lives of hundreds of human beings daily depended, under direct personal responsibility; instead of making every man of them feel that an accident to his passenger was likely to mean death by the halter, or servitude and bondage in Kingston Penitentiary for himself, they have been encouraged by numerous instances to expect to get off "scott free" for anything and under any circumstances, and Coroners, Judges, and various Queen's lawyers in different degrees have acted so as to justify their expectations and their belief.


...

The Bridge Accident on G.T.R. Near St. Hilaire.


Three Hundred and Eighty Three Passengers Reached Montreal.


Eighty-Seven Bodies Found.


Full Particulars.


This terrible accident, so far as the actual loss of life is concerned is now known to its fullest extent, and loses nothing in its horrors by a complete knowledge of the details. While a vessel was actually passing through the draw of the bridge over the River Richelieu the cars being known to be at hand it is not inconsistent with reason that under such circumstances the draw ought not to have been open. Danger lights and danger signals are all very well in their way, but it is now clear that had the vessel been detained for a single half hour no such loss of life could have taken place, no such terrible injuries been inflicted. Beyond question there has been imprudence everywhere except with the Company, whose regulations, which are published with every new Time Table, distinctly state in the 24th Rule:

No 24.—All Trains and Single Engines must come to a stop before crossing the Richelieu Bridge and are not to proceed without permission from the man in charge of the Bridge.

Passengers going frequently over the line are aware that the rule is generally adhered to by the conductors. As much was the signal-man to blame as the engineer, notwithstanding his exhibition of red lights. The company and its officers would not wilfully have their cars smashed up, but the signal-man was ignorant of what might prove serious to both life and property in allowing the steamer to pass at the very time when he knew a train to be due. Smashed up cars, a frightful actual loss of life, and mutilation of human bodies had, it would appear, been the result of want of thought on his part, for we learn that one of the vessels was in the draw at the very moment of the accident.

Three hundred and eighty three of the poor sufferers, 248 adults and 135 children, arrived at Montreal last night, nearly all of them being less or more injured.

Eighty-seven dead bodies have been found; one sufferer died in the cars on his way to Montreal; and two have died in the hospital of that city since their admission there.

Let us sum up:—
The Neckar had....................  538 souls.
9 Children died on passage...  9
One adult in landing...........   1
                                                —
                                                10
                                                —
                                                 2—8
                                                  ——
                                                  530

Taken to Montreal........383
In Quebec.................  50
Estimated missing........  97
                                        ——
                                        530
                                        ——

There were no people from Quebec on board the train and through the exertions of Mr. Brydges everything above water has already been cleared off.

The conductor, Mr. Flynn, and his brother, the brakesman of the train, were killed; they were residents of Richmond.

We are indebted to Mr. A. C. Buchanan, our indefatigable Emigrant Agent for all the facts of the above and particularly to Mr. Stafford, who had been at the scene of the accident for much information.


...

By Telegraph This Day.


(Reported for the Daily Evening Mercury.)

The Railway Accident.

At 8 p.m. yesterday, we received the following details:—

The number of bodies recovered is forty-three—five men, twelve women, fourteen boys, and twelve girls. There are forty seriously wounded. A number is still in the river and about the wreck.

The Mayor, Coroner, and doctors of Montreal are at the scene of the disaster.

The cars lie, a pile of fragments, resting on a barge which was passing through at the time. Had the cars fallen into the water, many more would have been drowned. The locomotive is submerged out of sight.

The Coroner had the engine-driver William Birney, arrested and sent to the Montreal gaol.

It is impossible to identify the dead or obtain a correct list of their names. They are of various countries, and know little of other's affairs. They came by the ship Neckar from Bremen, and appear to be Poles, Danes, Swedes, Prussians, Austrians and Bohemians, and some Italians. They were going to Wisconsin—most of them to meet friends settled in that region.

Eighty is supposed to be the number killed.

[Public Domain] Copyright/Licence: This work was first published in 1964 or earlier, and the author of the work was anonymous. To the best of my knowledge, the author of the work was unknown at the end of the year 50 years after the work was published, meaning that this work would be in the public domain in Canada, per section 6.2 of the Copyright Act. Note also this link. See disclaimers.