Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1886, June 8 - Bridge collapse at Petawawa, Canadian Pacific, 1 killed, 4 injured.

From the Ottawa Journal of 9 June 1886:

Our Pembroke correcpondent writes: "On hearing the sad news of the accident which occurred this forenoon at Pettewawa (sic) a station ten miles west of Penbroke, I drove to the scene of the disaster (through the kindness of the editor of the Standard).  Arriving at the end of a ten mile drive we found the scene of the accident as complete a piece of train wrecking as it is possible to imagine.  The whole of the longest span of the new three-span bridge crossing the Pettewawa river had collapsed, and all its iron work, trestling etc. lay in a mangled heterogeneous mass in the water of the rapids flowing underneath the bridge, the same having been mixed up with the remains of the steam shovel and derrick, and also of a couple more flat cars; against the solid stone pier on the westerly end of the demolished arch or space stood the "conductor's van" on end, one end of the van in the rapids, the other leaning against the stone pier just as it rushed over.  The bed of the rapids was totally blocked with wreck, at the eastern pier of this demolished arch, with one end also in the waters, and the other reared up against the stone pier, stood, also on her end, boxcar No. 1762, whilst over the edge of this eastern pier hung  boxc ar No. 2918, litterally hanging over the impromptu precipice, as it were, half way coupled to car 312, which had escaped and there was standing on the sound span.  I would at a cursory glance estimate the length of the gap caused by the accident to the bridge, at say about 120 feet.  The bridge was a solid looking structure of iron in three spans and fitted into solid stone piers.  The masonry did not show the lease sign of the shock it received.  Interviewing the who found poor Williams' corpse, I learned his hat was on his head, one hand in his pants pocket, and a leather mit on his right hand, and it was evident he was about "braking" as he was instantly hurried to his cruel end.  John Holyoakes was the driver on the train, John Eldred, fireman, both escaped injury, Stewart Gthompson, in charge of the steam shovel, was badly bruised and cut.  A young frenchman from Ottawa, name, unknown, had his left arm badly smashed.  Dr. Dickson amputated it at the shoulder this evening. Three tramps said to be stealing a ride were badly injured.  Mr. C.W. Spencer and Mr. Harry Spencer arrived with a special about 5 p.m. and investigated and commenced with a gang of men to start clearing the wreck being engaged with two engines. After the inquest, Williams' body will be taken to the station by Lodge 128, A.F.& A.M., of which he was a member.

There is an account of the inquest in Journal 10 June 1886.
The evidence showed that the derrick of the steam shovel caused the accident by catching the bridge overhead --
Verdict "That the deceased conductor, Frank Williams, came to his death in consequence of a railway accident at Pettewawa Bridge on Canadian Pacific Railway on the 7th instant, said accident having been caused by the deceased having failed to take the necessary precautions in approaching the bridge in time as required by his running orders."

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Updated January 2014