Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1913, August 16 - CPR Track car runs through the open drawbridge and falls into the Rideau Canal - one dead

Ottawa Citizen 18 August 1913

Swing Bridge at St. Louis Dam Was Open to Allow Boats Through, And Men Did Not See The Warning Lights Plainly. Six Fellow Workers Manage to Escape by Jumping Before it Crashes Over Brink.

An Italian, Marino Fortunato, a section man employed by the C. P. R. lost his life by drowning shortly after nine o'clock on Saturday night and six others narrowly escaped a similar fate by jumping to the ground in time, when the heavy handcar on which they were speeding was precipitated into the Rideau canal at St. Louis dam, while the swing bridge there was open to allow some boats through.
The seven men, all of whom were Italians in the employ of the C. P. R., had come down to the city on a hand car earlier in the evening to get some necessary supplies. The handcar which they were driving was a particularly heavy one and could be sent along at a good speed.
At a few minutes after nine o'clock the bridge tender, Mr. N. Lecasse, went out to the bridge in order to open it for a number of boats that were coming down the canal. He had opened the bridge and was closing it after the boats went through. He had the bridge half closed when he heard Mrs. Lecasse, his wife, shouting "Stop! Stop!" He immediately noticed the handcar coming at a high speed. He did not have time to close the bridge before the car had dashed into the water. One man was dragged down with it. The other six took warning in time from the shouts of Mrs. Lecasse and jumped to the ground to safety.
The distance from the spot where Mrs. Lecasse shouted to the men and the brink over which the car went is about fifty feet. Mrs. Lecasse noticed the car coming at a high speed and rushed out to the side of the track and called out as loud as she could. The men were busily engaged talking and evidently did not pay very much attention to Mrs. Lecasse until they noticed the bridge open. Then just one minute before the machine was to make its plunge a wild scream went up and the six men threw themselves to the ground on either side of the track. They were unhurt.
It is quite probable that the men were not looking ahead of them when they were approaching the bridge. As there was enough light to show them that the bridge was open. The red and green lamp on the bridge was lighted, but from a distance the men would not have easily discerned which color was facing them, as when the bridge is turned at an angle the green light is just as evident as the red, and as the track approaching the bridge takes a curve, it would not be hard to mistake the position of the two colors.
Joseph St. Pierre and Frank Farron. of Rochesterville, were both eyewitnesses to the fatal accident. They were fishing just beside the bridge on the south side of the canal. Telling his story of the affair to The Citizen on Saturday night St. Pierre said: "Both of us were fishing over there. We watched the bridge being opened to let a number of boats go through and the men were closing it when we heard Mrs. Lecasse, the bridge tenders wife, screeching. "Stop! Stop!" Of course, we then noticed what was going to happen. A handcar with a bunch of men was approaching at a high speed. I could hear the men talking. Then I saw the handcar with one man dash trom the track into the water. I could hear the other men yelling, and I guess people in the city could hear them.
"They should have seen the red light as the bridge was only halt closed. When they heard Mrs. Lecasse shouting it was too late, I guess, as they were then going too fast to stop. When they saw that the bridge was open, I think every man but the one on the brake jumped off.
St. Pierre and his friend Farron were the first men to think of rescuing the man. As soon as they were able to get into their boat they paddled out to the spot where the man went down with the handcar. When they first went in the handcar must have heen upside down in the water, for they turned it over once and it then was on its wheels. They were of the opinion that the man was pinned under the heavy car and so were trying to release him. They were unsuccessful in their endeavors to find the body.
A search extending throughout the night failed to bring to the surface of the water the dead man's body until six o'clock yesterday morning when a couple of men with grappling irons, who were dragging for it for the last part of the night, located it. The victim could not swim and so had been only drowned and not pinned under the car, as was the general theory before the body was recovered. The handle of the car was only a foot under the water.
Fortunato was not married. He was twenty-two years of age. An inquest conducted by Or. Baptie is being held this morning at 9 o'clock at Rogers and Burney's undertaking parlors.

Ottawa Citizen 18 August 1913

To Investigate Death
A jury empannelled by Coroner Dr. Baptie met at Rogers and Burney's morgue this morning at nine o'clock and viewed the remains of the late Marino Fortunato, who was killed in a handcar accident on Saturday night. The inquest was adjourned until Wednesday evening at 8 o'clock in the court room of the poice station.

Ottawa Journal 18 August 1913

Six Section Men Have Narrow Escape When C. P. R. Car Falls Into Canal at Bridge Near Dow's Lake.

Marino Fortunato, an Italian section man on the C.P.R. was drowned, and six others narrowly escaped when a heavy C.P.R. handcar plunged into the Rideau Canal at St. Louis Dam on Saturday night.
The swing bridge had been opened by Mr. N. Lecasse to allow a number of boats to pass through, and was closing the bridge again when his wife saw the section men coming and called a warning. The tender did .not have time to close the bridge before the car dashed into the water dragging Fortunato with it. The other six men. jumped off.
Mrs. Lecasse said the men were talking and were not looking ahead of them. The red and green lamp on the bridge was lighted, but from a distance the men could not easily seen what color waa facing them.
Joeeph St. Pierre and Frank Farron, of Rochestervllle, were fishing beside the bridge and witnessed the accident. St. Pierre said the men were going too fast to stop and, only the man on the brake kept on the car. These two men launched a boat and tried to rescue the man, but his body was not recovered until 6 o'clock yesterday morning by a couple of men with grappling  irons.
Fortunato was 23 years of age and not married.

Ottawa Citizen 21 August 1913

Inquest Held in Case of Fortunato Marino, Who Was Drowned in Canal.
"We find that Fortunato Marino came to his death by drowning in the Rideau canal on Saturday evening about 9.30 at the C. P. R. swing bridge and we find that death was purely accidental and attach no blame to anyone."
Such was the verdict brought in by the coroner's jury under Foreman Nesbitt last night, after hearing the evidence regarding the death of Fortunato Marino, who was drowned after a C.P.R. handcar dashed into the canal with him while the bridge was open to allow boats to go through at St. Louis dam.
Everyone who knew anything at all of the affair appeared at the inquest last night and gave evidence.
Dr. Graham, of Ottawa South, who examined the body of the dead man when it was taken from the river. said that the man had been struck on the head, presumably by some hard substance in the water, but that he had met his death by drowning.
Although the six Italians who were on the handcar that carried Marino to his death all gave evidence contradictory to the bridge tender's statement that there were lights on the bridge at the time of the accident, other witnesses, including the assistant bridge tender, Joseph St. Pierre and Frank Ferron, who were fishing in the canal at the south side of the bridge, swore that the lights were showing on the bridge and that when it was open the red danger light was facing the track.
William Kilmury, who was in charge of the six men, and others who are working at the Chaudiere junction, said that the men had no right to take the handcar to the city after hours and that he was not aware that they had gone to town with it at the time they did. To his knowledge the men had never taken the handcar before and if they even asked his permission to use it without an order from the company he would not have let them have it, that is if they were not going out to work.
Coroner Dr. Baptie presided at the inquest.

Ottawa Journal 21 August 1913

Handcar Fatality at Dows Lake is Investigated.

Accidental death by drowning was the verdict of Coroner Dr. Baptie's jury on the death of Fortunato Marino last Saturday evening in the canal at St. Louis dam, when a handcar plunged into the water while the bridge was open.
The evidence of the section foreman was to the effect that the men had no right on the handcar unless for work purposes. In spite of the testimony of the other six Italians on the handcar, who said the danger signals were not lit, yet according to Frank Ferron, who was fishing near there, the red lights were burning, facing the track.

Board of Railway Commissioners, Library and Archives Canada RG 46 C-II-1 vol 1564 file 23113

F. Merino, in company with six others were members of a lifting gang that took a handcar during the absence of the Foreman after they had quit work on Saturday afternoon.  They left Chaudiere Junction after 19:00 and went to Ottawa to get provisions, leaving there about 21:00 or 21:15 to return.  The accident happened about 21:30. 
The bridge over the canal at mileage 2 had been opened to permit three small motor boats to pass and was being closed when the handcar approached the bridge and ran into the canal.  Mr. Merino was on the front of the car and had no opportunity to jump off.  He sustained a cut on the right side of the head and was probably stunned although the actual cause of death was drowning.
The semaphores were set at danger and shewed red and the signal light on the bridge itself was burning brightly and shewed red on the side towards the track.
The brakes on the handcar were in perfect order and the accident seems to have been due to the fact that none of the men on the car noticed the bridge was open until they were within a few feet of it

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