Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area




1923, December 15 - Crossing collision at Manotick, CPR., Prescott sub., four killed, two injured.



Winchester Press 20 December 1923

FOUR GIRLS KILLED
Auto Struck by C.P.R. Express at Manotic [sic]
Four young girls were instantly killed and two boys injured in a level crossing accident near Manotick, early last Saturday afternoon when a C.P.R. Ottawa-Toronto express crashed into the automobile in which they were driving. The accident is considered the worst level crossing fatality in Eastern Ontario in recent years.
Hazel Tomkins, 13, and her sister, Grace, 10, were killed and their brother, Melvin, 19, slightly injured while their cousins, Bessie Tomkins, 16 and her sister, Doris, 12, were killed, and their brother, Henry, 14, internally injured. Henry Tomkins is expected to recover.
The party of six, with Melvin driving and Henry sitting in front with him, were proceeding to a Christmas carol rehersal at Manotick Church. With his view obstructed by the side curtains Melvin Tomkins did not see the train until he was already on the tracks.
He stepped on the gas but failed to steer clear before the train crashed into them, hitting the rear wheel and instantly killing the four girls and carrying the debris of the car for 30 feet. The two boys were thrown clear of the crash..
An investigation carried out by Railway officials today absolved from blame engineer T. Jelly, of Smiths Falls. Many persons witnessed the accident, including Mrs. Henry Tompkins, mother of Hazel and Grace.
Melvin Tomkins, the driver of the car, was able to give a very clear account of the accident.
Mr. Henry Topkins' house from which the party started on the ill-fated trip, is on the south side of the railway tracks and almost opposite Manotick Station, a private road runs from the house towards the tracks. Along this stretch the car was going very slowly, in low gear, as the surface of the roadway was very rough. The four girls were in the back seat and the car was curtained in.
DID NOT HEAR TRAIN
Melvin did not hear the approaching train. Added to this, at the point where the road crosses the track, the view of an approaching train is partially obscured by the difference in level, and by the presence of a tree or two and a little shrub brush. The car was actually on the track when young Tompkins saw the oncoming train. It was too late to stop and backup, so he stepped on the gas and tried to get clear. The fact that it was in low gear prevented his doing this, but the front part of the car was clear of the track and the back wheels almost across when the engine struck it. He was hurled clear of the car and landed on his back he was dazed for a moment, but quickly got up. His cousin, Henry, was lying in the ditch between him and the car and got up very shortly afterwards and walked. Melvin thought that he was unhurt. The four girls were lying about 20 or 30 feet away, none of them were together. They appeared to have fallen on their heads and there was no sign of life.
Melvin, according to Manotick people, was a careful driver and had had no trouble with the car, which was a new one purchased by his father last spring. He was driving with particular care on this occasion, owing to the rough nature of the frozen mud. He did not hear the approach of the train, and that was the sole reason of the accident.
INVESTIGATION HELD
Mr. J. H. Hughes, assistant superintendent of the Ottawa division of the C. P. R. conducted an investigation into the accident here Saturday night. As a result of the investigation he issued the following statement:
"The investigation shows that the whistle of the engine was sounded for both public crossings at Manotick. The bell, too, was ringing before and at the time of the accident. The bell is an air ringer, and sounds automatically.
"The train at the time of the accident was travelling it its usual speed for that point, namely from 35 to 40 miles an hour as it did not stop at Manotick. The motor car which the engine struck was not seen by the engineer till he was right up on it. We found that the people in the car had some trouble in starting the car and it took them some time to get it going. They were going to a concert rehearsal and because of the trouble in starting the car were a bit late. There is a rise where the lane crosses the track. They were evidently hurrying to make up for lost time, and got on the track just as the train was a very few yards away.
"No blame could be attached to the engineer, Mr. T. Jelly, of Smiths Falls, or of the firemen, Mr. Nolan."

Morrisburg Leader 21 December 1923

Four Girls Killed
Four young girls were instantly killed and two boys injured in a level crossing accident near Manotick, early last Saturday afternoon when a C.P.R. Ottawa-Toronto express crashed into the automobile in which they were driving.
Hazel Tomkins, 13, and her sister, Grace, 10, were killed and their brother, Melvin, 19, slightly injured while their cousins, Bessie Tomkins, 16 and her sister, Doris, 12, were killed, and their brother, Henry, 14, internally injured. Henry Tomkins is expected to recover.
The party of six, with Melvin driving and Henry sitting in front with him, were proceeding to a Christmas carol rehersal at Manotick Church. With his view obstructed by the side curtains Melvin Tomkins did not see the train until he was already on the tracks. He stepped on the gas but failed to steer clear before the train crashed into them, hitting the rear wheel and instantly killing the four girls and carrying the debris of the car for 30 feet. The two boys were thrown clear of the crash.

Winchester Press 10 January 1924

Mr. Bert Allen of Carleton Place, was on the train which ran into an auto recently at Manotick killing instantly four little girls on their way to a rehersal for Christmas. He saw the bleeding, broken bodies, the spectacle so shocking as to leave an impression like a wound. The mother saw the smash and ran to the spot, and had to be forcibly borne away.



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Updated 10 September 2021