Details of Railway Accidents in the Ottawa Area

1933 December 1 - derailment hurls man to his death from the NYC bridge at Cornwall.

Ottawa Citizen 1 December 1933

Derailment hurls Cornwall man to death from bridge
Worker drowns in St. lawrence, One saves self
Joseph Meilleur, Cornwall, able to swim to shore but Adelard Tessier, stunned, is drowned
Another badly injured faling upon the ties
Section car was covering span between Cornwall and New York
Cornwall: One man is dead and another lies in a critical condition at Cornwall General Hospital as a result of derailment of a railway section motor car on the International bridge here this morning.
A triple investigation is being conducted by Ontario provincial police, the New York Central Railway and the Cornwall Northern New York International Bridge Corporation but the cause of the accident has not been determined yet.
The dead man is Adelard Tessier, 59, of Cornwall, who was drowned in the icy waters of the St. Lawrence river.  Henry Scott, 54, of Newington, is in hospital with both legs and a wrist fractured and suffering from other injuries.  Joseph Meilleur Sr, of 102 William street, Cornwall, is also in hospital, suffering from exposure and shock.
Leaped from rails
Tessier, Scott and Meilleur were members of a gang of 11 New York Central section workers from Cornwall travelling on the motor car from Cornwall to Rooseveltown, N.Y., where they were working today.
They were crossing the south channel span, between Cornwall Island and the New York State mainland, when the car leaped from the rails.  Despite the fact that the machine was travelling slowly, the shock of derailment tossed Tessier and Meilleur from their seats over the side of the bridge.  They plunged 40 feet to the water below and disappeared beneath the surface, Meilleur, a powerful swimmer, struck out for shore and battled the strong current for more than 10 minutes before he reached Cornwall Island, 200 feet away.  Tessier, stunned by the fall and weighed down by heavy clothing, struggled but briefly before disappearing beneath the surface.
Search for body
A search for the body has not yet been successful.  Scott did not go over the side of the bridge but fell between the ties in such a way that he suffered extensive injury. He was taken to Cornwall General hospital at once, where his condition is reported to be most critical.  Meilleur is not believed to be in danger unless complications set in.  The railway bridge is being converted into an international vehicular bridge and the span on which the accident happened is under construction.

Ottawa Citizen 17 May 1934

Inquest at Cornwall
Coroner C.J. Hamilton will open an inquest at the court house here at two o'clock Friday afternoon, into the death of Adelard Tessier, New York Central Railway section worker, who was drowned in the St. Lawrence river on December 1 last.  Tessier, while riding to work on a section motor car, was thrown into the river when the car was derailed on the south channel bridge.  His body was found near the south shore of Cornwall Isand 3 1/2 miles below the bridge, last Thursday.

Ottawa Journal 19 May 1934

CORNWALL. Ont.. May 18. (Special). Evidence produced at a coroner's inquest, held here this afternoon, revealed the fact that a plank on the westerly rail of the New York Central Railway line resulted in the derailment of a section motor lorry on the south channel bridge spanning the St Lawrence on December 1, last, and the death by drowning of Adelard Tessier, section workman. After deliberating for about a half hour, the jury returned a verdict of death by drowning and cited the cause of the accident aa being the plank across the rail, placed there in some manner unknown to them.

Cornwall Freeholder  23 May 1934

Jury Fails to Determine How Plank Came on Rail
Inquest Friday Into Death of Adelard Tessier, New York Central Section Worker, Drowned
Last December; Thirteen Witnesses Heard
Evidence produced at a coroner's inquest, held at the Counties‘ Court House on Friday afrernoon, revealed the fact that a plank on the westerly rail of the New York Central railway line resulted in the derailment of a section motor lorry on the south channel bridge spanning the St. Lawrence on December 1 last, and the death by drowning of Adelard Tessier, section wokman. Thirteen witnesses were called and gave lengthy evidence.
The inquest was presided over by Coroner C.J. Hamilton, the questions being put by John G. Harkness, K.C.
Jury's Verdict
After deliberating for about an hour, the jury returned the following verdict:
"We find that Adelard Tessier cameto his death by drowning on the morning of December 1, 1933 following a derailment of a section motor lorry being operated by employees of the New York Central Railway, and as a result of being hurled into the St. Lawrence River.
"According to the evidence produced, the cause of the derailment of the saidl lorry was an obstruction in the form of a plank being placed on the west rail of the New York Central Lines crossing the bridge and placed there in some manner unknown to this jury."
Speed Was 4 or 5 Miles
John Liscombe, section foreman and operator of the section car, was the first witness called. He told how the accident happened. The car was travelling about 4 or 5 miles an hour at the time the plank across the track was seen. The witness said he immediately applied the brakes, but the wheels of the car skidded on the creosote covered rails for about 50 feet before the car struck the plank.
The plank referred to was placed on exhibit and witness said one end of it covered the west rail. With the impact, the car was derailed and when the plank split, the car dropped onto the ties and skidded along for about 50 feet before it swerved and came to a stop on the west side of the bridge.
Heard Splash In River
The witness said that as soon as the car stopped, he heard a splash and saw two men in the water, Joseph Meilleur and Adelard Tessier. Henry Scott had been thrown from the car and his legs were caught between the ties. Liscombe said that he and some other men immediately ran off the bridge, down to the river bank and helped Meilleur out of the water. In the meantime, Tessier had been carried downstream and before the men could secure a boat and assist the man, he was seen to disappear below the surface.
"Who was resposible for the plank being on the track?" the coroner asked.
"I believe it was the Standard Engineering Company," the witness replied, "because they were planking the bridges at that time."
A High Wind
Liscombe recollected seeing the plank before, but could not say whether it was lying flat or standing up. He could give no reason for the plank being on the rail except that it might have been shifted there by the strong wind which was blowing at the time.
Lee Dresser, of the Standard Engineering Comapny, who had charge of the planking of the bridge, was the second witness and testiified that on the day previous to the accident, he and his men had quit work at 4:30 in the aftemoon.
In answer to Mr. Harkness, Dresser said that the plank in question was used as a scaffold to permit men getting under the floor of the bridge to tighten nuts of bolts, passing through the planking. He last saw the plank lying lengthways across the ties on the most westerly section of the bridge. and could not account for it being across the rail.
"After you quit work that afternoon, two trains crossed the bridge?" Mr. Harkness queried.
"Yes," was the reply.
"Would the wind have moved it onto the rail?"
"I don't think so."
The witness emphasized the fact that he took every precaution to guard against accidents, and just before quitting time had persomially inspected the entire bridge and had some blocks from plank ends removed from the track.
40-Foot Plunge
Joseph Meilleur, who appeared none the worse from his 40-foot plunge off the bridge into the icy water of the river, took the witness stand and gave brief evidence. He was of the opinion that before he rolled off the bridge, he struck the ties.
Hugh Omar, another member of the section gang who was on the car at the time, did not see the plank on the rail, but heard one of the men yell, "There's a plank on the rail." The impact threw him to the ties and partially stunned him.
Angus Tessier, nephew of Adelard Tessier, was also on the section car and testified that, at the time, the car was travelling about 5 or 6 miles an hour. He was the first to see the plank on the rail when the car was about 100 feet away from it. He yelled to Mr. Loscombe, who applied the brakes, but they didn't seem to slacken the speed of the car. The witness was thrown from the car and landed between the rails and the centre of the bridge.
Who Found the Body?
Just who found the body will be hard to determine for Jacob Point through an interpreter, claimed he found it. Mrs. Joe Thompson took the stand and said that she found the body close to the shore of Cornwall lsland, but was unable to bring it to shore so got her son and Jake Jocko to help her. They secured a piece of wire, but were unable to pull the body to shore. It was then, she claimed, that Jacob Point came along and, with the use of the wire, fastened the body to the shore and notified Cornwall authorities.
Saw Plank on Rail
Angus Bonaparte, of St. Regis crossed the bridge before the accident occurred and testified that he saw the plank across the west side of the bridge. lt was very windy at the time and he was running along and had to jump over the plank, which he thought was over the west rail. The wind was moving the plank at the time.
When the Witness was asked why he did not stop and remove the plank from the rail, he answered that he was racing across the bridge with Michael Francis and did not think of stopping.
Michael Francis testified that he did not see the plank at all, as he was on the east side of the bridge during the race.
Other witnesses were Richard Seymour, a worker for the Standard Engineering Company; Rene Tessier, son of Adeland Tessier, Angus Chubb, and P.L. Barker, Divisional Engineer of the New York Central Railway.
The jury was composed of the following: W.B. Newton, foreman; Frank Stidwell, E.E. Marleau, A.E. Lavimodiere, Charles Stafford, A.C. F etterly, Alex. Eamer, Ed. Parker, M.D. Cline and Ray Neilson

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