Traverse City Record - August 21, 1919 - Page 1 - Contributed by Matthew and Brenda (Sheneman) Ozog

Traverse City Record - August 21, 1919

"Wreckers Tear At Twisted Mass Of Metal In Search Of Trainmen's Remains.

Compilation of Injured Shows No Fatal Hurts-- Coroner's Jury Awaits Recovery of Missing Bodies

It is not difficult to determine the cause of the wreck. There was only one cause. The freight train crew completely overlooked the passenger train. The freight train should have headed in at Beitner. It did not. The passenger had the right of way. There is no question over the cause, and you may so quote me. We have not yet interviewed the conductor of the freight train, but will do so as soon as possible. The railroad investigation will be thorough.---E. E. Cain, General Superintendent Pere Marquette, Grand Rapids.

Fletcher Gage, passenger engineer, Grand Rapids
Frank Cushman, mail clerk, Petosky
Earl Beeman, passenger fireman, Grand Rapids.
(Died at General Hospital 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.)
John Davis, freight brakeman, Grand Rapids
Earl G. Eighmy, freight engineer, Grand Rapids
Guy Shenneman, freight fireman, Big Rapids.

Clarence Spaulding, Sparta, cut over and under left eye, leg bruised.
Meyer Robinson, Trenton, N.J., bruises and scratched, black eyes. (Has departed for home.)
Mrs. W.H. Harris, Sparta, Mich., bruises
Amanda Hanson, Chicago, 7212 Chaplain Ave., bruises on face, shoulder and leg.
L.B. Heeniskerk, of the Netherlands Legation, Washington, D.C. was among those injured. He was badly cut over the left eye.
G.N. Conradt, of Kokomo, Ind., a man 85 years of age. He sustained face injuries and an injured eye.
A.J. Blue, Chicago, cut over left eye and minor body bruises.
Amanda Hanson was the only injured person remaining in the local hospitals today, and information obtained at the General hospital was she will be able to leave for her home tonight.
Herman Cantor, Grand Rapids, minor injuries.

Buried beneath tons of twisted steel, the bodies of Earl G. Eighmy, freight engineer, and Guy L. Shenneman, freight fireman, are not yet within reach of the wrecking crew that is working frantically to clear the right-of-way. It seemed improbable, late this afternoon, that the bodies would be recovered before night, and it is doubtful if the road with be cleared before another 24 hours.

Identity of the two missing men has been established through the arrival here of relatives and identification of the mangled body at Weaver's undertaking rooms, as that of John Davis, freight brakeman, Grand Rapids.

It is believed that Eighmy and Shenneman are encased in the mess of steel comprising what was the freight engine, and the big wrecking crane is having difficulty pulling this to the side of the right-of-way that its contents may be examined.

E.E. Cain, general superintendent of the Pere Marquette, Grand Rapids, arrived this morning. He asserted that the freight crew was entirely to blame for the accident saying: "There is only one cause. The freight crew overlooked the passenger train. The freight should have headed in at Beitner, but neglected to comply with this order." He further stated that the officials had not interviewed Fred Neubecker, conductor of the freight, and stated that the railroad would make a thorough investigation.

One of the saddest sights at the wreck today was the presence of Emory Shenneman, aged father of Guy L. Shenneman, freight fireman, whose body is still pinned beneath the wreckage. Guy Shenneman was a married man, lived on Second Avenue, Big Rapids, and leaves aside from his wife, four children, the oldest five years of age.

"Guy had been working as a street car conductor in Detroit, and just quit last week because Pere Marquette wanted him back," said the father. He started to work only Friday."

The general impression today is that the boilers did not explode. They seemed to be in good condition. In fact, the boilers, drive wheels and bells are about all that can be salvaged from the wreck. Too, it is apparent today that the tragedy would have been far greater but for the fact that the engines were pulling light trains, and that the coaches were steel.

A temporary telegraph station has been set up at the scene of the wreck, so that officials may devote all of their time to the important work of securing the two missing bodies and clearing the right-of-way.

Grimly struggling to get to the remains of the two trainmen, known to be somewhere in the mass of twisted wreckage on the Pere Marquette right-of-way, near Beitner, a wrecking crane and a large crew of workmen labored throughout the night and today, pulling at the twisted metal that once was a freight locomotive, a passenger engine, and several cars. Through a night of thunderstorms, by the uncertain light of acetylene flares, the wrecking gang sought to learn the last, sad details of a fatal crash that, according to Trainmaster James Kehoe, was due to the fact that "five men in charge of that freight train, all responsible and each dependent upon the other, forgot that No. 6, was coming," at about noon Wednesday. As a result, the freight extra, No. 362, met passenger train No. 6, in head-on collision, and six deaths and many injuries was the toll of that forgetfulness.

In spite of the ominous skies, and frequent downpours, hundreds of local citizens watched every move of the wrecking crew throughout the night. As each piece of wreckage came loose, to the etug of the powerful crane, hundreds of eyes were riveted on the resultant gap in the death pyre, hoping to catch a glimpse of what might remain of the missing men. The scene was a ghastly one, in the half-light of the flickering torches; and there was a sinister tenseness in the dank throng that dotted the high sand banks of the deep cut.

Coroner E.B. Minor last night performed the preliminary work of an inquest. A jury, composed of Frank Joy, A.W. Bartak, Fred Hunter, Major Robinson, Charles Johnson and J.A. Montague, was drawn by Sheriff Taylor, and viewed the remains -- two bodies at Anderson's and two at Weaver's. The inquest was then adjourned until a later date, when officials, railroad employees and witnesses will be subpoenaed to testify. It is the duty of the inquest to determine the cause of death of the six trainmen, and place, if it sees fit, responsibility for the tragedy.

Earl Beeman, the passenger fireman, was alive when taken from the wreckage yesterday afternoon. He was taken to the General hospital, where physicians battled for his life. He was scalded from head to feet, great patches of skin being burned from his body. He begged to live for the sake of his four children, having lost his wife last winter, but it was not to be. He died at about 4:30 p.m.

Though several trainmen have viewed the unidentified body at Weaver's establishment, identification has not been definitely established. The general belief is that the body is that of F. Davis, freight brakeman, Grand Rapids. The "NX" sheet is here. listing the crews of the ill-fated trains, and Davis is among the missing. It seems certain that if this body is not the body of Davis, it is Eighmy of Spaulding, and the other two bodies will be recovered before night.

While many passengers were injured, no serious injuries were reported. It was learned that one of the victims was L.B. Heeniskerk, of the Netherlands Legation, Washington, D.C. He was taken to the Johnson hospital, where it was ascertained that his injuries were slight. He sustained, aside from his body bruises, a bad cut over the left eye.

The main line of the Pere Marquette will be tied up all day. The early morning southbound train left over the M. & N.E., getting back to the main line at Kaleva. The northbound resort special came over the G.R. & I.

Railroad officials did not leave the scene of the accident throughout the night, and physicians and working crews were not driven away by the storm and lack of working lights. Some heroic work has been done, in the way of relief, since the wreck. Dr. Swanton was at Elk Rapids when he learned of the wreck. He made the trip to Beitner so fast that he ran one tire completely off his car, but did not stop. Dr. Kyselka has been at the scene of the wreck constantly since it occurred.

Generously Contributed by:
Matthew & Brenda Ozog

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