Archive for Tuesday, October 9, 2012

100 years ago: Three men seriously injured in bridge collapse

October 9, 2012


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Oct. 9, 1912:

"Ira Rothrock, severely cut about the head. Chas. Crowder, two ribs broken, and leg badly cut. Walter Baker, both hands severely burned and injuries about the head. Ira Rothrock, Walter Baker and Chas. Crowder came near losing their live this morning when a traction engine upon which they were riding went through the Dutton bridge. Without warning an entire panel of the bridge went through, taking the engine and men to the Wakarusa fifty feet below. Crowder and Rothrock were injured in the fall while Baker, who was not injured in falling, was pinned under the engine and besides being terribly scalded, came near being drowned before it was possible to extricate him. The front of the engine rested on the mud bank of the river while the rear end was in the water, part of it resting across Baker's legs. As soon as the heated boiler and fire pot struck the water, great volumes of steam arose and literally cooked the skin on Baker's arms from the elbow to the tips of his fingers.... The alarm was given by telephone and while Dr. H. Jones and men from '77' rushed out in automobiles, neighbors gathered and tried to extricate Baker from what looked like certain death. As the engine sank in the mud from its own weight, it carried Baker with it until at last simply his nose remained above water. Hack saws were used in cutting off the rods that held Baker and finally he was released after having been under the engine and in the water for an hour and a half. At first he was scalded and then chilled so that his condition was serious, yet he had strength to walk to the automobile in which he was hurried to the Simmons hospital.... Walter Bird, who was one of the first to reach the bridge after the accident, says that the 'I' beam supporting the girders of the bridge hung in a stirrup formed of a half inch or 5/8 inch bolt and it is a wonder that the bridge had not gone down long ago with this fragile support.... Ira Rothrock recently purchased a new separator and fearing to take it across the bridge with his heavy engine, hired Baker Brothers, who had a much lighter engine, to deliver the separator to the south side of the Wakarusa. That Rothrock feared no danger to the lighter engine is shown by his riding on it and going through the bridge with it. The accident happened so suddenly that the men had no opportunity for escape and fell like logs through the gaping hole in the bridge. Fortunately the engine broke loose from the separator which remained on the bridge with its front wheels hanging over the edge."


FlintlockRifle 5 years, 8 months ago

This was the old bridge on south 59 highway that crossed the Wakarusa River

Sarah St. John 5 years, 8 months ago

Thanks Flint -- I was wondering exactly where that was. I found a lot about the original Dutton family that farmed near there, but I couldn't locate the (former) bridge. Do you know how long it was there.... or when it passed on to its bridgely reward?

I wasn't familiar with traction engines either, but now I have read about them. If you google "traction engine 1912" you will see lots of pictures of them from this very year. They are pretty neat looking -- like a combination car and train-engine. I guess they didn't last long in our transportation/hauling history, being replaced by the development of stronger combustion-engine vehicles.

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