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Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 10, page 5 [newspaper clipping], November 1858

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Identifier: DX03219409

Title: Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries: Volume 10, page 5 [newspaper clipping], November 1858

Description: Newspaper clipping regarding a boiler explosion on the tugboat Petrel on the North River, which resulted in three lives being lost.







About 1 o'clock on Saturday afternoon, as the little steam-stug Petrel, Capt. Allen, was passing down the North River, her boiler exploded, destroying the boat, and killing all hands save one man. The disaster occurred off Duane street pier, and was witnessed by thousands of persons who were assembled in the vicinity to watch the departure of the steamers for Aspinwall and San Juan del Norte. Mr. Lawrence, the clerk of the steamer Broadway, which was moored to the Duane street pier at the time, informs us that he was standing on the hurricane deck of his boat while the Petrel passed, and saw some one whom he believes to have been Capt. Allen standing near the wheel-house. He gallantly waved his handkerchief to him, and the other gaily returned the compliment. As he did so, the little tug burst into fragments, and disappeared in a blinding mist of steam and splinters. Then came a dull, heavy report, followed by a crash like thunder. High up through the splinters of wood and fragments of iron, shot a human form; and, the next instant, it descended at his feet, head foremost, and breaking through the deck on which he stood, fell upon the main deck of the Broadway, leaving a shattered boot sticking behind among the splinters. Portions of the wreck were thrown to a great distance, some of them falling upon the piers adjacent. A large piece of boiler iron, a coat and a coal rake fell upon the Erie Railroad pier, among a crowd of people, but happily no person was injured.

When the steam and smoke cleared away, the tug had disappeared from sight, leaving only a mass of splintered wood floating over the spot where she had gone down. In the midst of the wrecked matter a human form was discovered struggling for life. All this occurred in less time than we have occupied in relating it. Mr. Lawrence, as soon as possible, jumped into a dingy and pushed off to save the survivors. His example was followed by several boatmen; but there was only one man alive. Mr. Lawrence took him into his boat and brought him ashore. The poor fellow was so begrimed and bloody that they thought he was on the point of expiring. In a short time, however, he became sufficiently conscious to state that his name was Edward Downey, and that he had been fireman of the Petrel. He did not seem to know where he was nor what had happened to him, and begged the bystanders to take him back to his vessel. He was suffering from an ugly scalp wound, otherwise he did not seem much injured, but he was not rational enough to give any account of the disaster, nor even to realize his providential escape.

Capt. Walling, who was on duty at the steamship landing, saw the explosion, hastened to the spot, and caused the wounded man to be carried to the City Hospital. The remains of the body, which fell upon the steamer Broadway were shockingly mutilated. The upper part of the head was gone; the spine was broken in several places; the trunk was disembowled, and the legs were broken so that the bones protruded. This sad wreck was recognized as the corpse of Henry Brink, the engineer of the Petrel. Capt. Robert Allen, her owner, of Jersey City, is now said to have been ashore at the time of the disaster. Some people on the dock state that they saw a human face appear above the water once after the explosion, and then sink. The body of the engineer was sent to the dead house at Bellevue. No other body could be found, from which it is inferred, as four persons in all are said to have been on board, that the other two went down with the wreck. Those supposed to have been lost were the pilot. . . .

Rights: NoC-US


Dates: 1858-11

Type(s): Clipping, Newspaper


Subjects: Transportation


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