New York, NY Ferryboat Boiler Explosion and Panic, Jul 1906


Pipe Bursts, Scalding Badly Four Men in Boiler Room.


Strenuous Work by Deckhands Calms Screaming Men and Women Among 1,500 Passengers

Four men were scalded yesterday morning by an explosion of a steam pipe in the boiler room of the municipal ferryboat Richmond just as she had started out of her slip a the Battery. There were 1,500 passengers aboard the boat, mostly women and children, and for a time after the explosion there was a panic among them, some of the women screaming and running about the deck hunting for life preservers. The crew by strenuous effort succeeded finally in calming them, and all were landed safely. Some of the men passengers, wild eyed and yelling, added to the terror of the women and children by their actions. A little rough handling brought them around.

Three of the injured men were sent to their homes after their wounds had been dressed. Joseph Dugan, a fireman, of Corona, L. I., was so severely scalded that he was taken to the Hudson Street Hospital. There he was said to be in a critical condition. He is believed to have inhaled some of the scalding steam. He was also scalded about the face, neck, chest and arms.

The others, who were scalded on the arms, were James Banning, a water tender of Staten Island; William Ashley, a fireman, of 554 West 132 Street, Manhattan, and Michael Lysaght, a fireman, of 535 East Eighty-first Street, Manhattan.

The Richmond, in command of Capt. William Cole, had started on her 11:40 trip for Staten Island and was half way out of her slip when there was a muffled explosion forward, steam pouring out of the ventilators. Engineer Jonathan Wilson was in the engine room. A joint in one of the eight-inch main steam pipes leading from the forward boilers to the engine room had blown out. Following the explosion the hissing of escaping steam was heard in all parts of the big ferryboat. Clouds of steam filled the team gangways and boiler rooms, and worked their way up to the main deck also carried off vast volumes of steam with a loud hissing noise.

Capt. Cole and Pilot Turner both heard the explosion. Capt. Cole, unaware of how serious the damage was to his boat, signaled to go astern at full speed, and at the same time sounded "Quarters" on the alarm gongs all over the big craft.

At the sound of "Quarters" the crew to a man went to their stations, and commenced to quiet the passengers, who were running wildly about trying to find out what had happened. Under orders out what had happened. Under orders of Capt. Cole the crew went about telling the passengers that the accident was trifling, and that they would soon be put ashore. It took some little time to reassure them, and not a few seized and hugged life preservers until the boat had backed into her slip again. Several men who became excited had to be handed a little roughly to bring them to their senses.

The pipe burst without any warning to the four men in the boiler room. There was one loud report, followed by a hissing cloud of steam, that enveloped the men. Tortured by the pain, they nevertheless managed to grope their way to the narrow ladder and climb out. All of them were knocked off their feet by the explosion. When they got to the grating the deckhands there pulled them out.

All but one of the men managed to partially keep their faces covered in a manner with their arms, even while climbing up the ladder, but Joseph Dugan, who was nearest the point where the steam pipe burst, caught a spurt of steam directly in the face. Dr. Leslie, who attended him, said he was in a serious condition.

The escaping steam did not enter the engine room, a bulkhead compartment separating the engine room from the boiler room, and Engineer Wilson stuck to his engine until the boat was tied up in the slip. The fireman in the after banking their own fires, went to the aid of their comrades, whom they feared were imprisoned in the forward boiler room. When they arrived there, however, all the men were out, and they devoted their attentions to pouring lubricating oil on the burns of the injured, until they were removed from the boat.

Patrolman McNulty, who was on shore, summoned the reserves from the Church Street Station when he heard the explosion. The prompt arrival of the reserves, who reached the boat in five minutes after the accident, was of great help in the handling of the crowd off the boat and the transfer of the 1,500 people, the majority of whom were women and children, to the ferryboat Manhattan.

Pilot Turner said that as the boat was almost immediately backed into the slip and made fast the period of excitement was very short. As she backed in a few men tried to climb over the guard rail, but they were speedily yanked back by the deckhands.

The Brooklyn was put on in the place of the Richmond and the regular twenty-minute schedule was not interrupted. An examination will be made by Engineer Wilson as to the cause of the explosion.

The New York Times, New York, NY 16 Jul 1906