Jellico, TN Troop Train Wreck, Jul 1944
17 Killed In Troop Train Wreck.
Jellico, Tenn, - AP - At least 17 persons, all but two of them soldiers, were killed last night when a troop train plunged into a 50-foot gorge of the Clear River 11 miles South of here.
DR. E. P. MUNCY, resident physician of Knoxville's General Hospital, said the death toll probably would exceed 40.
The locomotive and four cars were piled at the ravine's bottom, and a fifth hung over the precipitous edge, where it left the Louisville and Nashville railroad tracks.
One soldier, identified by Army Public Relations as Pvt. LEONARD BATTAG, of Evanston, Ill., was still pinned in the bottom of a wrecked car 12 hours after the crash, with four dead men piled on him. He regained consciousness and talked with rescuers as acetylene torches cut through twisted steel nearby. The youth, in the Army only 13 days, asked a doctor if he was in a plane.
"It sure looks like it," he said. "This is a lot better hole than on that train." He is the son of MR. And MRS. FRANK BATTAG of Evanston.
By noon six bodies had been brought to the government hospital at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and eight other bodies were reported on the way there. Army authorities at the hospital said that they had admitted 80 injury cases and had at least four more on the way and there were nine additional cases of soldiers given first aid treatment but not requiring hospitalization.
A partial death list released by the Army included the following enlisted men, with serial numbers but with home addresses still not known:
DONALD J. CLARK (35845018), WILLIAM M. GOREY (35845175), DALE MATTIX (35844937), W. H. McCHESNEY (35844928).
Among the injured were the following three railroad porters, all from Indianapolis: WILLIAM EUGENE McANULTY, SHERMAN COLLEY and THOMAS E. JONES, Extent of their injuries was not announced.
JOHN RUGGLES, in charge of the Knoxville office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said that possibilities of sabotage in connection with the wreck were being investigated.
Work of extricating the victims from the locomotive and five cars which tumbled down the steep 50-foot bank to the shallow stream was slow and unofficial estimate placed the casualties as high as 25 dead and 250 hurt.
The train was a special carrying only soldiers and the train crew.
An emergency train made up from the twelve cars which did not leave the track left this morning taking fifty of the injured to Lake City, Tenn., en route to the government hospital at Oak Ridge, Tenn., and at least thirty other injured service men were sent to Oak Ridge Hospital in ambulances.
State Guard Company C from Knoxville, commanded by Captain BEN SANDERS, joined military police in patroling the wreck scene this morning as acetelyne[sic] torches were used to cut away portions of the cars and slings and pulleys were used to move the injured men up the bank.
The kitchen and baggage cars of the southbound train, reported carrying more than 1,000 soldiers just out of basic training were burned.
Express Agent C. L. ALLEY of Jellico said first rescues were made by nearby mountainfolk who tediously hoisted the injured by block and tackle slings up the shrubbery-lined gorge. Waiting ambulances rushed the injured to hospitals in Lake City, LaFollette and Jellico, and Corbin and Williamsburg, Ky.
Rescuers worked doggedly early today to free two soldiers trapped in one of the smashed coaches. Doctors gave blood plasma transfusions to one of them, pinned down in the gorge wreckage. Two others who had been trapped were extricated, one of them dead.
The fireman, identified at a Jellico hospital as J. W. TUMMINS, of Etowah, died in the institution several hours after he was hurled free of the wreckage.
Capt. KILBURN BROWN, Army public relations officer, said identification of the dead was proceeding slowly. He explained most of the soldiers either had been in their berths at the time of the crash, or were in the wash rooms, preparing for bed. The crash tossed personal belongings together, and in some cases caused loss of identification tags.
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