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Fatal Accident in Chaucer-Road, Hawkes Bay 1879

Journal by ngairedith

from the HAWKE'S BAY HERALD - 22 September 1879
... A most lamentable accident occurred last Saturday morning at the hill in the Chaucer-road where some men were employed getting "stuff" for the swamp reclamation works, the result being that three unfortunate men lost their lives. The hill that was being worked is situated nearly at the foot of the Chaucer-road. The contractor had rails laid down from along the side of the hill to the swamp which is being filled in, the material being conveyed in trucks. For the purpose of filling the trucks they were run into a sort of low-roofed tunnel constructed of timber and erected alongside that part of the base of the hill from which the material was being procured. There were holes in the roof of the tunnel through which the "stuff" discharged from the hillside dropped into the trucks, but as in falling it heaped up, there was a man to each truck to "trim" it - that is to spread the dirt uniformly.

On Saturday morning, shortly after 11 o'clock, there were some trucks in the tunnel, and four men were engaged in attending to them, when there suddenly fell such a mass of earth as to crunch in the top timbers of the tunnel at the end furthest from Carlyle street. One of the men, an Italian, who was nearest to the Carlyle-street end, managed to get under the trucks and so crawled out of the tunnel at that end, but the other three were buried by the mass of earth and timber that came down upon them.

A young man named JOHN ENNOR, who had been working with the others, and had come out for some purpose just before the accident, rushed into the tunnel when he saw the earthslip calling out, as he did so, to Mr BRIGGS, the foreman, that the men were buried. Just as ENNOR got inside, a second, though smaller landslip, occurred, which almost buried him. He succeeded in getting a portion of his body under a truck, but his legs got covered by the falling earth. He was, however, enabled to free himself, and was afterwards actively engaged in the work of extricating the other men. These were PATRICK CLARK, JOHN QUAIN, and BARTELETTO TARAVERO (or as he has been otherwise named, BARTELLO SATARNAVARO)

JOHN QUAIN, had been, it appears, trimming the last truck of the row at the northern end, and it being tipped up by the falling earth he was to some extent protected from the crushing to which the other two poor fellows were exposed, and so he was not, as they were, immediately killed, and there can be no doubt that he lived until about 20 minutes before he was extricated, ENNOR, the young man we have previously mentioned, contrived to get at QUAIN by creeping under the trucks from the south end, and passed him a sponge that had been soaked in brandy. ENNOR distrinctly heard QUAIN ask "How long before you are going to get me out?". Having been replied to that all haste was being made to get him out, he was asked if he knew anything of his two mates, and he replied that he did not. Afterwards other men communicated with QUAIN again, and brandy was administered to him, until at last he was found to be dead. He had previously complained of pain in his back, and when he was taken out it was ascertained that his back was bruised, but there were no bones broken. His death was doubtless due to his being smothered.

We may mention that Dr CARO was on the ground a few minutes after the accident, and Dr SPENCER about a quarter of an hour after, both remaining on the ground until the last body was taken out. Dr de LISLE was also on the spot later.

Immediately on the occurrence of the accident all the men engaged on the reclamation works set to with great vigor to remove the fallen earth, and extricate the victims of the disaster. Those engaged worked in relays, and no exertion was spared by any one of them. The men at the railway reclamation works knocked off and went to the scene of the accident ready to give help if their services had been required, but the (space?) in which work was possible was so very limited that only a few could be employed in it at one time.

At about 3 o'clock sufficient earth was removed to allow of QUAIN's body being got out.
Just a little while before, a piece of timber that had been pressing on QUAIN's back was removed, and the displacement caused some of the earth to fall in, but it is not supposed that it in any way contributed to QUAIN's death, as there can be no doubt that he was dead before that point in the work of extrication was reached. The body, as soon as it was got out, was examined by Drs CARO, and SPENCER, both of whom pronounced life to be quite extinct. Dr CARO considered there was a quivering, but he pronounced it to be merely muscular. The body was removed to Mr LIMBRICK's Royal Hotel, while the men at work at the tunnel continued their unremitting exertions until at about 4 o'clock they reached the other two bodies. The Italian's was found in almost an upright position, the fallen timbers pressing against the whole length of his body. One side of his face was completely crushed in, and the bosy was evidently in a similar condition. CLARKE's body was recovered almost immediately after. The scalp was laid bare, but so far as could be ascertained no limbs were broken.

Both bodies were taken to the Royal Hotel to await - with that of QUAIN - the inquest which will be held at 9 o'clock this morning

The event excited an intense and painful feeling. The scene of the accident was thronged on Saturday by a large crowd of anxious spectators of the work of extrication, and had there been room for as many men to work who had the wish to do so, the whole mass of earth would have been removed in a very few minutes. It is, however, to be regretted that a large number of those present showed so little discretion as to crowd the bank composed of the earth that was being thrown out, doubtless thus impeding those who were working, and also endangering the falling in again of the earth that was taken out. There were several police constables present, but though they now and then made an ineffectual attempt to keep the crowd back, they did not set about it in a way calculated to be effectual. Inspector SCULLY was not present, being away somewhere on the East Coast.
The great interest the matter awakened had scarcely subsided yesterday. All day long there were large numbers continually visiting the spot, and quite a mournful feeling pervaded over the town.

A (VERY LONG) Coroner's Inquest was held at Mr LIMBRICK's Royal Hotel on 22 September 1879, before Dr HITCHINGS, Coroner, upon the bodies of
* Patrick CLARK, shovelman, aged about 40, a wife and 7 children
* John QUAIN, shovelman, aged 25, a wife and 1 child
* Bartolo/Barteletto TARAVERO, tunnelman, aged 30, unmarried
(ages, taken from BDM, differ slightly from newspaper reports)

I will put the link here for you to read the whole inquest
I will add here the names of those at the inquest

The following jury was empanelled:-
J. A. REARDEN (foreman)
David GRAY
Ezekial ROWE

JAMES RICHARD DAVIES being called, he said he wished to object to one of the jurors - Mr SPRATT - who had been heard to make some very strong remarks in reference to JOHN BRIGGS, the foreman, to the effect that he would like to string him up. After some conversation Mr SPRATT retired, and the inquiry was proceeded with.

James Richard DAVIES deposed: I am contractor for the swamp reclamation works in conjunction with THOMAS CONNOR, who lives in Dunedin ... JOHN BRIGGS is my foreman ... under any circumstances I should have run the gullet, whether MORGAN's house had been there or not, to get the grade for the engine and trucks

JAMES ROCHFORT deposed: I am a civil engineer, residing in Napier

CHARLES HERMAN WEBER deposed: I am a civil engineer, I have resided in Napier for 20 years, and have practised as an engineer for 35 years

JOHN BRIGGS deposed: I am foreman to Mr DAVIES. I have been engaged at earthworks for 27 years, both as workman and foreman. I have been in the Australian colonies most of the time ... none of the men complained of the danger of the work, or refused to work in consequence. I have never threatened anyone that if they would not work in the tunnel they must go. I know a man named MICHAEL REILLY; he has never been asked to work in the tunnel

FRANCIS TISO deposed: I am an Austrian, and am a laborer employed by Mr Davies ... i have had some experience in tunnelling - 12 years experience in Germany and in this colony

JOHN COGHLAN deposed: I am a laborer in the employ of Mr davies

JOHN HODGKINSON deposed: I am a laborer in the employ of Mr Davies. I am breakman to the waggons

WILLIAM FOLEY deposed: I am a laborer in the employ of Mr Davies, working as picker

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on 2012-10-13 07:05:10


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