Exactly 100 years ago yesterday — on July 22, 1914 — Westport suffered one of its worst tragedies ever.
But until “06880” reader Mary Palmieri Gai pointed it out, I’d never heard of it.
On that day — a Wednesday — a horrendous, high-speed head-on collision between a 3-car trolley and a freight trolley killed 4 people, and seriously injured 21.
It took place at the intersection of State Street (now Post Road West) and King Street (now Riverside Avenue). The Meriden Weekly Republican called it “a deep curve on a down grade.”
Many of the trolley’s 279 passengers were children, returning to East Bridgeport from a church picnic at Norwalk’s Roton Point. The dead were between 11 and 21 years old.
The Republican said the accident occurred when the motorman of the passenger trolley “put on all speed while going downhill in an endeavor to reach a siding before the arrival of the trolley freight, which he knew was coming.”
According to the New York Times, both cars were “telescoped for four or five feet.” The 4 dead were all in the front seat. Westport medical examiner Dr. Frank Powers called it “a miracle” that not more were killed.
The Republican added, “the air was filled with splinters and dust….a panic ensued after the crash. The shrieks and groans of the injured could be heard for blocks.”
Injured passengers helped others. Mrs. Robert Wakelee — who suffered broken legs and broken thighs — threw 2 children from the floor to the ground outside. Moments later, debris from the roof landed where the youngsters had lain.
Howard Taylor, who lived nearby, lifted a dozen people from the wreckage.
Every doctor in the area was summoned. Ambulances and private cars sped to Norwalk Hospital.
Mary Palmieri Gai adds one last piece of news: Among the injured — suffering from a broken nose and shock — was Lillian Abbott of Providence, Rhode Island.
Just 2 years earlier, she had survived the sinking of Titanic.