Statement of H. M. Bennett

Q. What train were you employed on on [sic] the last day of May last?
A. Engine 1165.

Q. W hat [sic] was it attached to, a regular train or a work train?
A. A regular freight train.

Q. Where did you leave tha t [sic] m(or)ning? What point?
A. Conemaugh.

Q. What time?
A. Between 6 & 7 o'clock.

Q. Was itraining [sic] at that time?
A. Yes, sir. We had been out all night.

Q. At what point?
A. Conemaugh. We had been at Conemaugh from about 11 o'clock.

Q. Why didn't you get away from there?
A. We had a wreck.

Q. What occasioned the wreck, do you know ?
A. Three cars were off the track.

Q. After you got to Conemaugh, where was your tran [sic] put?
A. We left Derry the evening before between 8 & 9 o'clock, that was Decoration Day, and we went to Bolivar empty for our train. We got a train of ore out there, excepting four through cars. The ore was for Conemaugh. We were backing our train in on what is called the "Horn" at Conemaugh, and three cars jumped off the track. The wreck force was called; it was raining very hard, and they didn't get around until between 2 & 3 o'clock, and they didn't get the wreck rid up until between 5 & 6. Then we pulled up on the siding and remained for No. 20 and the Accommodation. After they went, we followed them ----- to South Fork. We lay there for orders until we were about on No. 12's time, and we then backed in behind the office, as there was a train laying on the middle siding, and remained there until the flood came. When the flood came, I was up in the tower at South Fork, and saw the people running up over the hill, and I jumped up and ran to the window, and said it was coming, to g et [sic] out! We all started and ran down, and I had said before that, that if they moved Limited up, I would save my engine. When I started out on the railroad I was as good as my word, and I started for the engine; the engine was between me and the flood, and at a glance, I saw the flagman and fireman asleep,on [sic] the engine. I ran and got up on the engine and started it out the siding and ran across the bridge, and just as I got on the other side of the bridge, a big tree, I don't know the size of it, struck my engine, -- and I closed my eyes; I thought it was all up with us; I thought it would turn us into the river, but just in an instant, I opened my eyes, and I saw local freight pulling out off of the siding about 25\ yards above me, and I reversed my engine to keep from running into them, and I got it stopped very close; and then I hollowed to the boys, there were five, the fireman, the flagman, the conductor, a young man by the name of Ed. George, and myself, and we jumped off then, and they started up through South Fork town, and I started up the railroad. I started for the town, but a storeroom came whirling around right toward me, and I thought it was going to fall on me, and I started up the railroad, and I kept up the railroad until the big wave caught me with two or three feet of water, and I got hold of Local Freight and got on the second car from the cab and went up on deck.

Q. During the time you was there, did you hear anything about the South Fork dam?
A. Yes, sir, there was a gentleman came down, but everybody thought by the way he acted, he wasn't' right; one of the remarks he made was that the South Fork dam was liable to break at any time, and he was making a great fuss about it. I tho't [sic] myself the man wasn't right; he was so excited, and we remarked among the Limited men and myself of the way he w as [sic] carrying on, and thought very light of it; but before I came to the tower (I was up at the depot) and there was a young man, a very fine looking young man, came up where we were standing (a young man by the name of Paull, an operator, and some one else, two fo [sic] them standing there, and myself) and this young man came up, and he said to me, "I have just come from the South Fork dam, and itlooked [sic] bad." I said, "Is there any danger [sic] fears of itbreaking?", [sic] and he says "Yes, there he says "it's running about a foot and a half to two feet over the breast, and about twelve feet from the center of the breast, there is a break about six feet wide," and I turned around to Ed. George, and said "Let's go to the office and report this." We started to the office, and when I w as [sic] in the office and told the lady operator this, she says, "We have no communication further than Mineral Point, she says, "We have just sent a message from Mr. Wilson to Mineral Point and the operator has started a messenger down with it to "AO". Then Mr. Wilson came in shortly, ans [sic] she says to him, "I got your message off, Mr. Wilson", and we have notice that they have started it afoot from Mineral Point". I think there was messages sent before that.

Q. How long did the Limited stay there at South Fork after it got there?
A. She was near on time, if not altogether on time, and they staid there until after the flood.

Q. Suppose the Limited hadn't moved, and remained where it w as [sic] what would have been the res ult [sic] to the train?
A. I don't think there would have been anybody left . It took our train away; we never saw anything of it at all.

Q. How many cars were in your train?
A. Only four cars and the cabin.

Q. What were they? Q. What were they? [sic]
A. I think there were one or two or coke, and two cars of baled hay--two [sic] box cars;;the [sic] door was standing ajar\ about six or eight inches, and I looked in both of them when we were laying there, and they were loaded with baled hay. I Heard [sic] afterwards that two of o ur [sic] cars struck the viaduct, and they were loaded with dynamite and exploded.

Q. Where did you hear that?
A. I saw it in our County paper, the Greensburg Record.

Q. How many years had you been running on the road?
A. Eight years in November.

Q. Had you seen high water in the Conemaugh before this last flood?
A. Yes, sir, not as high as this though.,

Q. How much higher was this last flood before the dam broke than ever you saw it?
A. It was much higher than I ever saw it; I never saw the water so high, nor never saw ir eain [sic] so hard, except when the cloud bursted at Derry, and this rain was pretty much the same as when the cloud bursted.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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