Saturday, October 14, 2017

On This Date in Minnesota History: October 14

October 14, 1907 – Pinned under the wreck of his engine, George F. Birch, met his death early this morning as a result of a wreck on the Duluth Missabe ore dock. His fireman, Frank Gospeter, barely escaped with his life, and is suffering from the most painful burns and bruises at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Birch was backing down the hill with a heavily loaded train, and running at quite a high rate of speed when he struck the curve. As he was rounding the curve he ran into a string of empties standing on track No. 2. Neither of the men had time to jump.

Ten of the cars were piled up in a heap, and the engine was overturned, pinning both Birch and Gospeter beneath it, where they were horribly burned by the escaping steam and boiling water. The fireman was extricated in time to save his life, but Birch was too far under the engine to be reached, and it was nearly three hours before his body was taken out. He was probably killed by a blow on the head.

The fireman, a young man about 23 years of age, whose home is in Eau Claire, Wis., will probably recover.

The fire department was summoned as soon as the accident occurred, and the firemen made a quick run to the scene, and worked with the employees of the dock to extricate the two men.

Five of the cars were hurled over the embankment, and the others were piled up in a heap on the track. The engine was also a complete wreck.

The blame for the wreck has not yet been fixed. It is said to have been due to the action of a switchman in turning the switch the wrong way, allowing the loaded train to run into the empties. Coroner McCuen will start an investigation tomorrow and take the statements of witnesses. If necessary an inquest will be ordered.

The Duluth Evening Herald; “Engineer Loses His Life in Bad Smash-Up on the Missabe Road”; Oct. 15, 1907; p. 5.

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