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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 005

              [newspaper clipping]
                    TERRIBLE EXPLOSION
                     ON THE NORTH RIVER.
                       THREE LIVES LOST
  About 1 o�clock on Saturday afternoon, as the little
steam-stug Petrel, Capt. Allen, was passing down the
North River, her boiler exploded, destroying the boat,
and killing all hands save one man.  The disaster
occurred off Duane street pier, and was witnessed by
thousands of persons who were assembled in the 
vicinity to watch the departure of the steamers for
Aspinwall and San Juan del Norte.  Mr. Lawrence,
the clerk of the steamer Broadway, which was moored
to the Duane street pier at the time, informs us that
he was standing on the hurricane deck of his boat
while the Petrel passed, and saw some one whom he
believes to have been Capt. Allen standing near the
wheel-house.  He gallantly waved his handkerchief to
him, and the other gaily returned the compliment.
As he did so, the little tug burst into fragments, and
disappeared in a blinding mist of steam and splinters.
Then came a dull, heavy report, followed by a crash
like thunder.  High up through the splinters of wood
and fragments of iron, shot a human form; and, the
next instant, it descended at his feet, head foremost,
and breaking through the deck on which he stood, fell
upon the main deck of the Broadway, leaving a shatter-
ed boot sticking behind among the splinters.  Portions
of the wreck were thrown to a great distance, some of
them falling upon the piers adjacent.  A large piece
of boiler iron, a coat and a coal rake fell upon the
Erie Railroad pier, among a crowd of people, but hap-
pily no person was injured.
  When the steam and smoke cleared away, the tug
had disappeared from sight, leaving only a mass of
splintered wood floating over the spot where she had
gone down.  In the midst of the wrecked matter a
human form was discovered struggling for life.  All
this occurred in less time than we have occupied in
relating it.  Mr. Lawrence, as soon as possible, jumped
into a dingy and pushed off to save the survivors.
His example was followed by several boatmen; but
there was only one man alive.  Mr. Lawrence took
him into his boat and brought him ashore.  The poor
fellow was so begrimed and bloody that they thought
he was on the point of expiring.  In a short time, how-
ever, he became sufficiently conscious to state that his
name was Edward Downey, and that he had been fire-
man of the Petrel.  He did not seem to know where
he was nor what had happened to him, and begged
the bystanders to take him back to his vessel.  He
was suffering from an ugly scalp wound, otherwise he
did not seem much injured, but he was not rational
enough to give any account of the disaster, nor even
to realize his providential escape.
  Capt. Walling, who was on duty at the steamship
landing, saw the explosion, hastened to the spot, and
caused the wounded man to be carried to the City
Hospital.  The remains of the body, which fell upon
the steamer Broadway were shockingly mutilated.
The upper part of the head was gone; the spine was
broken in several places; the trunk was disembowled,
and the legs were broken so that the bones protruded.
This sad wreck was recognized as the corpse of Henry
Brink, the engineer of the Petrel.  Capt. Robert Al-
len, her owner, of Jersey City, is now said to have
been ashore at the time of the disaster.  Some people
on the dock state that they saw a human face appear
above the water once after the explosion, and then
sink.  The body of the engineer was sent to the dead
house at Bellevue.  No other body could be found,
from which it is interred, as four persons in all are said
to have been on board, that the other two went down
with the wreck.  Those supposed to have been lost
were the pilot (Brooks), the engineer (Brink), and a 
  The Petrel was about 50 tuns burden, and valued at
$8,000.  She was built for a pleasure boat, and had
been idle all the Summer at Newtown Creek, but she
recently changed owners, and since then has been ac-
tively engaged in the towing business.  Judging from
the defective quality of the piece of boiler thrown
ashore, the explosion is attributable to flaws in the
  Yesterday, the fireman became conscious, when he
stated that at the time of the explosion there was a
pressure of seventy pounds of steam on, which was
twenty more than the boiler was capable of bearing.               
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