Explosion at the New Riverside Blast Furnace

Submitted by Errin Clark Cain.

From The Wheeling Intelligencer, Monday, October 20, 1902

HURLED THROUGH THE AIR Like so many Bits of Paper and Flung Torn and Bleeding TO ALL PARTS OF THE ROOM, An Awful Disaster at the New Riverside Blast Furnace Yesterday. A BIG DIRECT STEAM PIPE Bursts Under Heavy Pressure, Sending Forth a Great Dense CLOUD OF SCALDING STEAM Workmen Hurled From the Scaffold to All Parts of the Engine Room. 1 WILL DIE; 8 OTHERS INJURED. The Maimed Distributed Among the Wheeling Hospitals - The Story of the Disaster.



     ARTHUR HALFPENNY, of Benwood, serious. Injuries consist of severe burns about the face, arms and body; at Haskins' hospital.
     WILLIAM ANDERSON, of Benwood, serious. Injuries consist of burns about arms, head and body and spinal column fractured, but no pressure upon the spinal cord to produce paralysis; at Haskins' hospital.
     FRANK BARTURI, of Benwood, very serious. Injuries consist of burns about head, arms and body. At Haskins' hospital.
     SAMUEL BRADY, of Virginia, but boarding at Benwood, serious. Injuries consist of burns about face, chest, and body. At Haskins' hospital.
     HARRY WESTENHAFER, of Benwood, serious. Injuries consist of severe burns about head, body, and limbs, cut over eye, fractured wrist and sprained ankle; at Haskins' hospital.
     WILLIAM JONES, of Forty third Street, city. Injuries will prove fatal. Shoulder dislocated, knee fractured, badly scalded about face, hands and arms; at City hospital.
     C. E. CARSON, of McMechen, badly burned about face and hands, wrist fractured; at City hospital.
     M. BURKE, of Parkersburg, burned about face and arms. Removed to his boarding house in McMechen.



     About 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon at the new blast furnace at the Riverside Company, being erected at Boggs Run, occurred one of the most serious accidents in the history of the industrial town of Benwood. As a result, one person was probably fatally injured and seven others were maimed for life.      The accident occurred in the engine room at the south end of the big plant. About ten men were working on a scaffold about fifteen feet high, erecting a partition across the room, when a big twelve inch steam pipe bursted filling the room with a scalding mass of steam. The force of the explosion demolished the partition and hurled the workmen through the air as though they had been bits of paper. The noise of the explosion was heard by every one in that section of town and the building was soon surrounded by persons anxious to render aid to the injured whose cries were heartrending.


     The pipe which let go was one of the supply pipes leading direct from the boilers to the engines and the work of covering if was finished at noon yesterday. It is only ten days since the first steam was raised at the plant and it was said in Benwood that the pressure was very high, as the pipe was being tested, but this rumor could not be verified last evening.


     Michael Burke was one of the men in the room at the time the accident occurred. He was hurled some distance and struck an upright pipe which he seized with his hands and then slid down to the floor. The density of the steam made it impossible for him to see any openings, but realizing that he would be burned to death if he remained there, he began groping his way toward the wall and succeeded in reaching a window near the corner of the building. Here he found C.E. Carson, of McMechen, who had been thrown partly through the window. Carson was unable to move, so Burke, although his own hands and face were badly scalded, gathered him up in his arms and carried him to the door, a few feet away, and thus was probably the means of saving Carson's life.
     After getting Carson to a place of safety, Burke walked to Burris' pharmacy where his injuries were dressed and he returned to his boarding house in McMechen.
     Two electricians were but a few feet away when the pipe let go but they miraculously escaped with a few slight cuts received as they broke out a window to escape from the seething gray mass that filled the whole building.
     A rather pathetic feature connected with the case of C. E. Carson is that he had been working at the plant but a few days. He was formerly employed at the Benwood Junction shops. When David Rust was killed last Wednesday, Carson told some persons that he would quit the shops as he feared that he would be killed or seriously injured if he continued working for the railroad company. He came to Benwood, secured a place and began working Friday morning.
     William Jones, whose home is on Forty-third street, was horribly burned about the face and hands, the latter being so badly scalded that the skin of one hand came off like a glove. His shoulder was dislocated and there was a compound fracture of the knee cap. Last evening, his attending physician, Dr. Meighen, stated that there was no hope of his recovery. Carson was burned almost as bad, but he is expected to recover.
     The interior of the engine room was a horrible sight when the steam had cleared away. Pieces of flesh and clothing were scattered among the wreckage, while pools of blood marked the spots where the poor fellows had lain. As Carson lay across the window ledge, from where he was rescued by Burke, the blood trickled down on the outside, making a stain on the wall which is plainly visible from the railroad tracks several hundred feet distant.


From the Wheeling Intelligencer October 20, 1902


     Both of the men injured at the Riverside furnace explosion yesterday afternoon and sent to the City hospital died last night. The first one, Wm. Jones, of the Eighth ward, died at 7:25 o'clock, while the other man, Carson, expired at 2:30 this morning. Both men's injuries were of a most horrible nature and they suffered greatly before death relieved them.
     At three o'clock this morning all of the five patients at the Haskins hospital, who were injured in the explosion were reported to be progressing nicely though it will be several days before the final result of their injuries may be determined.


Notes from Errin Clark Cain ----- The name for the Carson man should be E. E. Carson (Elsworth Elias). He was my gggrandfather and he is buried at McMechen Cemetery. He left a wife and five children when he was killed at the age of 36.

William Jones who was also killed is buried in Mt. Rose Cemetery. His birth year is 1854. He was said to have left a wife and three grown children. According to an October 24, 1902 article in the Moundsville Echo, William Jones was the brother of Charles and Dallas Jones who resided on Nixon Ridge in Marshall County.

Samuel Brady and William Anderson died in the days following the accident from injuries they received.