The Hexthorpe Disaster – Balby Inquest (picture)

September 1887

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Wednesday 21 September 1887

The Doncaster Disaster. Inquest at Balby.
Important Statement by Sir Edward Watkin.
Burials in Sheffield.

From the Illustrated London News:

At Balby, near Doncaster, yesterday, the County Coroner (Mr. F. E. Nicholson) resumed his inquiry into the circumstances attending the deaths of the 19 persons whose bodies were removed to the Hexthorpe sidings after the deplorable calamity of last Friday.

At the outset. Sir Edward Watkin, the chairman the Company, expressed—as Mr. Wm. Pullitt, the general manager, had feelingly done at the opening inquiry—the great sorrow and grief of the directors at the misfortune which had occurred. Sir Edward added the important that it was not the intention of himself his colleagues to dispute the liability the company, and that all those who met; them in a just spirit would be dealt with quickly, and. j hoped, satisfactorily.

It was well that this announcement should the so promptly made, as it will, in Sir Edwards words, “reassure the minds many poor people, with whom the directors deeply sympathised.

Though the evidence given yesterday was in some respects similar to that brought out by Major Marindin, additional testimony of considerable importance was elicited. God Stanley, of the Liverpool train, was asked if the brake had been tried at Penistone alter the train had been re-arranged. He replied that he had: no knowledge of this having been done, but that the head guard, W. Smith, who was in charge of the train, would be able to speak positively on the point. Smith, it seems, was the only person injured in the brake van, which was packed with passengers.

Robert Davis the fireman on the Hull express, admitted, seeing flag signalmen on the line, but did not know what they meant, and did not call the driver’s attention. Major Marindin, who attended the inquiry to complete his evidence, asked the fireman why he failed inform the driver. Davis replied, “I hadn’t time to new so, for the driver then lighted the train at the platform.”

The fireman added that they could have “pulled in another two coach lengths.” That short distance thus divided life from death in the case of 24 persons!

Mr. Thomas Smith, a traffic inspector who travelled with the Hull express, deposed that saw two signalmen with red that on passing the second flag he called to the head guard (Smith) to put the brake on. He did not know whether Smith would have time to apply brake; but neither felt nor heard it applied. He not think the speed had been reduced in the slightest, and he had heard no whistling. This witness is also reported to have stated that there was ample time for the brake to be applied and the train pulled op. He also expressed the opinion that the driver, notwithstanding that he was on the right side, could see the flag signal.

The driver of the Hull express, Samuel Taylor, acting under advice, formally declined to give evidence. The inquiry was adjourned until next Tuesday, to take the evidence of the head guard Smith, who has not yet recovered sufficiently from his injuries to give evidence. To-day the Borough Coroner resumes the inquiry into the deaths which have occurred within his jurisdiction.

Sheffield was again painfully reminded of the disaster by the burials of fifteen the victims—ten the General Cemetery, three Intake, one at Ecclesall Churchyard and one at Bum greave Cemetery.

Another interment took place at Kimberworth. This afternoon Edward Docherty and Daniel Hawksworth will be very at Intake. Very large crowds assembled to witness the funerals, and there were abundant evidences of sorrow for the dead and sympathy with the living. The spectators were very orderly and well-behaved. The Ven. Archdeacon Blakeney, D.D., yesterday visited the injured at Doncaster Infirmary, the Reindeer Hotel, and private houses. He saw them all except young Mr. Trimnell, who was asleep, and there no thought, of course, of disturbing his much needed rest.

Mr. Vernon was in excellent spirits, and is getting on very well. His friend, Mr. Forsdike, is also progressing favourably. Most the patients expressed the hope, and were even confident, that they would be able to return home very soon. The whole of the sufferers were most appreciative Paul the kindness and attention received the Infirmary and other places.

The poor girl Annie Burley is not yet aware that her mother has been killed, the news having been withheld until she is strong enough to bear the shock it inevitably give her. The archdeacon found Mr. Bocking and Mr. Betts also rather better, and the other Sheffield sufferers he conversed with, including; everyone except Mr. Trimnell—appeared to be somewhat better and in a hopeful mood.

At Sheffield, Mr. and Mrs. Driver, of Milton Arms, Highfield; Mrs. Harrison. Mrs. Cavill, and Mrs. Copley, of Pearl Street, are progressing as favourably as can be expected. They are all under the care of Dr. Harrison, of Yarra House, Cemetery road. Dr. Thorburu, of Manchester (not Dr. Thorpe, of Sheffield, inadvertently stated yesterday), is the consulting surgeon of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company.