You are here:  Cambria > Obituaries > GONTZ, John
Obituary Index

    Cambria Freeman, 26 Feb 1904, Contributed by Patty Millich

Engine Let Go Works Death

Three men killed and several injured by an Explosion at Ehrenfeld

The explosion of the boiler of P. R. R. freight engine No. 2080 at Ehrenfeld about 10 o'clock Monday night caused the deaths of three men and the probable fatal injury of two others, all of them employees of the railroad.

The dead:

John Gontz, conductor of the train that the ill-fated engine was hauling.

Henry Tyson, engineer in the cab at the time.

George Bickner, track walker, who got on the engine at South Fork about a mile from the place where the explosion occurred.

The injured:

Robert Renwick, fireman, one leg blown completely off and the other badly crushed and broken, probably fatally hurt.

Elmer Furl, a brakeman, hip broken and legs crushed, probably fatally hurt.

The cause of the accident which took place within 50 feet of the station is not known and will probably never be determined. The freight left the Derry Yards at 6:45 in the evening and proceeded as usual to Conemaugh with the engine that blew up in the lead. The pull up the mountain east of Conemaugh is one that is well known to all the P. R. R. rail men and at the later place the freight was supplied with a "pusher" or an engine that is coupled on the rear of the train to aid in making the up-hill trip. After the addition of the pusher the freight continued up the mountains but only got as far as Ehrenfeld when the accident occurred.

The escape of the fireman and the brakeman from death is doubtless due to the fact that they were on the tender of the engine. The engineer and the conductor were both in the cab as was Bickner, the trackwalker, who had a message for the railroaders at Summerhill and had boarded the engine at South Fork. All of the men with the exception of the trackwalker were residents of Derry and the latter lives at New Germany, a small town just back of Summerhill.

A remarkable escape was that of E. F. Tierst of Indiana, an extra brakeman, who had been riding on the engine and had left it only two or three minutes before the explosion. The track flagman, Tuly, of Derry, a member of the train crew, also had a very narrow escape.

Obituary Database Last Updated: 28 Jan 2023
Copyright © 2000-2010, All Rights Reserved
Lynne Canterbury, Diann Olsen and contributors