Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Walls of Equitable Yield Another Body,

January 15, 1912, New-York Daily Tribune, "WALLS OF EQUITABLE YIELD ANOTHER BODY," page 1, Column 1,

Wreckers Find William Campion After Cutting Through Ice Bank 15 Feet Thick.


All Is Ready for Demolishing Interior Walls That Seem Dangerous --- 90,000 Policies Held for Loans Removed.

The grim, ice-bound walls of Equiitable skeleton yielded up with infinite reluctance yesterday the body of another fire victim. William Campion, captain of the watchmen for the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company. A large force of Canavan wreckers, under the direction of Supervising Inspecter John O'Connor of the Bureau of Buildings, worked from 7 o'clock in the morning until after 4 o'clock in the afternoon to pierce the tomb and accomplish their purpose.

When they had cut through a bank of solid ice fifteen feet thick, which extended from the face of the building to the northbound car track in Broadway, they were met by a heartrending sight. Campion's burned hands were extended through the steel barred grill of an outer gate just below the curb near Cedar street, and he knelt, as if imploring the aid that did not come in time. He had crowded up so close to the steel grating which held him prisoner in the trap that his knees, too, were jammed between the bars, to which they, as well as the hands, were frozen.

A steel beam, descending with the crash of the floors above, must have brought death instantly when it came, for this beam had crushed in the skull. A sheathing of ice covered the body, mercifully hiding the distorted features, and cemented it to tons of wreckage behind consisting of hollow tile, bricks, steel beams and all manner of building debris. The man's joints, of course, were frozen rigid.

When the wreckers had carved their way through the ice to the grill they still had to cut the two-inch bars of steel before Campion could be released, since it was impossible to reach the body from behind. It was this same gate through which Seneca Larke, the Indian fireman, had dragged William Giblin, after sawing through one bar, the morning of the fire. Campion had been crushed before Giblin was extricated.

Takes Hours to Recover Body.

Four bars were severed, the four directly framing the ice-incased figure of the unfortunate watchman. It took hours to do it, as it had taken hours to cut a path to the gate. The first two bars were melted in half with the aid of acetylene smelters, but when this had been accomplished the gas had given out, and the other two bars were attacked with hack saws. Finally these, too, yielded. Then came the labor of separating the body from the bars and the wreckage.

A huge crowd of holiday sightseers took advantage of the lack of police lines to bank the west sidewalk of Broadway all the way from Liberty Street to Wall, so that old Trinity looked down on such a sea of heads as it is wont to see only on New Year's Eve. To gratify as little as possible the morbid curiosity of the sightseers the police placed a section of matched board fence across the path to the gate to screen Campion's body from view. Then about 3:30 o'clock the congestion having become dangerous, they cleared Broadway entirely between Liberty and Wall Streets. A large number of men, women and children were squeezed through into Trinity church yard, where they hugged the high iron fence along the Broadway sidewalk, peering through the palings and stamping on the graves.

At 4:17 o'clock the body was placed aboard a patrol wagon and, in the custody of Patrolman Nelson M. Hart, taken to the Old Slip station. There a brother-in-law of the watchman identified it, and at 4:45 o'clock it was delivered to Miles McKean, an undertaker, of No. 479 74th street, Brooklyn, who will remove it later to Campion's home, at No. 94 2d street, Brooklyn. Campion, who was sixty years old, leaves a wife and four children.

Now that an entrance has been effected into the rooms of the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company it is hoped before long to find also the body of Francis Joseph Nieder, the other missing watchman, supposed to have perished in the collapse that cut off Campion. Nieder was another one of those who went into the vault with Giblin when the building was burning. It is supposed he lies buried deep in the wreckage rising into an ice-covered pyramid immediately behind the spot where Campion knelt.

Back in the centre of the ruin all is ready now for the "pulling" of those interier walls and partitions which appear dangerous. This morning the wreckers will attach steel cables to these walls, extend them through the window holes to the street, and, when every one is out of danger, start steam engines pulling the walls down on top of the interior debris. The men of the Bureau of Buildings who have the demolition of the building in charge consider that they have removed enough of the strain from the floors inside to make this operation entirely safe.

Pump Water All Night.

The wreckers quit the job at 5 o'clock last night, leaving behind a small force of men engaged in pumping out the water collected in the basement of the burned banding and threatening its foundations as well as the foundations of buildings in the immediate neighborhood. Inspector Judge, of the Bureau of Buildings estlmated that the water stood twelve feet deep under the wreckage. Two engines, one in Pine street and the other in Cedar street, operated eight centrifugal pumps throughout the night, pumping thsi water directly into the sewers.

The Bureau of Buildings is surrounding the ruin with a high fence of matched boards to keep pedestrians from venturing near enough to the walls to

Continued on second page.

Another Body Recovered. page 2, Column 4,

be hit by falling stone or by the ice which will begin to drop in tons as soon as a thaw releases it. As much of this fence as has already been completed is being decorated with big announcements of the new addresses of the burned out tenants.

The Equitable Life Assurance Society sent vans around to the Pine street side in the afternoon to remove the large steel boxes containing the ninety thousand policies on which it has lent about S70.000.000. These policies, which were stored on the second floor, half way between Broadway and Nassau street, escaped damage.

It is still out of the questlon to attempt an entry into the safe deposit vaults of the Equitable, which contain nearly $300,000,000 in securities, and those of the Mercantile Safe Deposit Company, which contain an even greater amount. Detectives stationed both inside and outside the building are watching them, none the less, to prevent burglars from venturing where wreckers fear to tread. Some say two weeks more must elapse before Wall Street can have the benefit of that buried wealth.

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