125 years since Victoria bridge collapse claimed 55 lives

On May 26, 1896, 55 people died after the Point Ellice Bridge, also known as the Bay Street Bridge, collapsed while a fully loaded streetcar was crossing over it.

Crowds were gathered near Victoria's upper harbour on the late spring day just before the turn of the 20th century to celebrate Queen Victoria's 76th birthday.

STREET CAR WITH A HUNDRED PASSENGERS FALLS THROUGH A BRIDGE.

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A streetcar crowded with 143 passengers on their way to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday, proved to be too heavy for Victoria’s Point Ellice Bridge. Fifty-five people were killed when the streetcar plunged into the Upper Harbour.

Amongst the 55 dead nine-year-old Julia Biggar and her 6-year-old brother Archie (Archibald) son of G.G Biggar who narrowly escaped himself.

The children are buried at  Ross Bay Cemetery Victoria, Capital Regional District, British Columbia, Canada. They were born in New Brunswick, Canada to George G Biggar and Mary J Crabb (of NB).  George was born in Maine, USA  September 07, 1856, to William H Biggar and Sarah Jane Graham

1896 05 28    BIGGAR Archie       -  Victoria     -   (Coroner - CROMPTON, Ernest)

Came to his death by drowning when the Point Ellice Bridge collapsed. 

Drowning, the result of the collapse of Point Ellice Bridge, was caused by overloading tram cars on May 26th, 1896.

GR-1327 B02375 052 1896

 

1896 05 26 BIGGER Sophie? Julia   - Victoria   -    (Coroner- CROMPTON, Ernest)

Drowning, the result of the collapse of Point Ellice Bridge, was caused by overloading tram cars on May 26th, 1896.

GR-1327 B02375 052 1896 05 26

Victoria, B. C., May 26. -- A defective span in the Governor Street traffic bridge across Victoria Arm, gave way this afternoon, precipitating a loaded streetcar and several private carriages into the bay, 100 feet below.


The number of victims cannot be estimated at this time. The bridge was crowded with vehicles containing pleasure-seekers bound for Macauley's Point, where the Queen's Birthday celebration sports were in progress. A number of unidentified bodies have been recovered and more are being brought to the surface hourly. Sixty-two bodies have been recovered up to 11 o'clock.
A sham fight and naval review were scheduled to take place at Macauley's Point, near Esquimalt, this evening, and crowds were making their way there by every route. All the tram cars were packed with visitors.

 

                                                                                                                                           The New York Times New York 1896-05-27 

A large and heavily laden car left Government Street at 2 o'clock, having upward of 100 people on board. When the middle span of the traffic bridge, about 150 feet in length, was reached, it collapsed, throwing the car and a number of carriages and foot passengers into the water.


The car was submerged completely and all save a few who were on the platforms and roof were drowned. A number were killed by falling timbers. A few escaped by climbing to the floating ruins of the bridge. The number of carriages lost and the foot passengers carried down in the wreck cannot be learned.


It is believed by many that fully 200 persons went down with the span and that more than half of them perished. The accident occurred so quickly that nobody has a clear recollection of what transpired.


Superintendent J. WILSON was driving a carriage containing his wife and five children directly behind the car. His vehicle was swept down, and in a moment the entire party and team were struggling in the water. MR. WILSON succeeded in saving his wife and four of the children. The fifth child, a little boy, was wedged beneath some wreckage and drowned.


A number of bodies have been carried out of the harbor by the outgoing tide, which runs at not less than seven knots an hour at the point where the accident occurred.


Owing to the fact that nearly every kind of craft in the city was engaged for the day, boats were hard to procure, and the work of rescue was somewhat slow. Steam and naphtha launches were hurried to the scene, and in this particular, the boats of the various warships were the most active.


Scores of persons who were floundering in the water or clinging to debris were picked up and taken to places of safety, but many sands before the eyes of rescuers.

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