State Inspector Frank Christian and City Building Inspector Lehr E. Welker conducted a joint probe Monday morning as to the cause of the disaster. The result of their findings shows that the first car of the train left the track close to the base of the incline, but continued to be hauled aloft until it was bowled over at the very top and crashed to the ground, taking the other cars along with it. Inspector Walker said:
“There are marks on the runway from almost the base up to show that the theory that the first car went off the track is the correct one. These marks clearly indicate that the train had just rounded the curve, coming from the loading platform and had begun the ascent, made through the operation of a hoist, when the first car was derailed. It also accounts for the claim made by occupants of the frist [sic] car that they noticed it began going sideways, or as one put it, ‘skidded.’
“The marks run along the incline from a point near the base to the top, and are very distinct. There are wheel devices calculated to prevent derailment, and the cars were thus equipped, but I firmly believe, the first care went off the rails nevertheless, as is clearly shown by the marks on the runway where it was dragged along. My department is only responsible for the construction work. We would not be responsible for any mechanical defect.”
Small Crowd Present
The cool weather, with the smallest Sunday night attendance since the park opened, probably prevented additional casualties as the cars have a capacity of eight people each, or 32, to the train of four cars. The train was just half full when the accident occurred, which was the heaviest load carried all evening.
The Akron Scenic Railway Co. is the owner of the coaster, leasing the ground from the Summit Beach Park Co. This company and the Marathon Amusement Co. operating the “Dixie Flyer” are both independent companies, and in each Attorney Edward Sheck is president and J. M. Caster builder and superintendent, having
their office and business separate from the park company.
Sheck recently enlisted in the ordinance department of the U. S. army, Attorney Floyd Rees, 1st-2nd National building, acting in his place in the scenic railway and Marathon companies.
So far as can be learned Sunday night’s ride to death embraced a party of fifteen including an infant, the latter the little daughter of Mrs. Dorothy Roach of Zanesville. Mrs. Roach held the child in her arms and all through the ordeal of the terrific drop, the babe escaping without a scratch, while the mother sustained a broken leg.
Meager reports so far made by the police and the scenic railway officials along with stories told by survivors, agree that the string of cars had passed about fifty feet up the first incline after departing from the loading platforms, when something went wrong, causing the first car to skid, finally leave the track altogether and plunge through the side of the runway, carrying the three other cars of the string along with it. Sightseers in the park at the time the accident occurred, even before the crash came, had been made aware that something was amiss by the terrified shouts coming from aloft calling for the machinery to be stopped. How the machinery is controlled, who directed its operation Sunday night and just why it was that no response was given the clamor to stop has not been brought out as yet. Certain it is, however that despite the cries of terror that came from the cars they were borne along by the lifting cable and then hurled into space.
The crash through the side of the runway, and the rending of timbers could not deaden the shrieks of those occupying the cars as they plunged to earth. Scenes of the greatest excitement and confusion followed. Hundreds rushed to where the debris of the wrecked cars lay and among these were relatives who had taken the fatal trip. While calls were sent in for surgeons and ambulances, the
(Continued on Page Thirteen)
“Roller Coaster Accident At Summit Beach Sends Three to Death, With Others Doomed,” Akron Beacon Journal, 8 July 1918, p. 1, col. 7-8.
A very special “thank you” is in order for the Special Collections Department of the Akron-Summit County Public Library. I emailed my request for more information regarding the roller coaster accident on Saturday and received the results in less than 24 hours. Since I received several days worth of information, I will be breaking the story down into smaller chunks for the rest of this week.