Roller Coaster Accident at Summit Beach (Part 7)

Roller Coaster accident - 1918-07-09, p. 2

Click to enlarge

Bricker is Grilled.

Bricker, who is 20 years old, and comes from St. Mary’s, O. denied strenuously at a police grilling Tuesday that he had placed the block of wood on the incline of the coaster. He said that he secured employment Sunday at another attraction and can prove that he was at work all of Sunday evening.

Bricker came here from Columbus and was living in a tent at the park. He had not been away from the park except when he went to the funeral of his father who died on Decoration Day. He said that his father was a college graduate and that he had attended college, but did not say what one.

Other park men say that he was of a morose disposition, and talked little to other employees.

Ray Crisp, contractor who built most of the other structures on the park ground offered his theory Tuesday.

“It is likely that the man who placed the block of wood on the track planned to stall the motor and maybe damage the machinery somehow. The first car must have bounced eight inches into the air when it struck the obstruction, in order to clear the guard rail.

“If the man who put the wood there had intended to kill people he would more likely have placed the block at the foot of the incline where he could have worked from the ground and where the cars whirling down at tremendous speed would surely have jumped the track. That he placed the obstruction on the first ascent indicates that he merely planned to damage the apparatus.”

Coroner Metzger had not been near the scene of the accident up to Tuesday noon, although it happened Sunday night. Detectives McDonnell and Welch went over the ground again Tuesday with F. A. Rees, secretary of the Amusement Co., and J. M. Kaster, builder.

Kaster was positive that the accident could not have resulted from any structural weakness in the roller coaster and staked his reputation as a builder in his contention that the coaster was sound. Rees stated that 150,000 people had ridden safely on the machine since it was built.

The block of wood that is thought to have caused the accident was ex- [sic ] examined by the detectives and bore the marks of the impact of the wheel. It was a board that had evidently been sawed off the supports some time ago, as too long. It was painted white on one side and at the end.

Perhaps the most sensational discovery in the case, following the finding of the block of wood, as detailed in the Beacon Journal on Monday, was the finding later in the afternoon of the unmistakable evidence that a human agency placed the block on the track.

It had previously been determined at what point the wood had been placed. The track showed that it had been at a point not over 20 feet from the beginning of the ascent. Just beyond this point were marks on the framework, showing where the wheels of the cars left the tracks.

It was at just under this point that the block of wood was found Monday morning, lying, crushed by the wheels, under the coaster framework.

Footprints were discernible in the vicinity, but these might have been there some time and have come innocently. Closer inspection, however, soon developed the first real clue to foul play in the affair. On one of the big timber cross braces, just under the point where the car left the track, were found footprints, plainly showing that some person had climbed up one of the braces to the point where it had been theoretically established that the block of wood had been placed. At the point where a man would have had to stand to lay the block on the tracks, two distinct impressions of the soles of shoes were found.

Bricker is Arrested.

Leo Bricker, the man under arrest, is only circumstantially involved in the affair to date, but later developments may weave a tighter net around him. Bricker worked for the Marathon Amusement Co., which operates the Dixie Flyer, another concession at the park, but under the management of the same man as the “Over the Top” coaster. J. M. Kaster is general manager of both devices.

Bricker was discharged Saturday night.

It is said that following the accident Sunday night Bricker was about the scene and acting so strangely the one of the members of the city detective force questioned him as to his identity and whether or not his apparent agitation was due to the injury of some friend or relative.

It is also said that Bricker spent Sunday night with another park employee, who on Monday reported that Bricker hardly slept a wink during the night.

Monday the scene of the accident is said to have possessed a seeming fascination for him. Early in the afternoon he questioned one of the office force of the Marathon company as to the cause of the disaster. When told that it had been caused by a block of wood placed on the track and “that we know who put it there,” it is alleged that Bricker showed considerable concern, and was later found in one of the rooms back of the office, his head buried in his hands. His arrest followed.

“Fourth Victim of Coaster Crash is Dead…,” Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio), 9 July 1918, p. 1, col.1-2.

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.

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