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Palmers Dock / Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal - Accidents, Injuries & Fatalities


Chronological Listing of Accidents, Injuries & Fatalities;


Monday, 17 May 2010



May 11, 1892

Collision, Marine Vessels:

The steamer Cilurnum collided with a railroad float in tow by the tugboat Lowell M. Palmer. The Cilurnum, 300 feet in length and about 1,370 tons struck the starboard corner of the float breaking some plates. Even though the owners of the Cilurnum sued in Admiralty Court for damages, their vessel was found at fault.

(Author, Federal Reporter, Volumn 58)


May 27, 1901

Employee Fatality:

Frank Salzman, 35, a brakeman died this morning at the Eastern District Hospital from injuries received by being run down by a freight train in the yards of Lowell M. Palmer at Kent Avenue and North 7th St. Salzman was engaged in transfer of cars from the float to the yard when he lost his footing and fell in front of the moving cars.

(Ray State, Brooklyn Eagle - May 27, 1901)


December 16, 1902

Employee Fatalities:

Joseph Donaughey and James McDermott (no ages given), both brakemen with Palmer's Dock freight yards; were killed on the night of December 16 by being run over by the locomotive on which they were working, which was pulling freight cars from a carfloat.

Both men were standing on the front footboard of the locomotive, and it is believed McDermott lost his balance while the engine was in motion, and Donaughey in trying to save him also fell to his death.

Engineer Moore and conductor James (no first names given) were arrested and held on a charge of criminal negligence. Both declared that they did not see the fatality occur.

(Tom Hendrickson, New York Times, December 17, 1902)

Specific Date Unknown - 1917

Employee Fatality:

Joseph Kafline, both a team (horse) driver employed by the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal as well as a lessor of wharfage space. A portion of the wharf was "decayed, ruinous and fallen in" (no specific location given) and was fenced off with a sign "Drivers must not enter or pass this gate".

Mr. Kafline none the less left his horse, passed through the gate which was open, and walked onto the ruined portion of the wharf. At this time he leaned against a "stringpiece" (the heavy squared timber lying along the top of the piles forming a dock front or timber pier), of which gave way, and so he fell into the water and subsequently drowned.

(Author, Reports of Cases By New York State Court of Appeals, 1920 - initial filing 1918, appeal 1920)

Specific Date Unknown - 1920

Employee Fatality, Employee Injuries:

1 employee fatality and 15 employee injuries over several occurrences during the course of 1 fiscal year ending December 31, 1920; according to Public Service Commission Summary of Annual Reports for First District Operating Steam Railroads.

(Author, Public Service Commission Summary of Annual Reports for First District Operating Steam Railroads, 1920)


September 30, 1920

Collision, Marine Vessels:

On September 30, 1920, the dredge Raritan, belonging to the United States; collided in New York Harbor with the steam tug Integrity, belonging to the Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal

The dredge Raritan, belonging to the United States; collided in New York Harbor with the steam tug Integrity, belonging to the petitioner. A libel in admiralty to recover the damages to the tug was filed by the petitioner in conformity with an act of Congress whereby the United States consented to be sued. Act of February 16, 1925, c. 241, 43 Stat. 1566.

A cross-libel for damages to the dredge was filed by the government. The trial court held both vessels at fault, and determined that the damages to each should be equally apportioned between the owners.

"A Special Commissioner was appointed to ascertain the damages and report. [287 U.S. 170, 173]
The controversy hinges upon an item of demurrage. As to the repair bills ($26,114.57 for the Integrity and $2,230 for the Raritan), as well as some other items, the parties are now at one.The conflict between them, once waged along a wider front, has narrowed to a single point. The District Court confirming the Commissioner's report, allowed demurrage to the petitioner at the rate of $150 a day, the market hire of another tug, during the seventy-eight days when the Integrity was withdrawn for repairs. This item ($11,700) the Circuit Court of Appeals excluded. 54 F.(2d) 978. A writ of certiorari has brought the case here.

The petitioner was in the business of towing car floats for railroads between points in New York harbor. It did not use its boats for hire generally. Its business was sufficient to occupy three tugs during regular working hours in the transfer of railroad cars from one point to another. When the Integrity was laid up, the petitioner did not hire an extra tug as a substitute for the one disabled. Instead, it used its two other tugs overtime, and thus kept down the cost while doing business as before. The same crews were employed; but if extra wages were paid, the amount has not been proved. Extra wear and tear there may have been; but there is nothing in the record to indicate how much. Indeed, the witness for the petitioner frankly stated that the loss, if any, from that cause was too uncertain to be measured. The award for demurrage allowed by the District Court and disallowed by the Court of Appeals was not made upon the basis of depreciation of the boats in use. It is measured by expenses that in fact never were incurred, but that might have been incurred and charged to the respondent if the necessities of the business had been something other than they were."

Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal v. U.S., 287 U.S. 170 (1932)
argued: October 21, 1932. - decided: November 14, 1932.
Messrs. Leonard J. Matteson and Oscar R. Houston, both of New York City, for petitioner.
The Attorney General and Mr. Thomas D.Thacher, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D.C., for the United States.
Mr. Justice Cardozo delivered the opinion of the Court.

To read the details and decision of this lawsuit in it's entirety, please click on following link:

BEDT v. US, 287 U.S. 170 - (1932)

(please note: there is no link to return you to this website - use your back/previous arrow on your browser)x

(Author, FindLaw lawsuit archives)

June 10, 1930

Sinking, Marine Vessel, with Employee Fatality

In this year, the BEDT Tugboat "Invader", sank on June 10, 1930 in the upper bay near Robbins Reef.

Newspaper articles report that the tow-line snapped due to a 55 mph gale that swept through New York and the "Invader" capsized. Seven crew were rescued, but one crewman, the engineer, Einar Boe drowned.

Coast Guard Cutter 213 from Clifton Station along with the Police Department of New York's Marine Police Launch based at Pier 7, were dispatched to rescue the tugboat crew. The carfloat was towed into St. George, Staten Island.

A member of the Light crew marked the sinking with a buoy.

Upon raising of the vessel, the missing crewman, E. Boe; was found in the engine room.

(submitted by L. H. Miller, great-granddaugher of E. Boe)

Tugboat Invader Sinking Articles - 1930


July 20, 1942

Employee Fatality:

Charles Braner met his demise on the night of July 20, 1941. He went overboard (unknown reason) from a carfloat which the tugboat Invincible had in tow on the East River.

(authors research, FindLaw lawsuit archives)

February 27, 1944

Collision, Marine Vessels:

The Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal tugboat "Invader" was struck by the Erie Railroad Ferryboat "Youngstown". This collision occurred by the ferry slip on the Westside of Manhattan between Piers 19 and 20.

(Author, FindLaw lawsuit archives)

Accident Report can be viewed here:

Tugboat Invader Collision Report


January 21, 1947

Employee Injury:

Heagney (first name unknown) was injured while working as a hostler atop one of the locomotives in the Kent Avenue Yard in Brooklyn, New York. He slipped on some grease, fell to the ground, and was injured. He was hospitalized for twelve days on account of the accident.

(J. Roborecky, AtLaw archives)

March 17, 1947

Capsized Marine Vessel, with Employee Fatality

At approximately 8:22 a.m; the BEDT Tugboat "Invader", capsized and sank approximately 500 yards off Pier 7, Manhattan; when it and the carfloat it was transporting were caught in a whirlpool brought on by ebb tide.

One crewman, William Bruck; of the tugboat drowned.

(M. Brusich, various newspapers)

Newspaper articles and photos can be viewed here:

Tugboat Invader Sinking Articles - 1947


July 19, 1953

Locomotive Firebox Explosion, with Employee Fatality and Bystander Injuries

The firebox on locomotive #14 ruptured due to a severe low water condition. The resultant explosion threw red hot debris over 200 feet, setting fire to three other railroad cars. The engineer, F. Marrs; was severely injured and died shortly thereafter from his injuries. A total of seven other bystanders were injured.

Several Interstate Commerce Commission documents, locomotive specification card, boiler modification reports and newspaper articles can be reviewed here:

Locomotive 14 Firebox Explosion

This incident may be the one referenced by J. Roberecky below.

(Authors research, T. Hendrickson research, R. State research, newspaper articles)


Specific Date Unknown - pre 1963

Employee Fatality:

   A steam loco engineer walked into enginehouse, laid down on bench and died. It was said he had been scalded, but no signs of trauma and looked perfectly healthy. No further information is available at this time.

(J. Roborecky)


Specific Date Unknown - ca. 1962 - 1963

Collision, Locomotive; with Employee Fatality and Employee Injuries:

   Tom Hendrickson recalls reading an article in the New York Daily News newspaper, regarding the collision of a BEDT locomotive in the Kent Avenue Yard, with a fatality and injuries. To his recollection, the incident took place at approximately midnight during a shift change. The collision was severe enough to result in the scrapping of the locomotive (believed to be locomotive #10).

No documentation has surfaced as yet, even in light of extensive research by this author, Tom Hendrickson and Ray State.

(T. Hendrickson)


March 16, 1973

Employee Fatality:

   Trainman Francis Hendrickson was crushed between two freight cars during switching movements in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

(T. Hendrickson)


Specific Dates Unknown - ca. 1968 - 1983

Tank car of Corn Syrup rolled off carfloat into river:

   While spotting carfloat, a tugboat captain slammed carfloat into side of North 8th Street pier. The resulting shock caused a tank car to sway side to side, which "popped" the truck springs which caused the tank car to lean to the unsprung side and continue rolling into river. Tank car was retrieved by diver placed slings and barge mounted derrick.

Loaded boxcar of sugar over end of pier:

   Engineer was relying on multiple relayed hand signals. The engineer felt a "bump", and looked at trainman (on ground relaying signals), who claimed all ok. Engineer continued shoving, feeling second bump at which time he stopped.
Further inspection at end of pier showed that the end 40' boxcar now had it's trucks under one end of car (pier end) and the car itself was shoved over the track end bumper, and was now leaning at angle into water on one end, still on pier on other. Boxcar was hauled out by cooperative effort of several locomotives coupled together. 

(J . Roborecky)


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