Tragedy at Kelley’s Bridge School

  Ironton Evening Tribune, 13 November 1930, Thursday, Page 1.


Official Investigation Is Called To Fix Responsibility
Ironton Evening Tribune, 14 November 1930, Friday, Page 3.

The Board of Education of Upper Township at a special meeting Thursday night passed a resolution calling upon Prosecuting Attorney Lee D. Andrew to conduct a thorough investigation into the accident at the Kelley’s school house Thursday morning, when a tree stump blasted by the Wasser Construction Company, of Columbus, contractors building the Blackfork road, crashed through the roof of the school and fatally injured one boy and injured six others and the teacher.

At 9:05 Thursday morning, just thirty-five minutes after school opened, the quietness of the school room was shattered by a tree stump weighing around 400 pounds crashing through the roof, blasted from the ground by the road contractors approximately 125 yards away. The building immediately became a shambles. The falling projectile tore through the roof crushed the head of the little Dean boy and continued on through the floor, tearing down parts of the roof in it’s dive. James Nance and six other pupils, Rodney Elam, 11; Pearl Crawford, 13; Emma Pancake, 13; Clara Tipton, 9; Lois Ridgeway, 10; and Clyde Avery, 12 were injured. Of these Elam was the most seriously injured, being cut down the face from the forehead to the chin. The Elam boy and Lois Ridgeway were still at the Marting hospital today but the other children were returned home. Their injuries were cuts and bruises about the head and arms caused by falling timbers. All children injured were given anti-tetanus treatment at the Marting hospital.

Prosecutor Lee D. Andrews this morning said that Coroner John S. King and Deputy Sheriff Harry Shattuck were at the scene of the accident summoning witnesses for an inquiry to be held either Saturday or Monday. The prosecutor said the result of this inquiry would determine whether charges would be filed in connection with the death of the Dean boy or whether the information secured would be preserved and turned over to the next regular grand jury for the consideration of that body.

School Board members present at the meeting last night when the resolution calling for an investigation was passed when Martin Justice president; Willard Brown, Orville Haeberlin, Isaac Mapes and Alva Sherman and Charles Layne, clerk.

A. C. Sisler, assistant superintendent of county school, said this morning that workman had started the job of repairing the wrecked building and expected to have it in condition for reopening by November 24. In the meantime the pupils are being cared for at the Hecla school.

Funeral services for little James Dean, 12 son of Mr. and Mrs. William Dean of near Kelly’s Bridge, will be held at the Holiness church, near the scene of the tragedy, Sunday afternoon at 2:00 o’clock. Burial will be in the Sugar Creek cemetery under the direction of Undertaker Phillips of Waterloo. The child is survived by his parents and the following brothers and sisters: Mrs. Inez Markel, Scottsville, Pa., Earl, Mary, Lena, Ruby, Dave, and Seymour, at home.

James Dean, 12, Dies At Marting Hospital
Missile Sent Crashing Through Roof By Blast Set Off By Road Workers Near
Kelly School Today

A twelve-year-old boy was killed, six other children and their teacher were injured this morning at 9:05 o’clock when workers employed on the Blackfork highway placed 22 sticks of dynamite in the stump of a tree, set off the charge and blew a slab of tree weighing approximately 400 pounds through the roof of Kelly school building, one and one-half miles north of Hecla.

James Dean, 12, son of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Dean of rural route 2 died at the Marting hospital at 1 P. M. from injuries received in the mishap. He was unconscious when taken from the debris and there was never hope for recovery. It appeared he had been struck on the back of the head by the falling stump, while bending over his book. He had a fracture at the base of the brain, his right temple was fractured, upper jaw and bones of the right eye shattered, left collar bone broken and chest crushed. The depressed fracture was elevated at the hospital but to no avail.

The devastating blow from above came into the school with only a second’s notice and caught teacher James Nance and his students in the midst of their studies. There was no opportunity to flee the structure before the crash but there was a screaming, terrified exodus after the missive had crashed through the roof, brushed aside several children and desks and plowed its way through the floor structure. All children but two, screaming wildly and running madly, made their way outside through the wild scene of crashing roof timbers, falling plaster and choking plaster dust.

The children were rendered unconscious, Dean and Rodney Elam being carried from the building. All were removed to the Marting hospital, where Elam was treated for a cut that extended from forehead to his mouth. The left eye was grazed but sight was not damaged.

Rodney Elam, who suffered a bad face cut, was resting well at the hospital late today and recovery is expected. He was probably struck by a piece of the roof, his face being gashed from forehead to mouth. The left eye was torn but sight was not damaged.

Dr. W. F. Marting announced this afternoon that all injured in the accident will receive anti-tetanus treatment.

The fatal blast was made at 9:05 a. m., thirty-five minutes after classes at the old Kelly school had convened. The building housed children from the 4th to 8th grades, an adjoining building being used for smaller children. None in the latter structure, in charge of Teacher Lillie Willis of Kelly’s Bridge, was injured.

Warned Mail Carrier

Highway workmen had warned Rural Mail Carrier Howard Moreland of this city that a blast was to be made at the stump, located 125 yards from the school building. Lena Dean, 17, a student at the school, was on the interior of the building when he was warned and she returned inside and said a “shot” was to be put off. Twenty-two sticks of dynamite were placed in the stump by Frank Riedel, upper township trustee who is employed on the road force. Workers retired to a safe distance as the
blast was made.

The charge, apparently, miscarried for a slab of tree estimated to be six feet long, twenty inches across the flat side and eight inches deep was torn from the main stump and hurled high into the air. The missile descended directly on the roof of the school and tore its way to the interior. The school building was shaken by the blast but Emma Pancake, one of those injured, was the only student to receive a warning of the coming tragedy.

Stump Come Through

“My desk was near a window and I looked up after the blast and saw a round object that I took to be a rock, sailing high in the air,” she said this morning at the hospital. “I said ‘here comes a big rock’ but just after I said it the stump came through the building and I don’t remember much more. Every one was crying and running, it was dark and plaster was falling and I ran out with the rest.?

There was no excitement in the room before the stump struck, according to Misses Pancake and Crawford, for there had been no appreciable warning of the disaster. Miss Pancake was seated directly back of James Dean and the heavy timber sailed over her head to brush aside the desk of her schoolmate. “You couldn’t hardly see a thing,” she said, “from plaster and everything. Every one started crying and running. We all got outside but two and Mr. Nance carried them out.

Workmen and residents crowded the vicinity of the school immediately after the blast and parents were frantic until children had been located. Classes in the lower grades were dismissed for the day.

Deputy Sheriff Ernest Bennett conducted an immediate investigation of the blast and ordered further “shooting” discontinued during school hours. A complete inquiry is to be made and it is possible charges will be filed, this step being withheld until outcome of the injuries sustained by children is determined.

The little school house a one-room affair constructed almost entirely of wood was a wreck after the accident. The desks one of them broken and bent were covered with dirt. The huge tree trunk or stump remained lying in the middle of the room, partly buried in the floor. Part of the tin roof had accompanied the stump and lay nearby. The ceiling constructed of slabs of wood, was ragged at the point where the stump had come through and part of it likewise lay about the center of the floor. The floor was splintered for several feet where the stump struck.

Death Misses Teacher

According to Jim Nance of Coryville, teacher in charge of the school–which is composed of children from the fourth to the eight grades inclusive–the students were preparing for their arithmetic lesson when the accident occurred. Had the accident happened only a moment or two later it is likely none of the children would have been injured, he said, as they were preparing to go to the blackboard for their work. Mr. Nance was standing within a few inches of the spot where the trunk hit the floor. He had been instructing one of the children in arithmetic. He escaped sudden death by a hair’s breath. “Don’t guess it was my time,” he said.

Several Homes Near

A short distance from the school, estimated by observers at 125 yards, workmen were employed in preparing for the construction of a concrete bridge over what is known as Norris branch. It is a part of the four-odd mile construction program now under way on the Ironton-Blackfork road, State Route 75. On the edge of the creek at this point was a huge tree stump. Workmen in charge of M. J. Shererd, grade foreman for that particular section of the Blackfork-Ironton job, were engaged in removing the stump. A charge of 22 sticks of dynamite was placed directly beneath the stump, Mr. Shererd said.

Ironton Evening Tribune, 13 November 1930, Thursday, Page 1.

School Not Warned

Before setting off the charge residents in the immediate neighborhood were warned. Not over 50 yards away, just across the highway, resides Sherlon Malone and possibly 75 yards down the road–in the opposite direction from the stump–resides Earl Malone and family. At an angle something like 100-odd yards the Duncan family home stands. The school building was the farthest from the stump in that immediate neighborhood. No warning was given the students of the intended blast.

Workmen sought shelter, many of them not more than 50 yards away–near the Sherlon Malone home–and others farther down the road. When the blast came a part of the thick stump, evidently following a course of least resistance, flew into the air in the direction of the school. A huge log lay on top of a part of the stump and it was reinforced on one side of the stump by the bank of the creek. The side of the stump toward the school was exposed and it was this part that broke clear of the main stump and crashed through the side of the angle tin roof of the school a little farther than a city block away. Fragments of the stump and dirt from the creek bank showered about in the immediate vicinity of the blast but no damage was done and no one was injured. At the time of the accident there were 23 children in the building.
They were:

Pearl Crawford, 13 Injured.
David Dean, 14.
Edna Simpson, 13.
Julius Tipton, 14.
Marie Howell, 9.
Junior Ridgeway, 12.
Avanell Sisler, 10.
Orvil Simpson, 11.
Wm. Stephenson, 12.
Marcella Tipton, 12.
Lafe Webb, 11.
Captola Nance, 14.
Clyde Avery, 12 Injured slightly.
James Dean, 11 Injured seriously.
Rodney Elam, 11 Injured slightly.
Emma Pancake, 13 Injured slightly.
Charles Morrison, 12.
Lois Ridgeway, 10 Injured seriously.
Mary Stephenson, 10.
Clara Tipton, 9 Injured slightly.
Ogden Elam, 9.
Lena Dean, 18.
Wilma Nance, 17.

Altho the teacher, Mr. Nance, was cut about the head and leg by the stump he was not aware of his injury until he had made his second trip to the local hospital bringing the injured children. His injury is not serious. Mr. Nance, accompanied by Arnold Loukx, inspector on the state highway job, and Sherl Malone brought James Dean and Rodney Elam on the first trip and on their second trip they brought Pearl Crawford and Emma Pancake to the hospital. Little Lois Ridgeway was brought to the
hospital by her father, Houston Ridgeway and Clyde Avery was brought to the hospital by his brother Albert. The little Lipton girl was brought in by Frank Sites.

Not more than 90 feet from the school where the accident occurred in the opposite direction from the scene of the blast in another school, a larger school. It houses children in the first three grades. No damage was done here.

Superintendent William C. Paul and Assistant Superintendent Arthur C. Sisler–the latter lives only a short distance from the school–were on the scene shortly after the accident occurred.

Superintendent Paul announced that arrangements would be made tomorrow looking toward taking care of the children who now have no school to attend. It will take several days to place the building in condition for use and during that time Mr. Paul said it was likely that the children would be transported to the Hecla school approximately a mile and a half from the Kelly school. Shortly after the accident and throughout the afternoon many persons visited the school to see where and how the accident occurred.