FALL OF CHATHAM PIER. NARROW ESCAPE OF THREE HUNDRED PERSONS.
On Sunday afternoon, shortly after four o'clock, when more than 300 persons were upon the new pier at Chatham, not yet completed, the long brow leading from the upper portion of the structure to the barge or stage along side which the Medway Steam Packet Company's boats come to disembark and embark passengers, suddenly oscillated violently, and ultimately twisted over in a most extraordinary manner, precipitating fully 50 persons, awaiting to go by steamer, into the river. The panic amongst hundreds standing on the upper portion and the piercing shrieks and strugglings of those in the water were perfectly indescribable. But the prompt action taken by Mr. Whitfield, the pier-master, assisted by water- men and others, enabled the whole of the persons immersed to be brought safely to land. Fears were at first expressed that some might have been drowned, but careful search led to the confident belief that all had been picked up, No one was reported as missing. Inquiries are being made into the cause of the accident, which might have resulted in the loss of very many lives. The pier had been tested as to strength, so that no apprehension had been felt as to the result of its being used for the summer traffic of passenger steamboats. The occurrence occasioned intense excitement throughout the town. The resident engineer and contractor, subcontractor, and Pier Committee of the local board were upon the spot immediately after the accident, and every precaution taken to prevent any further mishap. Great inconvenience was caused in the landing of passengers from the steamboats, and many persons preferred to be taken on to Strood rather than risk a landing. Many persons were injured in the struggles, each one being for him or herself, to be among the first rescued, and one a Mr. W. Letley, of the Belle Vue Inn, Borstal, Rochester-sustained a fracture of three ribs. Several other persons were taken to St. Bartholomew's Hospital by their friends.
Flintshire Observer 30/7/1885
The Terrible Pier Accident at Chatham.
LATEST PARTICULARS. The Press Association special correspondent, telegraphing from Chatham this morning, says Not withstanding the efforts which have been made during the night, no bodies have been recovered. Several men have been engaged in searching the mud, and the authorities have come to the conclusion that in all probability no bodies remain either embedded in the mud or entangled in the broken iron and woodwork, and, although a careful outlook has been kept at the principal ports of the Medway, no bodies have been found. The opinion, therefore, is gaining ground that if any lives have been lost, the bodies must have been carried into midstream, but efforts in the search have not been relaxed, and a large staff are still engaged in the river. Up to nine this morning no applications had been made to the police as to missing relatives or friends, but many of the excursionists do not live in the immediate neighbourhood. About half-a-dozen of the more serious cases have been treated at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Rochester, where immediately upon the receipt of the news of the accident, Dr. Nankivall and a staff of assistants prepared to attend the sufferers. The principal injuries were severe concussions and abrasions. In one or two instances persons are being attended at their own homes, suffering from shock to the nervous system. Only one death has been definitely reported that of an infant who was in its mother's arms at the time of the accident, who died almost immediately from a blow on the head from the falling timber and iron. Local feeling is strongly in favour of asking the Board of Trade to hold an inquiry as to the stability of the trow which gave way. The pier itself is under reconstruction out of money granted by the Rochester bridge wardens, the designs being from Sir Joseph Bazalgette. Great excitement has been caused throughout the district by the disaster.
South Wales Echo 27/7/1885