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RCMP Report Regarding Explosion On Kettle Valley Train

British Columbia Police

File No. 56/52
October 30th, 1924

"B" Division
District, West Kootenay,
Detachment, Nelson.


Explosion on Kettle Valley Train West
Bound Oct. 29th, 1924, near Farron. B.C.

At 7.20 a.m. October 29th, 1924, received a 'phone message from Mr. Griffith, Chief Clerk, C.P.R. Nelson, B.C., to the effect that an accident had occurred on the Kettle Valley line near Farron early this morning when five passengers were killed and thirteen had been injured. Notified the Coroner for this District Dr. H.H. MacKenzie and also got into communication with S/Sergt. Fraser at Greenwood who informed me the accident had occurred West of Farron which is in his Police District, and that he would leave immediately for Grand Forks and endeavour to catch the freight train for the scene.

At this time it was reported that there were two dead at Farron and three at Nelson, eight injured in the Kootenay Lake Hospital, and five in the Grand Forks Hospital.

The first report received was that the gas tanks on the day coach had exploded and shattered the coach, afterwards setting fire to it. About 8.45 a.m. it was reported by the C.P.R. officials that the gas tanks were intact and that it could not have been the gas that caused the explosion. As Inspector Dunwoody is at present at Revelstoke on duty and impossible for him to proceed to Farron at this time I deemed it advisable to proceed there to give what assistance possible. At 9.50 a.m. a Special train chartered by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Ltd. (Doukhobors) left Nelson for Farron for the purpose of bringing the body of Mr. Verigin to Brilliant. I proceeded to the scene on this train and upon arrival found that Dr. Kingston, Coroner of Grand Forks had taken charge of the bodies, he was very ably assisted by Constable Killam of the Grand Forks Detachment. It was explained to the Doukhobors that it would be necessary to have the body of Peter Verigin taken to Grand Forks for the inquest, this was done, in the meantime S/Sergt. Fraser had arrived on the freight train, and after looking over the scene he returned to Grand Forks on the Special Train to attend the inquest which the Coroner decided to commence upon the arrival of the bodies at Grand Forks. On the train going to Grand Forks were four bodies, John MacKie, M.P.P. for Grand Forks, Peter Verigin and two un-identified bodies.

Upon my arrival at Farron the bodies were on a coach, it was explained by the Coroner and Constable Killam that apparently nothing but the injured had been touched previous to their arrival, which I must say was a credit to the officials of the C.P.R. as their wrecking crew were there and they were kept from interfering with anything until the arrival of the Coroner and Const. Killam. All that was left of the day coach was on the track, excepting that which was scattered by the explosion. It appears that after the explosion took place the train proceeded about 275 feet, and as the day coach was then burning, the other coaches, as well as the baggage and express car were un-coupled and taken to a safe distance, the day coach continued to burn until the steel parts were all that was left. The steam heat pipes on one side were all broken and badly twisted especially about half way between the trucks and over the gas tanks, the gas tanks were intact, and had a very noticeable dent in it, my opinion is that the explosion took place inside of the coach immediately over the gas tanks, for along side the rail on the same side as the gas tanks there was what appeared to be portions of the floor which had been blown to very small fragments, these were forced down and under the rail but did not make a hole in the ground although one of the ties on the outside of the rail was broken evidently by the explosion, this debris mentioned was covering probably a radius of about 18 inches square as though the force of the explosion blew a hole through the floor of the coach, fragments of the coach were found for a distance of about 300 feet on either side of the track, and portions of the wood work on which is printed "FIRST CLASS" were scattered furthest away from the track, portions of clothing partly burnt and shattered were hanging in the trees 100 feet away, and the frame (steel) of a grip or hand bag was found a distance of two hundred feet from the track, this looks as though it might have contained the explosive, or, was very close to where the explosion took place. As there was very little else that could be done at Farron at that time I returned to Nelson at 12.20 midnight in order that the occupants of the coach could be checked up with a view to ascertaining whether any of them would likely be carrying any explosives with them on the train. So far as the deceased and the injured in Nelson are concerned I do not think any of them would be carrying any such substance along with them. There is, I believe a man named O'Shaunnessy in the hospital at Grand Forks who is alleged to have come from Montreal, and that he had a partner who was not injured, and who continued his journey West on the train the same day. I phoned S/Sergt. Fraser to check up these men's movements and endeavor to locate the partner of O'Shaunnessy, I have not yet received any report from S/Sergt. Fraser or Constable Killam, but was informed by the C.P.R. Officials that two men have been located in Vancouver who were with O'Shaunnessy and not injured in the explosion.

The inquest at Grand Forks has been adjourned until 10 a.m. Saturday, November 1st, and the inquest which was commenced here this morning has been adjourned until 2.30 p.m. Monday, November 3rd, 1924. It appears to be necessary to have an inquest on the bodies here otherwise they would have had to be shipped to Grand Forks and then some of them back here again. It would facilitate matters considerably if the evidence taken at the inquest at Grand Forks could be used here, I am doubtful whether this would be permissible, hence my query in night lettergram on this matter.

Owing to the absence of Inspector Dunwoody at Revelstoke at the illness of Constable King I found it necessary to have Corporal Johnston i/c Trail Detachment come to Nelson to assist me.

(signed)Ernest Gammon
To the S/Sergt.
Officer Commanding
"B" Div. B.C. Police.
Nelson, B.C
i/c West Kootenay District.

Source: Library and Archives Canada Access to Information Request A-2004-00120, RG 18 Vol. 3306 File HQ 750-1-1, , BCPP S/Sergt., BCPP Report Regarding Explosion on Kettle Valley Train, October 30, 1924.

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