Thursday marked the 48th anniversary of the 1959 Meldrim Trestle Disaster.
On June 28, 1959, around 3:30 p.m., a Seaboard Railway freight train crossing a trestle 25 feet above the Ogeechee River jumped the track. Ten of its 123 cars derailed, including two cars filled with liquefied petroleum gas that fell into the river below.
Between 100-200 people were sitting on the riverbank when cars from freight train No. 82, bound for Savannah from Americus, toppled into the water. An explosion ensued and flames and fumes shot across the water.
The gas leaked from the cars, ignited, and caused a blaze that killed 23 people who were spending their Sunday afternoon at a swimming and recreation spot in Meldrim.
According to an article in the July 3, 1959, Springfield Herald, persons at the scene who escaped injury by leaving right away described the cries of the dying and injured as terrible.
The incident has been called the worst accident in the county’s history.
Fourteen people were killed immediately by the explosion, and the others died later from their injuries. Nine of the victims were children, including a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old. Several families lost as many as four immediate members.
The 23 people killed at the wreck were Jimmy Anderson, Elizabeth Dixon Barnes, Ted Barnes, Julian Beasley, Linda Jean Beasley, Reba Lamb Beasley, Michael Bland, Charles Carpenter, Billy Wayne Dent, Joan Dent, Edna Dixon, Frank Dixon, Barbara Hales, Claudia Johnson, L.B. Lamb, Terry Lane, Elbie Lane, Florence Lane, Leslie Lee, James Smith, Margie Hales Smith, Timothy Smith and Wayne Smith.
During its upcoming Halloween carnival, the Meldrim community will be dedicating its new playground equipment at Meldrim Memorial Park to the memories of those who died in the accident.
Funding for the playground equipment came from the Meldrim Civic Club, which raised $12,500 through barbecue dinners and the annual Halloween carnival, $25,000 in a grant from the state and $20,000 from the county commissioners and Effingham Parks and Recreation Department.
Link to see video tribute to the disaster at www.meldrim.com.