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1933 Truck Accident

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"I remembered hearing family members speak of a truck accident on Philadelphia Pike, in Delaware, that injured 20 people and took the lives of my Great Uncle Francis (Honeyboy) Gaskill and three of his friends on Sunday, August 21, 1933. Uncle Francis, Henry (Nennie) Cummings (27); Daniel Mahoney (20) and Jean Chlasto (19) along with 26 friends from the Lloyd Athletic Club were returning from a hayride to White Crystal Beach at about 1:30 a.m. Another truck carrying 50 gallon barrels of nitro-cellulose (gun cotton) struck the rear of the flatbed hay truck, causing the hay to catch fire and the drums to explode.

Daily Time Staff Writer Harry Maitland wrote a follow-up story 40 years after the tragedy and listed the following survivors: Detective Sgt. Edward R. Todd of the Ridley Twp. Police Dept.; William (Fuzzy) McKinney, of 1124 Butler St.; Mrs. Francis Marks Beard, who works at Crozer-Chester Med. Ctr.; Pat Murphy, who operates Murphy's Bar, at 6th and Welsh; William (Chick) O'Brien; Lawrence (Doc) Cauley; James (Dubie) Coonan and his wife, the former Mary Kaminski, all from Chester.

I do not enjoy sending information about such sad events but these accidents effected the lives of those involved as well as future generations. My Great Uncle Francis Gaskill was being educated at St. Joseph's University with hope that he would return to expand the Joseph P. Gaskill Meat Processing Co. in Chester. His death halted the growth of the business.

[Below is] a copy of the 1973 newspaper article that describes the accident in more detail."

- Mike Majeski

"'Perfect' day for hayride 40 years ago ends in tragedy"
by Harry Maitland
Daily Times Staff Writer

Sunday, Aug. 21, 1933, was hot and muggy. It was typical of the late August "dog days" that caused residents to think of getting away from the heat and humidity for awhile.

The weather caused a number of persons to consider a day at the beach and a swim. As a result, a group of young people made arrangements to travel to White Crystal Beach, on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland's Eastern Shore region. 

The Lloyd Athletic Club, then located at 1118 W. 3rd St., offered a hay ride round trip for a dollar. A flat-bed truck was covered with straw. 

THE DAY AT THE beach was a treat and the ride was added enjoyment. Chester was still in the grips of economic depression which had idled industrial production and business activity.

Thus, the hay ride had strong attraction. It had been a wonderful day. Everyone had a pleasant time until the truck reached the vicinity of Wilmington. The vehicle encountered some electrical trouble that involved the tail lights.

The driver of the truck, Preston Watson, 26, stopped the truck once in the vicinity of Routes 13 and 40, near Bear, Del., to replace a bulb. No one is certain what the problem involved. It may have been an electrical fuse, bulb, a "short" or combination. 

SOME DIFFICULTY OCCURRED again on the Philadelphia Pike. The truck had passed the old Shellpot Park, an amusement park near where the Sears Roebuck department store is located today.

The truck left the beach area around 9 p.m. It was about 1:30 a.m., an hour that changed the lives of about 30 young people. 

Another truck, loaded with an explosive chemical substance, was moving along the highway. It rammed into the rear of the Lloyd truck and scattered people in all directions. . 

The straw on the Lloyd truck caught fife. Flames spread to the wreckage of the truck hauling 50-gallon steel drums of nitro - cellulose or gun cotton. The barrels exploded in a series of blasts that killed, injured and maimed the hay-riders.

TODAY IS THE 40TH anniversary of the Lloyd tragedy. Only a few survivors remain. Four were killed instantly, 20 were treated in Wilmington hospitals. Many have since died.

Eight survivors remain from the tragedy. Six continue to live in the area. They are Detective Sgt. Edward R. Todd, of the Ridley Township Police Department; William (Fuzzy) McKinney, of 1124 Butler St.; Mrs. Frances Marks Beard, who lives in Chester and works at the Crozer-Chester Medical Center; Pat Murphy, who operates Murphy's Bar, at 6th and Welsh Sts.; William (Chick) O'Brien of Chester; and .Lawrence (Doc) Cauley, of Chester. James (Dubie) Coonan and his wife, the former Mary Kaminski, both survived the tragedy. They retired and live in Cape May, NJ.

Todd and McKinney agreed to talk about that day. McKinney became a maintenance worker at the Delaware County Daily Times last April. Before that he worked for the city.

"We ran and ran as fast as we could move to avoid the fire and the explosions,” McKinney recalled. "We hid in a culvert ditch under the highway until we heard the sirens of ambulances. We prayed to God for protection," he said.

Todd said, "I have never experienced a bombing but I guess it would be something like the explosion of those drums. One blast after another would be similar to bombs dropping around you." His brother, Clarence (Cack) Todd is a retired Chester police captain who is security chief for Crozer-Chester Medical Center.

Todd, who had his left leg mangled, spent six months in Delaware Hospital. Several stainless steel plates had to be inserted in his leg in a series of operations.

Todd went through the surgery and long recovery to avoid having one leg several inches shorter than the other. Two of the plates broke, and had to be replaced. Todd was immobilized for the third attempt. A plaster cast covered his leg from toes to groin and anchored onto his body. It encased him to the chest.

Of the four persons killed in the accident three were athletes. Henry (Nennie) Cummings, 27, was the son of Chester Police Capt. John Cummings who had died suddenly months before the accident." Cummings was a center and captain of the Lloyd championship football team in 1925.

Francis (Honeyboy) Gaskill, 26 was the team quarterback. He was the signal-caller for the 1926 team that won the Philadelphia Scholastic Football Championship for St. Joseph's Preparatory School.

Daniel Mahoney, 20, was one of three brothers on the trip. His brothers, John and William, survived but have since died: William was a radio operator in the Chester Police Department when he became ill and died several years ago.

The only woman fatality was Jean Chlasto, 19. All of the Lloyd victims lived in the West End part of the city. Many of them were from sections of the 8th Ward, where the club was located, and the neighboring 7th Ward. The club moved from its original location years ago and built a new club building on W. 7th Street near Lloyd Street. 

THE COLLISION, fire and explosions was a news story that captured the interest of readers of newspapers in Chester, Wilmington and. Philadelphia for several days.

The former Chester Times had dark headlines in the largest type size. Three lines of print covered eight 
columns. It read:


The story began. "Death stalked a party of young merrymakers from this city while they were on their way home from a Sunday outing.” Much of the front page was filled with news of the tragedy. The story continued front page for a week.

Todd was sleeping when the crash occurred. He awakened when he struck the road paving. His leg injury prevented him from getting up. He crawled and dragged his leg to escape the fire and explosive blasts.

McKinney said most of the hay-riders were sleeping, but he was awake. "I saw these two big lights (the other truck's headlights) coming right at us. The next thing I knew, I was on the ground. I was dazed and staggered around.

"Frank McGinn (who had been riding with the driver, Watson) took me by the arm. Suddenly the straw caught fire and the flames spread to the other truck. Flames burned the trees overhead. And the explosions began.

"People were screaming and screaming. It was horrible. I will never forget the sounds of the screams. The first blas knocked me down and stunned me. I got up and ran. William Mahoney and someone else was ahead of me. We ran along the highway looking for shelter. One drum after another exploded behind us. We came to this culvert and crawled inside. A girl joined us. I don't know who she was."

Todd produced his hospital bill and was pleased that he did not have to meet the expense at present inflated rates. The entire bill for six months hospitalization was $757. The physician submitted a bill of $150 for three operations and attendant care for six months as a bed patient and nine months of office visits.

Neither Todd nor McKinney has ever revisited the location where the tragedy occurred. Todd has passed there several times but he has only been to White Crystal Beach once since 1933.

Tragedy returned to McKinney this summer. His son, T. Sgt. William J. McKinney, who was nearing retirement status in the Air Force was killed in an auto accident in New York.


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