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From the Vault: News from the Friday, Jan. 20, 1950 edition of the Press & Journal

Posted 1/17/18

Charles Wilson, Highspire; lost life in cave-in at worksite

Charles Wilson, 50 Grant St., Highspire, was killed Tuesday night when he was buried beneath tons of mud and rock in a sewer ditch, …

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From the Vault: News from the Friday, Jan. 20, 1950 edition of the Press & Journal


Charles Wilson, Highspire; lost life in cave-in at worksite

Charles Wilson, 50 Grant St., Highspire, was killed Tuesday night when he was buried beneath tons of mud and rock in a sewer ditch, which collapsed in School House Lane, Progress.

Death was attributed to a fractured skull, suffered when a rock fell on the buried man.

Wilson was laying pipe in the bottom of the ditch, opposite 3544 Shool House Lane, when the wet earth, weakened by a minor water line break, collapsed from the weight of a digger used in the ditch work.

Dr. Ruth Stekert, who accompanied the Harrisburg Hospital ambulance to the scene, summoned Harrisburg firemen and the Pleasant View pumper as an aid in keeping the water from sweeping over the buried Wilson.

Water was shut off in the water line by 5:45, within 25 minutes of the cave-in, and workmen began bailing and pumping water from the ditch. The inert form of Wilson, exposed by the removal of a mass of stone and rock, was held upright out of the sloshing water by fellow workmen Leon Seitz, Slim Sellers and Benny Hiller while a half-dozen other laborers dug with shovels and buckets into the slimy mass of mud to free Wilson's pinioned lower body.

Wilson was declared dead about 6:15 by Dr. Stekert, who climbed down into the 10-foot ditch and, poised on a narrow catwalk hastily laid across the bottom of the ditch, used her stethoscope to learn whether he was still living. Her examination in cramped quarters revealed the fractured skull which, she said, was enough to cause death.

The accident happened at 5:20 p.m. and the body was not freed from the mud until 7 p.m., when it was moved by a private ambulance to Neill Funeral Home, Paxtang.

Rescue operators were directed by R. E. Wolf, contractor-employer of Wilson. Wolf's concern is installing the new Susquehanna Township sewerage system east of the city and this accident marks the first fatality since the job started.

Aiding Wolf in handling rescue operations were Paul Fetrow and Robert Swartz, job foremen, and Samuel Bennett, inspector on the job for Township Engineer Howard LeVan.

Bennett said another workman, Martin Rosenberg, Harrisburg, narrowly escaped being entombed along with Wilson. Rosenberg managed to scramble to safety in the nick of time.

Rosenberg and a workman identified only as Houseman, both close companions of Wilson, were among the first to leap to the victim's aid. They later had to withdraw due to fatigue and distress at Wilson's death.

Approximately 25 of Wolf's men rushed to the scene. There were 10 at work on the immediate job with Wilson while the remainder were across a triangle in Wood Street working on another part of the same sewer installation. A ditch-digger, operated by Paul Miller, was also used to remove dirt and mud from the ditch.

Fire pumpers were of little aid due to the shallowness of the water and the mud which they sucked up with each compression. Firemen lent a hand under guidance of Fire Chief Earl Swartz, Harrisburg, but the main job fell to the laborers who waded in knee-deep mire to shovel their comrade free.

More than 100 autos tagged by borough police

Burgess Peck Garver with a three-man police force, headed by Chief of Police Harold K. Houser, of the Middletown Police Department, placed on more than 100 automobiles, warning tags for illegal parking, near the main entrance to Olmsted Air Force Base, where only two-hour parking is allowed by ordinance.

For some time automobiles have been parked on both sides of streets and in alleys all day and night, restricting traffic and causing hazards in case of fire. The restricted area includes Ann, Wilson, Grant and Lawrence streets and Witherspoon Avenue.

The order issued by Garver, followed an appeal made some time ago by the provost marshal at Olmsted Air Force Base, when letters were attached to windshields urging base employees to use the large free parking lot, between Wilson street and the P. R. R., north of Lawrence Street, part of the old pipe mill grounds.

Garver, in issuing the order, said he will tolerate the illegal parking long enough to allow base employees to remove their automobiles to the free parking lot. When “red tags” are placed on automobiles in this area again, it will be a warning, but will order the motorist or owner of the car to appear before the burgess in police court, in the room fitted up for this purpose in the Community Building. Fines and costs may be imposed on violators according to the ordinance.

Warning tags have also been placed on many automobiles violating ordinances in the business section and on other streets, by double parking, placing cars partly over white lines of pedestrian walks, parking too close to fire hydrants, parking on the wrong side of street, etc.

Garver has the assurance of borough council that he will be given proper support to bring about better traffic conditions in the borough.

If need be, Garver said he will ask council to allow parking only on the one side of the street in different sections of town, in order to bring about safer conditions for the motorist and pedestrians.

The new Ford police car purchased by council was delivered over the weekend, and it has been equipped with radio-telephone equipment in order that the police-operator can be reached at any time and anywhere by telephone throughout the borough, when the police car is being used by the police.

The new police car was officially turned over to Houser by Garver and John Prowell Jr., president of borough council. Borough Council has eliminated the payment of $20 for maintenance and $15 for gasoline, monthly, to each of the three policemen, effective Jan. 1.

New traffic signals for Elizabethtown

New traffic signals for Elizabethtown's Center Square have been approved by the State Highways Department, borough councilmen were informed, and preparations to install such new signals will be made as soon as possible.

Councilmen, who will seek bids for the installation, decided the new traffic system at the square would include lighted “Walk" and “Don’t Walk” warning signals,

The State Highway Department recommended that the lights be operated as flashing signals only between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Steelton man robbed near Hershey

A 40-year-old Steelton man reported he was taken from Harrisburg to a side road near Hershey by two strangers and beaten and robbed early Sunday, according to Hershey State Police.

Stephen Cser, 40, 351 S. Second St., Steelton, told State Police he was robbed of a wrist watch valued at $65, $11 in cash, a cigarette lighter and scarf, after he was beaten in the face.

Cser told State Police he was entering a downtown restaurant in Harrisburg for coffee when two men in a small black coupe asked for directions. He said he walked to the car to offer assistance when the pair grabbed him and threw him in the car and drove to Hershey on a side road off Route 422 where the beating and robbery took place.

Headlines from the edition

• Scouts attend training courses at Hidden Valley Camp over the weekends

• $550 in prizes won by Dauphin County 4-H clubs at Farm Show

Hot buys

• Baby chicks for immediate delivery. Special at $10 a hundred. Harrison’s High Grade Chicks, 118 N. Catherine St., Middletown. Phone 371-J or 371-R.

• Diamond ring, $100. Wedding ring, $9.75. Groom’s ring, $17.50. Klahr’s, “jewelers for three generations,” Middletown. Kresge, 19 Olmsted Shopping Center, Middletown.