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The Fatal Accident at Dodnor to a Master Mariner: Inquest

Isle of Wight Country Press, Sat 18/4/1891, p.3

Transcribed by Brian Randell

On Saturday morning Edward F. Blake, Esq., held an inquest at the West Medina Cement Mills, Dodnor, on the body of William Pengilley, of Clovelly, Devonshire, captain of the schooner Queen of the South, who, as reported in our last issue, met his death under most painful circumstances on the previous Thursday night. The vessel of which deceased was captain was discharging a cargo of coal at the Cement Mills, and on Thursday afternoon of last week the captain went to Cowes, returning to Newport the same evening. On his way back to the Mills it would appear that the deceased went along the path by the side of the river, and on reaching a part where it is impassable he went on to the railway line. A short distance from the Mills there is a viaduct, and in crossing this the deceased fell through an opening on to  the roadway beneath, sustaining injuries to his head which caused death. Mr. Herbert Simmons, manager of the Central Railway Company, who are the owners of the bridge through which deceased fell, was present at the inquiry. Mr. J.H. Warsap was the chosen foreman of the jury, and after viewing the body the following evidence was adduced:

George Long, labourer at the Cement Works and living at Dodnor, said that on the morning of the previous day (Friday) he was going to his work at the Mills, and when getting over the gate close to the bridge he saw the body of deceased lying underneath the bridge. It was then about three minutes past five. Witness went and felt his wrist and face, which were quite cold, and he was quite satisfied that life was extinct. Deceased was lying on his face, more on the right than on the left. Witness did not move the body. He saw no marks of injury. He went and saw a man named Rogert Bignell, and they both went back to the bridge together. From the position of the body deceased had, in all probability, fallen through the aperture in the bridge. He did not know deceased. There was no public thouroughfare across the bridge; it was the private property of the railway company. --- By the Foreman: I sent for some one as soon as I found the body. The body was removed by Mr. Henry Warsap. --- Q. What was the position of the deceased's legs? --- A. The right leg was pointing towards the buttress of the bridge, and the left one was drawn up a little.

John Elias Stanbury said he lived in Clovelly, and was mate on board the Queen of the South, of which the deceased was captain and master. Deceased was 43 years of age. He last saw him alive on the previous Thursday, about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, when he was on board his vessel. Deceased told witness he was going to Cowes. He did not say what time he was coming back. Witness did not know that deceased was going to Newport.

Ernest John Dove, goods clerk in the employ of I. W. Central Railway company, said that on the previous Thursday evening he was collecting tickets at  Newport station on the arrival of the 7.37 p.m. train from Cowes. Deceased came by that train and witness spoke to him. He did not see anything at all peculiar about his manner. Deceased had only taken a ticket to the Cement Mills, and he paid the excess fare. --- By the Foreman: He never saw the deceased after that. He had seen the dead body and identified it was the man whom he saw on Thursday evening.

Dr. George Arthur Barr, practising at Cowes, said he saw the deceased about 12 o'clock on the previous day. The body was lying in a shed at the Cement Mills, quite dead. He noticed a cut over the right eye, and a few small indents on the face, which would be accounted for by deceased falling on gravel and pressing his cheek on to it. Deceased's face was very bloated and the upper part of the body and chest congested. There were no bones broken and there was no dislocation of any kind. His attention was called to deceased's pocket handkerchief, which bore faint marks of blood, saliva, &c., as if deceased had wiped his face with it after he had fallen, but his opinion was that deceased was stunned by the fall and gradual bleeding caused death. --- The Foreman asked the doctor if he thought that suffocation had anything to do with death, as deceased had a handkerchief tied around his neck pretty tightly. --- Dr. Barr replied that he thought death was entirely due to the injuries to the brain caused by the fall.

Detective Inspector Ayres said he took the handkerchief from off the deceased's neck and it was tied very tightly.

The Coroner, in summing up the evidence, said it was a most unfortunate accident; at the same time there was nothing in the evidence to show that any blame could be imputed to anyone. It would appear from the evidence that the poor man got on to the railway, which was not a public thoroughfare, and not knowing the neighbourhood was unacquainted with the fact that there were openings in the bridge, and through one of these he accidentally fell. There was no evidence to show that he was directed there, but it would appear that the deceased, being a perfect stranger in the locality, got on the line, probably regarding it as the surest way of reaching the Mills.

The Foreman said that he did not wish to inculpate any one for that unfortunate accident, but it was his opinion, and he believed the jurymen would agree with him, that the deceased was not directed on to the line by any one, but started on the way along the ordinary foot-path to the Mills. When the deceased got to the pace in the foot-path called Broken Bridge it was concluded that he did what many who passed that way were compelled to do - he got on to the railway line in order to reach the Mills. When the tide was up people who wished to pass that way were positively forced on to the railway, as the bridge in the roadway was broken, and the path was rendered impassable by the water flowing over it. He mentioned this because he thought something should be done to the roadway bridge. He did not know whose property it was. In support of his contention that deceased did not walk all the way on the line, the Foreman said deceased's boots were muddy as if he had walked into the place where the foot-path bridge was broken, and there were traces of where he evidently had wiped his boots when gaining the railroad. --- It was stated that the footpath in question was a public highway repairable by the Highway Commissioners.

Continuing, the Foreman said in the second place he thought for the protection of those engaged in the railway service and others who frequently walked over the railway viaduct, it would be wise on the part of the railway company to board in the lower part of the girders over the bridge, and then if a person walked on to the bridge there would be only a drop of 18 inches or so from the permanent way. He wished to put that as a recommendation to the company as being very necessary. Three-inch plankings, which would suit the purpose, would be very little expense.

The Coroner: Are you all agreed it was accidental?

The Foreman replied that the jury were unanimously of the opinion that it was an accidental case.

Referring to the Foreman's remarks, the Coroner said as to Broken Bridge he would see that the case was represented to the proper authorities who were liable for the repair of the road in question, in order that the matter might at once be put right. 

Detective Inspector Ares: I will undertake to see the surveyor of the highways on the matter.

The Coroner: Thank you.

With regard to the railway bridge the Coroner said that Mr. Simmons, the manager of the company, was present and had heard the remarks of the foreman. As far as he (the Coroner) was concerned he had no power to order that the boarding, as recommended by the Foreman, should be done. At the same time he had no doubt that Mr. Simmons would bring the recommendation before the directors of the company, who would decide whether it was right or necessary to carry out the recommendations of the jury, and so prevent the recurrence of such an accident. Inasmuch as the public had no right on the bridge, no one could call upon the railway company to do it, and it would have to be left to the judgment of the company.

Mr. Simmons agreed with the Foreman that when the tide was high, as it was when the deceased met with the accident, people could not pass without trespassing on the railway. The Broken Bridge was not repairable by the Highway Authorities, but by the land-owner.

The Coroner inquired for the name of the landowner, but it did not transpire.

The inquiry then concluded.

The unfortunate deceased, we hear, leaves a widow and seven children, the eldest child being 18 years and the youngest 18 months. The widow came to the Island to attend the funeral, which took place on Monday last at Northwood Cemetery, the Rev. J. Bailey officiating. Among the mourners, in addition to the wife, were Mr. Pulsford, the owner of the vessel of which the deceased was captain, Mrs. Wells, Mr. J.H. Warsap, Mr. J. Witham, and Messrs. J.E. Stansbury (mate), Vanstone, Headston, and Lock (crew of the Queen of the South). Amongst the floral tributes on the coffin was a wreath from the firm of Messrs. Francis, Son, and Co., of the Cement Mills. Four workmen from the Cement Mills acted as bearers. The bereaved wife and the crew of the Queen of the South wish to express through our columns their heartfelt gratitude to all kind friends at the Cement Mills for the kindly assistance most opportunely rendered in a sore hour of need.