NEW ZEALAND DISASTERS AND TRAGEDIES
ASHBURTON - 12 OCTOBER 1887
THE ASHBURTON GUARDIAN, TH[URSDAY] 13 OCTOBER, 1887 Page 3
FOUR CHILDREN DROWNED.
A very melancholy accident occurred about seven o'clock last evening, by which the lives of four children were lost. Mr Jenkins, who resides close to the Woollen Factory, was returning from Alford Forest in a trap with his wife and four children. He attempted to cross the river at the ford near Mr Bennett's, when the vehicle upset. The river has been high during the last few days, and the ford at this spot was ren- dered very dangerous, the stream having, we understand, entirely changed its course. Mr Jenkins had just entered the river when the trap, which was a very light one, presumably went into a hole and capsized. Mrs Jenkins held on to the youngest child, eighteen months old, but after sinking twice had to let the poor little thing go. The other children were all swept away and drowned. After the trap capsized Mr Jenkins did not see any of the children with the exception of the little girl, whom he saw in his wife's arms. Just after the infant had been carried away Mr Jenkins managed to catch hold of his wife and the two got out of the river and made their way to Mr Knox's, where everything possible was done for them. Mr Corbett rode into town bringing news of the melancholy affair. The horse was drowned. The names and ages of the children were as follows:- Charles Frederick, 8 years; Thomas, 5 years; William Robert, 3 years; Emily Mabel, 18 months. At daybreak this morning. Mr W. B. Compton and a party went down and found the bodies of two of the boys and of the little girl on a spit about ten or twenty chains below the spot where the trap was capsized. The river was then followed down till the body of the other boy was found near the Woollen Factory.
Mr Jenkins is well-known in Ashbur- ton, and was formerly in business here as a fishmonger. Much sympathy is felt for the bereaved parents, and when news of the melancholy accident came to hand quite a painful thrill ran through the community.
An inquest touching the deaths of Charles Frederick (8), Thomas (5), William Robert (3), and Emily Mabel (18 months), the children of Charles Poole Jenkins, who were drowned by a trap accident in the river last evening, was held at the Central Hotel at 2 o'clock this afternoon before Mr John Ollivier, Acting Coroner, and a jury of six, of whom Mr G. F. Scott was chosen foreman.
The jury having viewed the bodies, the following evidence was led:- Charles Poole Jenkins, the father of the children, said that he lived in Charles street, Allenton. Yesterday afternoon he was driving in a trap with his wife and four children from Alford Forest. The trap was a small two-wheeled one. He had another horse and a cow with him, and sometimes he rode the horse, and occasionally he drove the trap. Coming down he asked about the state of the river. He was told that it was high and that he would not be able to get the cow through. He was further told that the ford was easier going to Ashburton than going the other way. He was told to enter the ford well up the river and then to follow the stream down. Before he entered the riverbed he left the cow and spare horse behind. The river seemed to him to be right enough to cross. It was then dusk. When he got into the big stream his wife screamed out. He asked her to keep quiet because he thought the horse would go on all right. He urged the horse another step further and the water got deeper. His wife screamed out again, and he said that he would strike straight for the bank. The next step the horse took the wheel dropped into a hole and the trap turned over. All of them fell out of the trap. Witness saw nothing afterwards of the three boys. He caught hold of his wife and the baby and they were carried down the stream, the horse and cart rolling after them. Witness seeing that the baby's head was under water tried to get her head up and lost his footing. He left his hold of his wife and child and fell over in the stream. He got his footing again and caught his wife, but he could'nt see the child. He then made for the bank - that on the side of the river he had gone in at. He pulled his wife out and he wanted her to sit on the bank while he looked for the children, but she would not let him leave her. Witness and his wife then made their way back through several small streams and got to Mr Knox's house where they got shelter. Mr Knox told Mr John Corbett of the occurrence in order that information might be conveyed to the police. The horse was drowned. Witness identified the children, the bodies of whom were lying outside, as being his. Witness had often been across the river, and he knew this crossing place well. No effort was mad to recover the bodies of the children that night. About half an hour elapsed from the time the cart was overturned till witness got to Knox's house.
By the Jury: When witness got out he wanted to see if he could find any of the children, but his wife would not let him leave her. After he had landed he "coo-ed" several times to see if he could attract the attention of anyone who might be passing on the road, but got no response. There wa a bridge known as Digby's almost half a mile higher up the river, which, had it been open for traffic, would have prevented his having recourse to the ford. He had heard that the approaches had been washed away, and last Saturday he saw rails across the road to stop traffic going on to the bridge. W. B. Compton said that he had had many years experience with rivers, he having been ferryman at Rakaia and Rangitata?. Last evening he was informed of these children having been drowned and he made arrangements for a party to go in search of the bodies at daylight this morning. About three o'clock he started to go. He called at the Police Station to acquaint the police of his movements. He went up with Messrs Perks? (sen and jun) A. Wood, W. Tutty, and Perryman. It was not daylight when they got to the river. He saw an object on a spit about the centre of the river which he took to be a horse and trap. They waited about twenty minutes and then Mr Tutty and witness crossed the river at the ford and followed the bank down. Witness crossed the river to a spit and found the body of the boy, Wm. Robert, the third child, about two chains below the point of the spit, and about thirty chains below the spot where he saw the trap. There was a churn about a chain away from the body. It was hardly daylight at this time. After searching he found the body of the youngest child on the point of the spit. Witness took both bodies out of the water and placed them on the bank. Witness then rode across the river and informed those of the party, who were waiting, that he had found two of the bodies. He then followed the river down, and about five chains further down he found the body of the eldest boy. This body he took up and placed beside the two already recovered. Mr Donald McLean then came up and said he had searched some of the spits coming up, but had seen no bodies. They then searched the river for about twenty chains. He picked up a child's dress, and thinking that they might have missed a younger child they went back, thinking that perhaps it might be under the trap. They righted the vehicle but there was nothing underneath. They then went down to the river again and about a mile below the spot where he found the oldest boy, he found the second son. He carried the body to the Alford Forest
[-- to next column at the top of the page --] road and waited till the others were brought down. The four bodies now outside were those he found in the river. By the Jury: Witness did not think from the appearance of the bodies that the children had struggled near a bank. They seemed to have been drowned before they got near the spit. Witness did not consider anything could have been done last night in the direction of endeavoring to save their lives. John Corbett gave evidence regarding his bringing information of the accident to the police. It was very dark. The river was dangerous for horsemen and more so for a trap, if a person crossing got ten yards below the ford. Witness had had to show people across that day. By the Jury: Witness thought that at the time of the accident it was light enough for any person to have seen the bodies of the children on the spit if they was washed there. This was all the evidence. The jury without retiring returned a verdict of "accidental death." The Coroner called for the gentlemen who had found the bodies of the children. Messrs Compton, Perks senr., and Tutty were the only ones present. The Coroner bestowed great praise upon them for their action, and asked them to also convey the thanks of the jury to those of their number who were not present.
NOTE: the vowel in "Perks" is difficult to distinguish - the name just *may* be "Parks"
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