New York City, -- The Steamboat Riverdale blown up, August 28th – Rescuing the passengers.
A sad disaster occurred on the North River, off New York City, on the afternoon of August 28th, when the steamer Riverdale burst her boiler and sunk in mid-stream. The Riverdale made daily trips between this city and Haverstraw, Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown, Yonkers, and other places up the river, and carried both freight and passengers. She had started from the Harrison Street pier, where about fifty people had boarded her, and was to take on most of her passengers at the foot of West Twenty-Second Street. As she approached that point, the pier was seen to be occupied by another vessel and the Riverdale reduced her speed. The steamer was nearly opposite the foot of Twentieth Street, and was about 150 rods from the shore, when a dull, heavy sound, like the fall of a ponderous hammer, was heard, followed by the uprising of a dense cloud of smoke, steam and flying splinters. The pilot-house and smoke-stack were thrown high in the air, and the vessel soon began to sink, disappearing from view within ten minutes. About one-half of the persons on board had distributed themselves upon the upper decks, fore and aft, while several women and children were in the after cabin. Many of them were blown into the air or thrown into the river by the shock, two being killed outright by the explosion, and a third drowned while two others died within a few hours from their injuries. Fifteen more persons were injured and the loss of life would have been much greater if a large fleet of tug-boats and row-boats which were near by had not gone immediately to the rescue. The Riverdale was an old boat, built about thirty-five years ago, and had twice changed her name. She met with an accident a year ago which would have been terribly fatal had she been laden with passengers. The drumhead of her steamchest blow off as she lay ate her dock waiting for a load of Coney Island passengers, and the steam poured forth in volumes, sweeping away the upper deck. Experienced river men say that she has been unsafe for many years, and the disaster has provoked a loud demand for a more effective inspections and government of the steamers which ply our rivers.
Reprinted from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, September 8, 1883.