Four Killed by Train at Riverton, Kentucky

“Death sunday afternoon overtook a theater party of five young Kentucky persons enroute from Greenup to Ashland. Four were instantly killed and one probably fatally injured as C&O passenger train No. 3, westbound from New York to Cincinnati, traveling at a high rate of speed struck a Ford Roadster at the White Oak crossing one mile east of Greenup. Bodies of the victims were badly mangled and parts of bodies strewn along the railway tracks for quite a distance. The machine was reduced to a twisted mass of metal.”

The Dead

Minnie Brown, 16 and Opal Brown, 18, sisters and Nazarene Sunday school teachers, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Brown, Riverton, Kentucky.”

Van Green, 24, bridge worker, Stanford, Kentucky, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Green, owner of the car.”

Edward McMillen, 26, bridge worker, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, son of Mrs. Elizabeth McMillen.”

The Injured

Raymond Adkins, 22, bridge worker, Greenup, Kentucky, son of Mrs. Rose Adkins.”

“Adkins is in Marting hospital, Ironton, suffering from a leg broken above the knee, a bad gash on his head, his right heel almost torn off, his body a mass of cuts abrasions and bruises. Hospital officials say Adkins is the most battered patient ever brought to the hospital. His condition is critical.”

“The train was in charge of Engineer “Red” Robinson, Covington, Kentucky, piloting engine No. 450, and Conductor SD Hall1, Covington, Kentucky, and Fireman Gullion, Ironton, Ohio.”

“Shortly after the Greenup accident, Engineer Robinson was forced to use the emergency brakes and bring his train to a dead stop to keep from hitting a machine stalled on the tracks at a crossing near McDonald’s drug store, Fullerton, Kentucky. The car was owned and occupied by Lyman D. Warnock, Fullerton. The train stopped within a few feet of Warnock’s car.”

Lafayette Scaggs, coroner of Greenup County, held an inquest in the LG Stapf2 morgue at 8 PM Sunday where the bodies were taken after the tragedy, and returned a verdict of ‘accidental death.”

“McMillen, Green, and Adkins were employed as bridge workers by Contractor HG Smith, Wilmington, Ohio, on the work of repairing the Little Sandy River bridge just west of Greenup.”

“The party left the home of Morris and Charles Craft about 2 PM Sunday in the Ford Roaster owned by Van Green and driven by Edward McMillen. Minnie Brown and Van Green, owner of the car, occupied the rumble seat and the other three the front seat of the car. They planned to attend a theater in Ashland. A short time later four of the party were dead.”

“A freight train, west bound, was standing near the crossing, waiting in the block for the passenger train to pass on the other westbound track. The third track is eastbound. The Ford car was driven upon the middle track as the passenger train roared by, the driver or the occupants of the car apparently neither seeing or hearing the approach of the passenger train because of the freight train. The impact of the automobile and engine damaged the locomotive. Engineer Robinson did not get the train stopped until it had almost reached the Riverton depot several hundred yards away.”

John Rice, living near the ‘death crossing,’ where a number of fatal accidents have occured, was an eyewitness to the accident. He told the coroner he saw the freight standing on the track, saw the approach of the passenger and the advance of the automobile. He saw the crash. He said the auto was hurled 20 feet into the air and the occupants bodies scattered 200 feet along the right of way. The girls’ bodies were the most mangled. WS Sturgill3, telegraph operator of Riverton, also testified at the coroner’s inquest. He said he did not see the accident but heard the crash and ran to the scene of the accident.”

“The freight train on the first westbound track at the crossing is believed to have obscured the view of the driver. The train, authorities said, was waiting for No. 3, the fast passenger train, to pas, before proceeding.”

Car Demolished

“The automobile went in front of the freight train, and No. 3 plowed into it, demolishing it after dragging it a short distance. The bodies of the occupants of the car were torn and mangled.”

“The engine of No. 3 was disabled for approximately 30 minutes after the accident. Traffic on the Greenup-Ashland highway, of which White Oak crossing is a part and on which the accident occured, was tied up for several hours, and Chief of Police PK Willis4 and Road Patrolman WS Sturgill of Greenup were called into service. The tragedy scene is just outside the city limits of Riverton.”

1930 map of Riverton, Kentucky, and it’s multiple rail crossings.

“There was no electric bell or watchman at White Oak crossing authorities revealed. Several deaths have occured at the scene in the past several years, they said.”

“It was not known tonight how Adkins, the lone survivor, was thrown in such a way that he was not, like his companions, instantly killed.”

“The Brown sisters were Sunday school teachers in the Nazarene church in Greenup and several hours before the tragedy, which cast a pall of gloom over the entire country tonight, had taught their classes of small children.”

“Surviving the Brown sisters are the parents, Mr5. and Mrs.6 William Brown, one brother, Kenneth, and five sisters, Edith, Lucille, June, Dorothy and Beatrice Brown, all at home. Mr. Brown is employed at the King Powder plant.”

“Funeral services for the sisters will be held jointly at 2 PM Tuesday, with burial in the Buffalo cemetery7, near Greenup. They will be buried in the same grave under the director of LG Stapf, Greenup undertaker.”

“The body of young McMillen will be taken early Monday morning to Elizabethtown for funeral and burial services. He is survived by his mother, Mrs. Elizabeth McMillen, five brothers, Arthur, Howard, William, Dudley and Warren, and two sisters, Ola and Minnie, all at home.”

“The body of young Green was returned to Stanford Monday by his father, John Green. He is survived by the parents and several brothers and sisters. Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Ray Adkins is the son of Mrs. Rose Adkins, a widow of Greenup. He has four brothers, Dewey, Estill, Ireland, and Paul Adkins.”

“The Adkins boy’s father met a violent death several years ago when the family lived in Ashland. He went to the city incinerator and accidently walked into the furnace where he was burned to death.”8

  1. Shannon Douglas Hall
  2. Louis “Louie” George Stapf
  3. William Sherman Sturgell
  4. J. Proctor Knott Willis
  5. William Robert Brown
  6. Naomi “Oma” Brown (nee Burgess)
  7. Burials are not actually at Buffalo Cemetery. They are approximately 1/4 mile from Buffalo Cemetery at a private cemetery overlooking Buffalo Furnace.
  8. Four Killed As Train Hits Car at Riverton, Ky. (1932, January 18). Portsmouth Times, p. 1.