CITY HAD PROTESTED ON
Newark Evening News, May 6, 1951
ELIZABETH Norman Cool, 9, and his
sister, Clara Ann, 8, drowned late yesterday in water-filled excavation
along the New Jersey Turnpike construction project between South Park
street and Broadway.
The children were the son and daughter
of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Cool of 504 East Jersey street. A third child,
Michael Caliendo, 8, son of Mr. and Mrs. James Caliendo of 502 East
Jersey street, was in the water with the Cool youngsters and stepped
out just before the others sank from sight. Michael ran to his home
several blocks away and gave the alarm.
Hundreds of residents of the Elizabethport
section gathered at the scene. The turnpike construction has caused
considerable controversy in Elizabeth and there have been disputes over
the project between the turnpike authority, city officials, trucking
concerns and residents.
Tells of Tragedy
Held in his father's arms, Michael said
after the tragedy: "The three of us went down to the railroad tracks
(Jersey Central Railroad) and crossed over the top of them to the new
road. There were big hills of dirt there and we saw water.
"We took off our shoes and socks.
I just wet my feet and got out. Norman and Clara had taken off their
coats before they went in. Pretty soon I didn't see them. Just a lot
of bubbles. Then I ran home and told my father."
When Michael reached home, his father
jumped into his car with Edwin Ross, Elizabeth tax assessor, and rushed
to the scene. In the meantime, two boys ran to the home of Thomas Nycz,
334 South Park street, and told him they had seen children fall into
the water. Nycz ran a few yards to the turnpike, took a look and then
ran to fire rescue squad half a block away.
The squad arrived and began grappling
with poles and hooks. Caliendo had removed part of his clothing preparatory
to jumping in when the bodies were located a few feet from the bank.
He assisted in carrying them to the top of the railroad bank and level
ground where inhalators were used.
Firemen, under Captains Ross and Forrester,
applied artificial respiration and oxygen for a half-hour before Clara
was pronounced dead. Two hours later her brother was given up by doctors
as beyond hope.
Police under Captain Coyle and Lieutenant
White had a difficult time controlling the excited crowds. They insisted
in swarming up the embankment and crossing the busy railroad tracks.
Trains slowed to a crawl as they made their way past the scene. The
dead children's father went from one tot to the other watching for some
sign of life. Finally, friends took him away.
Shocked and dazed, he related how his
wife was taken to a state hospital April 16 suffering a nervous breakdown.
Because he stayed home from work to care for her he had been discharged
from his job and is now without employment. The couple's other children
are: Sadie Elizabeth, 12; Herbert Nelson, 10; Thomas Edwin, 4, and Dennis,
9 months. Herbert is being cared for by relatives in Freeland, PA.
Ross, the assessor, said that two weeks
ago yesterday, he and City Council President Tracey inspected the excavation
and "saw its hazards and temptations to kids who were standing
there throwing sticks and stones into the water." Ross said he
and Tracey spoke with an engineer from the Turnpike Authority and were
assured the pit would be "filled in over the coming week-end."
The pit is about 20 feet wide, 50 feet
long and ranges in depth from a few inches to 10 feet. Three sides are
of clay and the fourth a retaining wall of stone that was there before
the project began. The children entered the water opposite the retaining
Tracey arrived while firemen were working
on Norman. He said: "I warned the authority engineers something
like this would happen if strict safety precautions were not observed,
especially with the hundreds of trucks that come through here daily."
Devil to Pay
Tracey said: "There will be the devil
to pay for this terrible thing," adding that he had demanded the
pit be filled and had received promises it would. Surveying the crowd,
Tracey said "the people are really up in arms now."
Fire Chief Keelan had Engine Company 5
pump the water from the excavation last night.
The Cool children attended Philip Carteret
School. Norman was in the second grade and Clara in the first. The Caliendo
boy is a student in Grade 3 of the same school.
Courtesy of the Newark Public Library.