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South Buffalo - 1922
By: Greg Jandura

         It happened in May, 1922. Three youngsters who should have been spending their energy at the local playground, instead wander up the adjacent railroad embankment and onto the railroad trestle oblivious to its hidden dangers. Suddenly a speeding passenger train is bearing down upon them...

WARNING: Some of the following text is quite graphic.

         "Two of three young boys playing on the Lehigh Valley Railroad trestle over Smith Street in South Buffalo at 1:30 P.M. the afternoon of May 19, 1922 were saved from death under the wheels of a fast approaching westbound passenger train by George J. Daly, 29 years old, of 638 McKinley Parkway, instructor at the Collins Street playground, who observed the peril of the lads and ran out on the trestle to their rescue."

         A third boy, John Krendlas, 5 years old, 383 Smith Street, was killed. Seeing the lads playing on the bridge, Daly called to them to come down and started after them. As he climbed to the trestle he saw the approaching express. Frantic efforts to signal the engineer failed. He dashed for the two nearest the landing and carried them to safety. It was a race with death. Daly had barely carried two of the boys to safety at the east end of the trestle when the train speeded by him.

         The Krendlas lad who was further out on the trestle then his two rescued companions, was unable to gain safety before the onrushing train was upon him.

         "A crowd which had gathered in the street blow screamed with horror! The pilot of the engine picked the despair-stricken boy up and tossed him from the trestle. His body landed on the roof of a northbound Fillmore Avenue street car which was passing underneath, then rolled off the top of the street car falling onto the pavement."

         The boy was picked up unconscious and bleeding in the street by Adam Marzalek of 524 North Division Street who summoned an ambulance from Emergency Hospital. Surgeons and witnesses marveled that the boy should still be living after being struck by the train, then rolling on the street car and pavement.

         The locomotive after striking the boy, stopped about two blocks from the trestle. The crew then backed the train to the scene of the accident. The police did not learn their names. John Krendlas died early that night from a fracture at the base of the skull." 1, 2

         In recounting the unfolding events of that day, we focus our attention to the heroic rescue effort of George J. Daly.

Hero George Daly &copyBuffalo News         "George J. Daly without hesitation ran towards the trestle and clambered up the embankment which approaches it. At that time the train was rapidly nearing the trestle. Daly was at the eastern approach of the trestle which constructed of a single line track laid on ties. Hurrying over the trestle as speedily as the precarious nature of the footing would permit the playground instructor reached two of the boys who were near the center of the structure. Gathering one boy under each arm, Daly ran with them toward the eastern end of the trestle. In doing so he ran directly toward the approaching train. The rescue accomplished by Daly was one which only an athlete could perform. Daly is a well known Buffalo area athlete and baseball player. Carrying a burden of live weight under each arm and running over ties--an obstacle which would delay an unhampered man--he raced the approaching locomotive and death with the end of the trestle as a goal."

         He just reached the end of the trestle and had stepped to the embankment at one side when the passenger train rushed by him. Little John Krendlas, who had walked further out on the trestle then his companions, observed the danger when it was too late. The boy, however, was game and he, too, started a race with death. In his case, too, the end of the trestle was his goal--the railroad track was made of ties instead of cinders and on either side the street far below yawned in case he swerved.

         "His small stride was not capable of competing with the swift approach of the train. . .Witnesses said the boy seemed to realize that he could not reach the end of the trestle before the train, and just before it struck him made an attempt to crawl out to the end of the ties, where he could hang on before the danger had passed. But it was too late." 1

         What you might now ask, was why such a lad of 5 years old was playing on a railroad track? Had his parents ever warned him about such a dangerous place? The answer was that he was left to fend for himself, his father unemployed and out looking for work during the day while his mother worked nights cleaning office buildings.

         "A pathetic feature of the tragedy is that he dressed himself each day and he had his shoes on the wrong feet." 1


1. "Lad Looses In Race With Death," Buffalo Daily Courier, May 19, 1922, p. 14.
2. "Athlete Snatches Two Boys From Death, Third Is Killed," Buffalo Evening News, May 19, 1922, p. 22.

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