Way We Were: ‘I’ll be alright’
Park City Museum
Tuesday, June 18, 1940 broke all records for June heat when Salt Lake City topped out at 103 degrees, one notch above the previous day’s high. June temperature marks for the Beehive State flew by for the second successive day and there appeared little prospect of relief.
Seventy-two-year-old engineer Oliver M. English was happy to be at the controls of a Denver & Rio Grande Western locomotive that day as it made its 40-mile run up Parley’s Canyon to Park City. Although Park City’s 94 degrees was approaching the all-time maximum reading for the month of June, it felt good to be up out of the Salt Lake City heat. English had replaced the legendary D&RGW engineer J. G. (Joe) Bywater, who made 13,140 trips to Park City over a 37-year span. English, now in his 38th year of service with the D&RGW, had been on the Park City run for more than 10 years himself.
Just after 2 p.m. in the afternoon, engineer English was leaving the Park City Consolidated mine traveling north out of Deer Valley on the Park Con spur. At the same time 55-year-old widow Hannah Bethers was leaving her home at 560 Heber Avenue to pay her grocery bill at Earl and Thelma Reseigh’s Westside store located just across Park Avenue from the Silver King Coalition building. New gravel being added to Heber Avenue which ran alongside the railroad line made walking difficult for Mrs. Bethers. The railroad tracks offered an easier path to town.
As was the daily custom, the bell of the loaded ore train was ringing as it slowly rounded the curve near the rear of the Tri-State lumber yard, according to English. It was then that English saw a woman’s purse come flying out from the front of the engine.
“It was the first indication I had that someone had been struck!” The badly shaken train-man exclaimed. “I stopped the train immediately and ran back to see what had happened. The woman was lying under the second car. The engine and one ore car had passed over her body.”
Though badly mangled with both legs dismembered, Hannah Bethers did not lose consciousness. When George Archer arrived with the ambulance, Mrs. Bethers calmly remarked, “I knew you would come as soon as you heard of the accident.” Mr. Archer said, “We must get you to the hospital as soon as possible,” to which Mrs. Bethers peacefully countered, “Oh, you need not hurry. I’ll be alright.”
For a time, doctors at the hospital thought there was a chance for her recovery. A decision was made by the physicians to take her to a Salt Lake hospital to be put under the care of specialists; but as they were moving her on a stretcher for that purpose, Hannah Bethers died at 3:45 p.m.
Oliver English, who came to Utah in 1902, retired from the D&RGW in 1942 after 40 years of service.
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