Pieces of the Past
Artifacts, Documents, and Primary Sources
from Letchworth Park History

The Automobile brought a new era to Letchworth Park, but with it came new dangers. The following newspaper account from 1917 documents what is believed to be the first major car accident at the Park which took place near the Portage Railroad Bridge. The material was taken from the Rochester Times Union, Rochester NY, August 12, 1917.

We have a real photo postcard of what we believe to be this accident in our Photo Album.

Also see an official report of the accident from an ASHPS report.


Miss Grace Dillon, Leroy Girl, Dies from Hurts

Miss Tomanovitch, First to Lose Life in Automobile's Plunge into River, Was to Have Graduated from East High School in January.

Warsaw, Aug. 11--The second fatality caused by the plunge of an automobile over a 40-foot embankment into the Genesee river at Letchworth Park last night occurred this evening when Miss Grace Dillon, of Le Roy died.  Miss Charlotte Michaels, another of the injured is in a critical condition. When East High School opens for its fall semester next month one of its most popular pupils will fail to answer the roll call.  Miss Evienia Tomanovitch, who was killed on Friday when an automobile in which she and ten other persons were riding plunged over an embankment near upper Portage Falls, was to have been graduated in January.  She was 17 years old and her magnetic personality won a host of friends for her in school.  She was a talented piano player.

Miss Tomanovitch lived with her mother at No. 3 Englert street.  She is a graduate of No. 36 School from where she entered East High School.  She leaves besides her mother, Mrs. Antoinette Tomanovitch, three brothers, Vladimir, Milon and Alexander Tomanovitch.  Her father died a short time ago. The body of Miss Tomanovitch arrived in Rochester late yesterday afternoon.  Miss Tomanovitch left last Monday to spend a week with friends at Silver Lake.

Fall as Car Plunges

Warsaw, Aug. 11--When the automobile carrying eleven young people went over the river banks in Letchworth Park last night at 5:30 o'clock, all the occupants of the car, with the exception of Torrey, the driver, and Miss Madalline Michaels, who was riding with him, fell out of the car and it made the plunge and landed on the rocks fully forty feet below.  The car in its descent turned twice over, end for end, run out into the river in shallow water right side up and headed in the same direction as when it went over the bank.

The point where the car went over was at the end of the roadway from Glen Iris to the Upper Falls, and where the road turns.  John Torrey, the driver, in his statement to Coroner L. H. Humphrey, of Silver Springs, to-day said he intended to stop his car and back it up in order to make the turn.  He drove on the upper side and when he turned his car was headed toward the river bank.  He applied the foot brake, then his emergency brake and when they did not hold he reversed his car and started his engine just as they went over the brink.

Rochester Girls Recovering

Torrey said he remembered nothing after he struck the first ledge of rock, and he was in the water when assistance arrived.  His back and chest are severely bruised, but his injuries are not considered serious.  Madeline Michael, who was riding with him, was the only one taken from the car.  She said her feet caught, preventing her from falling out.  Her injuries were not serious, though she was cut and bruised about the head. Harry Boucher of Batavia, the other man in the car, was not seriously injured though badly cut and bruised.  He is able to be about the hospital to-day. Charlotte Michael, the 8-year-old girl had a bad bruise on her forehead and one leg was injured.  Her condition is favorable.  Her brother, Kenneth, 10 years old, had his left wrist broken.  Lucy Michael was able to go to LeRoy last night and returned with her mother.  She was not seriously hurt. The condition of Mary Plant and Anabelle Mullen, the two Rochester girls, is favorable as there were no serious injuries.


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