Headlines of the past: Avalanche of sugar suffocated workman

May 8, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The following report appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of May 8, 1902:   Frank Levandowsky, an employee in the Havemeyer Sugar Refinery, on Kent Avenue, met a terrible death early this morning by being buried under tons of sugar. He struggled desperately to free himself from what he realized would be almost certain death but the sugar was as so much quicksand, and when he was finally rescued he was almost suffocated and so badly injured that he died before medical aid could reach him. According to the police, it was carelessness on the part of one of the employees that caused the tragedy. The large chute, which sends tons of granulated sugar from the upper floors down to the basement of the plant, was opened while the unfortunate man was busily engaged in some work that he had been ordered to do.

Levandowsky, who was 40 years old and lived at 61 South Second Street, had abbreviated his name and was known at the refinery as Frank Levy. He was employed as a laborer about the plant and it was his duty, among other things, to look after the large bin in the basement, which was used as a final receptacle for the sugar after it had passed through the various processes of refining. He was in a happy frame of mind when he reported for work and when he was ordered to the basement to prepare the bin for the day’s work he picked up his implements and descended the stairs.

He had been at work only a few minutes when the large chute suddenly opened and, with a roar, ton after ton of sugar came flying down through the opening. The weight of the stuff piling down upon his head at first stunned him, but he recovered quickly enough to make a desperate effort to release himself from his perilous position. The roar of the descending sugar drowned out his cries for help and after a long, heartbreaking battle to free himself from the sugar, which every moment threatened to bury him completely, his failing strength compelled him to give up his unequal struggle.

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Before the prostrate form of the man had been hidden beneath the avalanche of sugar several of the employees chanced to go down in to the basement and a projecting foot told them of the tragedy. They gave the alarm and the machinery which operates the chute was stopped.

Armed with the long wooden shovels that are in use in the refinery, the men started in vigorously to dig out the partially buried body. When they at last got the unfortunate man out of the bin he was almost dead. They strove diligently to revive him.

An ambulance was summoned from the Eastern District Hospital, but before it arrived Levandowsky was dead. Dr. Weygadt made the announcement and assigned the cause to suffocation. The body was taken to the Bedford Avenue station and later removed to the man’s late home. 

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