It was somewhere on 34th Street, in the midst of Chinatown, when the rickshaw finally tipped over. It had been careening on for some time, the driver had been going far too fast, an unbelievable accusation, but true, and its lurching, jumping wooden frame could no longer stay upright in its current condition.
The passengers, a young married couple from Moose Head in Oberwalz on their honeymoon, had been screaming for some ways. The driver was either a lunatic or hadn’t heard them over the loud clatter of the rickshaw’s shoddy wooden wheels on the pavement.
It did not tip easily, though, oh no. It had jumped from side to side, bounding from one splintering wooden wheel to the other, sending the rickshaw driver, a young man who had introduced himself in broken English as Kwan, bouncing from one foot to the other, tipping with the rickshaw.
They had been careening on down 34th Street and it did finally tip over and sent them all rolling and sprawling directly into traffic at the intersection of 34th and Seamson Avenue. The speed that they had been at sent all three rolling across the pavement, their arms and legs slapping against the blacktop, until they reached the other side of the intersection.
The bride was the first to go, rolling into the path of a speeding Suburban driven by a 34-year-old mother of three who was far too busy talking on her cellular phone to notice the thump of her crushing the young woman’s tiny skull into muck while doing 50 in a 35 mile per hour zone.
The Suburban was quickly away and managed to escape the havoc that ensued.
The groom was left sprawled on his stomach, skinned and bloody, in the next lane over from his new wife’s body. He was rising up when an oncoming SUV had to abruptly cut around him, which would have likely saved him and the driver had it not been for the truck that was making a right turn into said lane, who the SUV struck at quite a speed, sending the SUV spinning and flipping backwards, upside-down, onto the young man’s body, crushing him. If he didn’t die immediately, it didn’t matter.
The next car along the road hadn’t noticed what had happened ahead and, as such, plowed into the overturned SUV. The damage to the cars was fairly substantial, as the driver, who was speeding and wearing no seat belt, flew through his windshield and into the wreckage of the SUV, the SUV’s two occupants were killed, and the body of the groom was further crushed, making his death a certainty.
As Kwan got to his feet and ran away from the scene of the accident another car managed to skid to a stop into the wrecked pickup truck that had been trying to make the right turn, shoving the truck back into a lane of traffic. The driver was trapped inside when the truck caught fire.
Avoiding the fire, one car drove onto the sidewalk, but collided with work scaffolding, sending four workmen falling to their deaths below on the pavement and across the hoods of cars. The car didn’t make it much further before t-boning another car that had been stopped by the ever-increasing pileup. That car was pushed into the one next to it, trapping the driver of that car, which was consumed when the truck exploded and set off a chain reaction.
When the truck initially exploded, most people had begun to flee from the fire, knowing something along these lines would happen.
What they weren’t thinking of was the chain reaction of explosions, fueled by the stream of gasoline leaking from so many smashed cars. Soon, eight more were dead as the fires leapt from car to car, explosions throwing flames on cars that had yet to burn. Fourteen more poor souls later, the fire reached its peak and the spread stopped.
Unfortunately for most, the explosion of the demolitions truck facilitated the fire’s cancellation.
The tractor-trailer truck, carrying a wide array of explosives on its way to the mines, had avoided the accident itself, but was caught several cars back in traffic, waiting, when the truck was consumed. The truck driver had frantically tried to back away from the fire, but met with immediate resistance from the line-up of cars behind it.
Realizing the danger, the truck also made for the sidewalk, but the obstructions were too many and the driver fled the truck, screaming warnings as he ran away.
As the flames had spread to the trailer of the truck most people had begun their flight away from the wreckage, on foot mainly. In the opposite direction, the police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances were closing in on the scene, unaware of the danger.
As they arrived on the scene, the explosives ignited, tearing a gash out of the building next to the trailer, throwing cars in every direction, blowing the bodies of the dead and those who remained apart, and leaving the street a wasteland, thick with black smoke.
The police and emergency services quickly tried to help the situation, tend to the 12 dead and 23 wounded. That soon became moot.
The aging, damaged brick building heaved and one side of the building leaned. One wall of brick fell off the building’s side and rained death and destruction down on the emergency vehicles and personnel, adding another 18 fatalities to the tally, leaving some dying in the rubble for hours, buried alive. Some fourteen employees of this office building came down as well, landing on the jagged debris and dying lying atop a mound of bricks, bodies broken open, heads crushed, bones shattered.
Despite attempts to escape, the building eventually collapsed killing many of the employees remaining, nearly 65 people.
By the time it was all over, 158 people were dead, many more injured. Kwan escaped, unharmed.
It was the worst rickshaw accident in the history of the world.