Newly Uncovered Line of Duty Death
Members of Hook and Ladder Co.1 experienced a horrible accident on December 17th 1914. Harry Benninger, a member of Engine 34 who had been detailed to the ladder company for the day, was returning from lunch. As he walked down 6th Street toward the Gift's Firehouse an alarm of fire sounded. He rushed toward quarters arriving as the ladder was pulling out. As the truck turned west on 6th Street Benninger jumped for the running board. In his rush to join the company he slipped. Before anyone could react the apparatus had rolled over him. A wheel passed over his head and chest crushing him. The sidewalks were busy with pedestrians who were sickened to witness the accident. Patrons of the Palace Hotel restaurant were also able to see the scene from their seats. Harry was immediately carried to the City Hospital but doctors were not able to save him. He was pronounced deceased on arrival.
Cincinnati Enquirer - 18 December 1914
The alarm of fire the companies were responding to originated at the May, Stern & Company store. It proved to be a false alarm triggered by an overheated system. Benninger lived at the Delmar Flats on Telford Street in Clifton with his elderly mother. Chief Bunker personally made the trip to her apartment to pass along the news of her sons death.
Courtesy Cincinnati Fire Museum
Hook & Ladder Co.1 pictured here in 1900. The scene of the accident would have looked very similar to this.
Ladder 01 was not mechanized until 1917.
Two days later the funeral procession passed Engine 34s quarters as it made the trip to Spring Grove Cemetery. Harry's four brothers attended the service along with their elderly mother. Members of E34 along with Chief Bunker and several assistant marshals stood at attention outside quarters as the group passed.
Find a Grave Index
Harry Benninger - Spring Grove Cemetery section: LN-31-2-15
Spring Grove Cemetery - Burial Record
The following information has been added to the Cincinnati Fire Department Roll of Honor:
Firefighter - Engine Co.34 (Detailed to Hook & Ladder 1)
Died 17 December 1914
Accidentally crushed under apparatus while jumping on board
Training note for active firefighters >>> Vincent Dunn's book Safety and Survival on the Fire Ground identifies attempting to jump on or off a moving apparatus as a highly dangerous practice. Firefighters are reminded to always be aware of their surroundings, things they may trip over, and the location of the apparatus while on the fire ground...particularly when the apparatus is moving. The most dangerous position for a firefighter is to be inside the turn of an apparatus. In this position the firefighter that is too close to the apparatus has a high likelihood of being run over by the rear wheels in the event that he should fall. Dunn notes, "firefighters have been crushed to death beneath the wheels of moving fire apparatus after failing in their attempts to jump aboard." We owe it to those that came before us and lost their lives to learn from their experiences so that we might not repeat the same tragic mistakes.