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New Zealand Disasters: Tangiwai Railway Accident (24 December 1953)

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  • Glennise Ferguson via Find A Grave.
    Iain Foote (1946 - 1953)
    The worst railway disaster in New Zealand’s history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington to Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River, just west of Tangiwai in the ...
  • Glennise Ferguson via Find A Grave.
    Harold Victor Foote (1925 - 1953)
    The worst railway disaster in New Zealand’s history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington to Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River, just west of Tangiwai in the ...
  • Mabel Lay Ensor (1930 - 1953)
    The worst railway disaster in New Zealand’s history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington to Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River, just west of Tangiwai in the ...
  • Valerie Joyce Diggle (1951 - 1953)
    The worst railway disaster in New Zealand’s history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington to Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River, just west of Tangiwai in the ...
  • Janice Adrienne Diggle (1953 - 1953)
    The worst railway disaster in New Zealand’s history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington to Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River, just west of Tangiwai in the ...

The worst railway disaster in New Zealand’s history occurred on Christmas Eve 1953, when the Wellington to Auckland night express plunged into the flooded Whangaehu River, just west of Tangiwai in the central North Island. Of the 285 people on board, 151 were killed.

The cause of the tragedy was a volcanic lahar from the Mt Ruapehu crater lake, which sent a huge wave of water, silt, boulders and debris surging down the Whangaehu River destroying the railway bridge at Tangiwai just minutes before the Wellington to Auckland overnight express arrived. The train plunged into the raging torrent and the driver, fireman, one first class passenger, and 148 of the 176 second class passengers died.

See also:

The 151 killed:

  1. ADIN Henry 66, Married, Labourer, Purcell St, Foxton
  2. ADIN Frederica Ernestine (Queenie) 55, Married, Purcell St, Foxton
  3. ANDERSON Margaret Jean 38 - - 39 Bristol Sq, Lower Hutt
  4. ANGEL Johannes Petrus 23 Single Mechanic Post and Telegraph Dept Hostel, Wellington
  5. ATTREE Trevor Crawford 21, Single, Apprentice, 7 Michael St, Masterton
  6. BACON William Trevor 25 Single Clerk 6 Maida Vale Road, Roseneath, Wellington
  7. BAGLEY Ann Victoria (Mrs) 58 Married - 33 Adams Terrace, Wellington
  8. BAILLIE Hilda Mary Grace 36, Typist, 126 Rutherford St, Nelson
  9. BENGE Colleen Frances 21 Single Machinist 18 Green St, Newtown, Wellington
  10. BENTON Beverley Dawn 6, Ahura Street, Marton
  11. BENTON Edward Roslyn 42, Married, Ahura Street, Marton
  12. BENTON Florence Ann 37, Married, Ahura Street, Marton
  13. BENTON Glenys Eileen, 9, Ahura Street, Marton
  14. BENTON Roslyn Anne 3, Ahura Street, Marton
  15. BOOKER Murray Robert Grey (Murray Robert Craig) 7 1/2 Single - 13 Roy Street, Newtown, Wellington
  16. BOUCHER John White 31 - Civil servant Weka Street, Taihape
  17. BRADLEY Thomas John 23 - Railway Employee Manunui, Taumaranui
  18. BRENNAN Bettina Melody 29 Single Typist 43 Bristol Sq, Lower Hutt (Levin and Co Ltd, Wellington)
  19. BRETT Wilfred Lee 53 - Bank officer C/o BNZ, Taihape
  20. BRIGGS John Hammond 23, Civil engineer, Maxwell Road, Tauranga
  21. BYARS John Fleming 29 - Engineer Victoria Heights, Nelson (Levin and Co Ltd, Nelson)
  22. CAPPER Desmond James 22 - Accountant 1 Drummond St, Newtown, Wellington
  23. CASLON Patricia 24 - - 48 Seatoun Rd, Kilbirnie, Wellington
  24. CLARK Trevor Charles 21 - Clerk Public Service Hostel, Wellington
  25. COCHRANE Georgina Maitland (nee Maitland) 62, Married, 226 Tremaine Avenue, Palmerston North
  26. COCKBURN Douglas Robertson 12 Single - 43 Te Ore Ore Road, Masterton
  27. COCKBURN John Harold 17 Single - 43 Te Ore Ore Road, Masterton
  28. COOK Edith Monica 23 (24) - - C/o YWCA, Brougham St, Wellington
  29. CORMACK David Avery 60 Married Clerk 13 Meeanee Quay, Napier
  30. CORMACK Violet Olive (Mrs) 58 Married - 13 Meeanee Quay, Napier
  31. COX John Morrison 23 - - 11 Mills Rd, Brooklyn, Wellington
  32. COX Mae Morrison 47 - - 11 Mills Rd, Brooklyn, Wellington
  33. CRANCH Jean Mary 19 - - C/o Public Service Hostel, Oriental Parade, Wellington
  34. CROUCHER Eric William 24 - Electrician 56 Calabar Rd, Mirimar, Wellington
  35. CROWLEY Joan May 30 Single - 45 Coromadel Street, Wellington
  36. DAVIES Gordon Leonard 28 Single - 27 Bridge St, Lower Hutt
  37. DIGGLE Janice 4 mnths, 51 Bamber St, Whanganui
  38. DIGGLE Norman Cyril 33, Painter, 51 Bamber St, Whanganui (H/o Mrs Gladys Phoebe Diggle)
  39. DIGGLE Valerie Joyce 2, 51 Bamber St, Whanganui
  40. DOOLE Elizabeth Graham 26 - - C/o Baptist Youth Hostel, Boulcott St, Wellington
  41. DROWN Alan Maxwell 18 - Clerk 29 Hamilton Road, Hataitai, Wellington
  42. EDGECUMBE Patricia Margarita 22 - Clerk 24 Osier Rd, Greenmeadows, Hastings
  43. EILERS Ngaire Joyce 27 - - 46 Buckle St, Wellington
  44. ELFORD Dianne Laurel 12 (10) Single - 9 Hungerford Road, Wellington
  45. ELFORD Evelyn May (Mrs) 49 Married - 31 Cave Road, Houghton Bay, Wellington (or 9 Hungerford Rd, Wellington)
  46. ELFORD Robert Charles 59 Married Carpenter 32 Cave Road, Houghton Bay, Wellington (or 9 Hungerford Rd, Wellington)
  47. ELSLEY Cecilie Lily 29 Single Typist 8 Fitzherbert Terrace, Wellington
  48. ENSOR Mabel Lay 23, Single, Clerk, 12 Anzac Avenue, Morrinsville
  49. EVES Roberta Elizabeth (Elizabeth Roberta) 23 - - 48 Seatoun Rd, Kilbirnie, Wellington
  50. FITZGERALD Geraldine 6 Single - 269 Riverside Drive, Lower Hutt
  51. FITZGERALD Ian Gerald 23 - Tailor's cutter 15 Ariki St, Lower Hutt
  52. FITZGERALD John Edward 12 (13) Single - 269 Riverside Drive, Lower Hutt
  53. FITZGERALD Veronica Mary Margaret (Mrs) 40 Married - 269 Riverside Drive, Lower Hutt
  54. FLAVELL Sydney Walter 59 - Labourer 14 Mudie St, Lower Hutt
  55. FOOTE Harold Victor 27, Hatter, 11 Brookside Terrace, Christchurch
  56. FOOTE Ian 7, 11 Brookside Terrace, Christchurch
  57. GOLDING Heather Edna 29 - - 1 Marsden Ave, Karori, Wellington
  58. GOODHUE Frederick Gordon 24 - Clerk Waihou, Waikato (or 48 Waipapa Rd, Wellington)
  59. GRAY Te Wheturere James - - - -
  60. GRIGOR Sheila 18 Single Typist Fairview Guest House, Church Street, Wellington
  61. HALE Eileen Frances (Mrs) 35 Married - 69 Marsden Street, Lower Hutt
  62. HALE Robert Joseph 14 Single - 69 Marsden Street, Lower Hutt
  63. HALLAM Kathleen Florence 24 - - C/o YWCA, Brougham St, Wellington
  64. HAMMOND Ronald Charles 25 - - RNZAF, Shelly Bay, Wellington
  65. HANLEY Christina Marie (Mrs) 25 Married - 6 Hyde St, Wainuiomata
  66. HANLEY Evelyn 18mnths Single - 6 Hyde St, Wainuiomata
  67. HANLEY Robert 29 Married - 6 Hyde St, Wainuiomata
  68. HAYLER (HAVLER) John Herbert 27 Single Storeman 89 Jackson Street, Petone
  69. HOLLOWAY Frederick Walter 26 - Clerk 34 Garden Road, Wellington
  70. HYLANDS Arthur 53 Married Railway Employee 32 Rosewarne St, Christchurch
  71. HYLANDS Elizabeth (Mrs) 53 Married - 32 Rosewarne St, Christchurch
  72. JOSEPH (JOSEPHS) Stanley Victor 18 Single Labourer 65 Paice Avenue, Sandringham, Auckland
  73. KARAM Madeline Bernadette (Madaline Bernadette) 26 (28) Single Clerk 24 Lincoln Road, Springvale, Wellington (or Wanganui?) (17 Beach St, Petone)
  74. KEMP Reongaro 35 (23) Single WAAF RNZAF, Shelly Bay, Wellington
  75. KENNEDY Suzanne Katherine 26 Single Clerk 19 Ellice St, Wellington
  76. KENT Frederick Shipley 65 Married Storeman 24 Seddon Street, Naenae, Wellington
  77. KENT Jessie Elizabeth (Mrs) 62 Married - 24 Seddon Street, Naenae, Wellington
  78. KUKURUZSNYAK (KUKURUZRNYAK) Balazs (Balaz S) 26 Single Railway Employee 16 Hobson Crescent, Wellington (Railway Settlement, Aotea Quay, Wellington)
  79. KURA % Mere - - - -
  80. LIGHTFOOT Una Constance 18 Single Railway Employee Girls Hostel, 16 Tinakori Road, Wellington (46 Tinakori Rd, Wellington)
  81. LLOYD Barbara Anne 16 Single - 338 College St, Palmerston North
  82. LOVE Nerissa Ann 19 Single Typist 57 Compton Crescent, Lower Hutt
  83. McFADGEN Gwendoline Dorothy (Mrs) 34 Married - 24 Adelaide St, Petone
  84. McGINLEY (McGILNEY) Rae Marie 26 Single Typist 9 Carnot Street, Rotorua
  85. McLEOD Gordon Alexander 21 Single Clerk H M Customs, Wellington
  86. McMANN Royal Josephine 17 Single - Amesbury House, Palmerston North
  87. MILLER Edwina Hilda 27 - Civil servant 26 Tinakori Road, Wellington
  88. MILLER Jeanette (Jeanette Neil Johnstone) 32 Single Librarian 81 Kelburn Parade, Wellington
  89. MILLER June Mary Mabel 29 Single Typist 81 Kelburn Parade, Wellington
  90. MOIR Thomas Rowe Scott 19 Single - 177 Queenwood Rd, Levin
  91. MOLEN Phillip James Vander 19 Single Civil servant -
  92. MONTEITH Michael Thomas 25 - - C/o State Forest Service, Wellington
  93. MOODY Melanie Carol Anne 5 Single - Nursery Road, Masterton
  94. MOORE Carol May 18 - Domestic Reservoir Rd, Dunedin
  95. MORGAN * Horace Royston 26 - Clerk 34 Garden Road, Wellington
  96. MORGAN * John Henry - - - -
  97. MURRAY Walter Edward 54 (53) Married - 39 Royal Tce, Dunedin
  98. NICHOLLS Eva (Eve) (Lottie Mrs) 45 Married - 117 Russell Street, Palmerston North
  99. NICHOLLS Herbert James (James) 13 Single - 9 Hungerford Road, Wellington (117 Russell St, Palmerston North)
  100. NICHOLLS Jack Raymond 11 Single - 117 Russell Street, Palmerston North
  101. NICHOLLS Paul Alan 9 Single - 117 Russell Street, Palmerston North
  102. NICHOLLS Raymond Herbert 45 (50) Married - 117 Russell Street, Palmerston North
  103. NIDDRIE Irene Patricia Christine (Mrs) 29 Married - 54 Hill St, Wellington
  104. OLIVER Betty 26 (27) Single Student 22 Belle Vue Ave, Northcote, Auckland
  105. OLSON Olaf Patrick 33 Married Civil servant Lewis Rd, Lynmore, Rotorua (C/o DSIR Wellington)
  106. OSBORN Margaret Elizabeth 18 Single Clerk 3 Bond St, Marton
  107. PAPARIKI (RAWERI) Linda 16 Single Factory Worker 31 Randwick Cres, Lower Hutt
  108. PARKER Charles John Henry 52 Married Engine Driver 22 Eagle Street, Taihape
  109. PARRY Herbert Staveley (Herbert Stanley) 70 Widower - 37 Thorndon Quay, Wellington
  110. PERRY Margaret Jean 18 Single Machinist 63 Todman Street, Brooklyn, Wellington
  111. POLGAR John 25 - Cargo worker 16 Hobson Crescent, Wellington
  112. PORTER Elizabeth Mary (Elizabeth May) 25 - - Boulcott St, Wellington
  113. POWICK Josephine Margaret Ellen (Josephine) 20 Single Dressmaker Grove Rd, Blenheim (NOK Mr Charles Thomas Clarence Powick (father), Scotland St, Picton)
  114. REARDON Pamela Waveney 20 Single Civil servant Hill View Cres, Taumaranui
  115. REDMAN Lancelot (Lance) 33 Married Railway Fireman Robin St, Taihape
  116. RHODES Joseph Henry 21 - - C/o Post and Telegraph Hostel, Wellington
  117. ROBERTS Shirley Anne 18 Single - 105 Sefton Street, Highland Park, Wellington
  118. RUSSELL Jim Leslie 19 Single Carpenter 21 Ashridge Rd, Napier
  119. RYAN Leonard Arthur Vivian 24 - Labourer Kaitieke
  120. SANDERS Margaret 21 - Telephone operator 31 Hobson St, Wellington
  121. SCOTLAND Alexander 53 - Shepherd Flock House, Bulls
  122. SCOTT Robert Aitchison 23 - - 290 Church St, Palmerston North
  123. SHANDLEY Richard 23 Single Carpenter 290 Devonport Road, Tauranga (10 Edward St, Timaru)
  124. SHARP Donald William 25 Single Dispenser 7 Wilson Street, Hawera
  125. SQUIRE Pearl Jessie 41, 85 King St, Sydenham, Christchurch
  126. STEAD Daphne Lily 32, Single, Clerk, Sydney, Australia (Grafton North, NSW, Australia)
  127. STEVENS John Edward Lee 29 (20) Single Mail Room Attendant Post and Telegraph Department Hostel, Johnsonville, Wellington
  128. STOKES Audrey Mavis 25, 36 Huia Street, Pahiatua
  129. STOKES Joseph Charles 67, Married, Joiner, 36 Huia Street, Pahiatua
  130. TER HUPPEN Gerrit Willem (Mr) (Gerrit William) 26 Married Optician 3 Fairview Cres, Kelburn, Wellington (15 Upper Lewisville Tce, Wellington)
  131. TER HUPPEN Janna Manna (Mrs) 27 Married - 3 Fairview Cres, Kelburn, Wellington (15 Upper Lewisville Tce, Wellington)
  132. THOMASS Neil Lewis 18 Single Motor mechanic Hopelands, Woodville
  133. THOMASS Paul Garry 13 Single - Hopelands, Woodville
  134. THONISSEN (THONNISSEN) Adrianus Hubertus 27 - Railway Employee Gracefield Camp, Lower Hutt
  135. TORREY Joyce Ellen 26 - Civil servant 24 Lincoln Road, Wanganui
  136. TREVELYAN Janet Mary 21 - Typist 55 Compton Cres, Lower Hutt
  137. VAKALALA Aisea Sevutia (Mr) 20 - Student Palmerston North Boys High School
  138. WALE Arthur John (Arthur) 32 - - 13 Roy St, Newtown, Wellington
  139. WALKER Evelyn Joy 18 Single Dressmaker Comely Bank, Sawyers Bay, Dunedin
  140. WALKER Mereana 22 Single Clerk Herd Street Post Office, Wellington
  141. WARRILOW Dorothy Alice Eleanor (Mrs) 21 Married - 102 Church St, Masterton
  142. WARRILOW Douglas Claude 31 Married Clerk 102 Church St, Masterton
  143. WELLINGTON Gordon William 35 - Labourer 19 Perry St, Masterton
  144. WELLINGTON Lillian Beatrice (Mrs) 71 Widow - 19 (90) Perry Street, Masterton
  145. WHITE Margaret Rose 21 - - C/o Immigration Hostel, Trentham, Wellington
  146. WILSON Betty Amy 24 Single Telegraphist 26 Tinakori Road, Wellington
  147. WILTON Melva Doreen 16 Single - 12 Matai Street, Masterton
  148. WOOD Amelia Agnes (Mrs) 65 Married - 58 Awarua St, Ngaio, Wellington
  149. WOOD James 65 Married Sailmaker 58 Awarua St, Ngaio, Wellington
  150. WOOD James (Junior) 15 Single - 58 Awarua St, Ngaio, Wellington
  151. WORKMAN Doris Edith 41 - - -