Joseph-David Choquette, died in a
work related accident

Transcription from the adjacent article, which appeared in Montreal's La Presse,
Saturday, April 11 1931

(Gaston Choquette's personal documents)

The most tragic work related accident we have seen this year happened yesterday afternoon, a little after two o'clock, on Sherbrooke street, in the pedestrian tunnel the city is building close to Notre-Dame Hospital, when a landslide causing the collapse of the scaffolding resulted in the death of a workman, father of seven children.

Three other laborers had a brush with death, but they were rescued in time from the ruins and transported to the Hospital situated nearby, where their wounds were attended to by the interns.

The victim is Joseph-David Choquette, 35 years old, of 4519 Bordeaux street, married and father of seven children, died an atrociously painful death, crushed by the scaffolding and buried in the clay soil.

The other wounded were: John Fitzsimon, 34 years old, of 1930 DeLorimier street, who was only a few feet away from the victim when the accident occured. He is suffering from head injuries, but went home after having been treated by the doctors. His wounds are not very severe. It is a miracle he was saved.

M. Alphonse Bugeaud, 38 years old, of 3989 St-Andre, is the only one of the three wounded still in hospital, under observation. He suffers from internal injuries.

John Bellini, 53 years old, of 6564 Marquette, returned home also after his wounds were attended to by the hospital's doctors. His injuries were not serious.

The collapse

The accident happened a little after two o'clock as the foreman M. Maurice Monteimglio, was in charge of the workers. According to one of the wounded, the victim was in the caisson, and was in the process of making up a new frame. All of a sudden a dull muffled sound and someone shouted desperately: "Watch out". The earth had just given way at the bottom and brought down with it the wooden scaffolding holding it. The workers who were in the hole at that moment, scattered, each looking for a safe escape. The victim alone, remained in the caisson, and received all the debris on his head.

After the first instants of fear had passed, Fitzsimon wounded himself, tried to pull Choquette from his dangerous position, but he could not budge him an inch as he was so completely covered with earth. A wooden beam had fallen across both the victim's legs and another across his neck so that it was physically impossible for a single person to free the victim.

The rescue

Under the direction of Deputy Chief Oscar Marin and District Chief Robert, the firemen from stations number 16 and 14 (rescue units) did an heroic attempt to save the unfortunate victim. District Chief Robert especially, risked his own life, because the sides of excavation could give way at any moment. He descended a few feet on the remaining beams still standing, to try and pull Choquette's body to the surface very cautiously.

MM. F. Beaulieu, 23 years old, of 2457 Logan; Wilfrid Huard, of 2391 Bordeaux and an Italian person, whose name remains unknown, cooperated with great courage and generosity to save the victim.

On the surface

It's only around 4 o'clock, and after tremendous efforts, that the rescuers managed to bring back Choquette to the surface. Slowly, the firemen and the volunteers pulled on the cable, which had been passed around his body, while he was still half buried. When he was finally brought above the excavation, father Elzear Choquette, Notre-Dame Hospital's Chaplain gave absolution to the victim at a distance of about ten or twelve feet. Two doctors hurriedly approched and examined the unfortunate, only to find that death had already done it's work.

Model worker

Once the body was spread on firm ground, the Hospital authorities looked through his pockets to identify the victim. The identification of the body was done thanks to the card the deceased had on him. Attached to the key chain also found on him, was the badge number (487) -S.-Georges Gauvreau. His watch was still running, but was showing exactly 3 o'clock, although it was precisely 4 o'clock. All his fellow workers were unanimous in saying that the victim had an engaging humor, and was a first rate worker.

Seven children

The unfortunate family man that death chose amongst four other workers, was married and had seven children. He had been out of a job for three months, and had only started working last Wednesday on this site. Capitain Lemelin, Sergeant Huneault, from station 14 arrived on site, assisted by several policemen to maintain order.

A large sorrowful gathering awaited the conclusion of this tragedy. The body was transported to the Morgue where an inquiry will take place this morning .

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