Four-Year Old Girl's Clothes Catch Fire While Parents Are Away

Detroit News

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Grocer, Hearing Screams, Rescues Child, But Injuries Are Fatal

Death came yesterday to 4-year-old Mary Joseph, survivor of the Titanic disaster, when flames from a stove in her bedroom ignited her clothing while her parents, and her brother, Michael, aged 8, were at church. The girl died a few hours later at St. Mary's Hospital. Michael Tonie, a grocer, living underneath the Joseph flat at 134 Congress Street East, was badly burned about the face and hands, when he, hearing the screams of the child, rushed to her bedroom, snatched her from the flames and beat them out with his bare hands.

Mary was asleep in the crib when her parents and brother left for church. There was a fire going in the "buck" stove, but how Mary's night dress caught fire is not known. A spark may have been thrown from the partially opened door of the stove, or Mary may have awakened, decided to get up and, finding it cold, crouched too near the stove, the heat setting the thin, gauzy substance afire. The burned, quivering little piece of suffering humanity moaned and cried and could not talk before death ended her sufferings.

The first intimation of fire was when Tonie, the grocer, heard screams from the flat above. He knew the voice of Mary, and, leaving his store unguarded, he rushed up the stairs, threw open the door of her bedroom and was met by leaping flames and smothering smoke. Mary, screaming with fear and pain, stood helpless in the middle of the floor. Tonie picked up the child, disregarding the burns and pains in his hands and face, swept her flaming clothing from her, and hurried her to his store, where he called an ambulance and the police. The child was hurried to the hospital, but her burns were too severe to permit of her recovery.

In the meantime, Mary's parents had been on their way to the Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul. When they reached the church there was a motorcycle patrolman waiting for them, who told them their daughter had been burned. Mrs. Joseph fainted, and, as soon as she recovered, father and mother rushed to the hospital where they sat by the bedside of their daughter until a gentle sister of charity told them life had fled.

Mrs. Joseph and her two children were steerage passengers on the Titanic the trip on which the boat sunk. They succeeded in crowding into a lifeboat, but Michael, the son, fell from the boat into the ocean and, in attempting to save the son, Mrs. Joseph nearly lost her own life and that of her daughter. Passengers saved them all.

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Encyclopedia Titanica (2003) Four-Year Old Girl's Clothes Catch Fire While Parents Are Away (Detroit News, Monday 23rd March 1914, ref: #381, published 28 August 2003, generated 31st July 2021 10:02:27 PM); URL :