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100 years ago in Spokane: Teen is safe after tumbling into Spokane River following brush with train

Lucy Erfle, 18, was unharmed after tumbling into the Spokane River on this day 100 years ago.  (S-R archives)
Lucy Erfle, 18, was unharmed after tumbling into the Spokane River on this day 100 years ago. (S-R archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

Lucile Erfle, 18, “executed a perfect back somersault” into the Spokane River – but not on purpose.

The story began when she thought she was boarding a train to Dishman, but she was wrong. When she realized her mistake, she disembarked near the Ivory Street bridge and started walking back to a streetcar stop, carrying her suitcase.

While walking back over the bridge, a switch engine appeared. It barely missed her, but hit her suitcase.

“The next I knew, I was whirling backward off the bridge into the water,” she said. “I went down, I don’t know how deep. … When I came up gasping, I grabbed some brush near me and hung on.”

The railroad men stopped the engine and raced down to the riverbank, fearing the worst. They found her clinging to the bushes, unharmed.

Also from the accident beat: Four members of a boating party on Liberty Lake were not so fortunate. They secured two rowboats for a ride across the lake – but only one boat made it across. The occupants of the first boat noticed that the other boat was far behind, but the boat did not seem to be in any trouble.

Only later that evening did people become alarmed that the boat hadn’t reached shore. No one believed there had been an accident until someone found the body of one of the occupants on the shore. Some clothing from the others were also found on shore.

The next day, the truth emerged. All four occupants of the boat had drowned. The reason for the accident was a mystery, although the wind had been “a little boisterous” that evening.

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