Thomas Burns was employed by Salford Tramways Department and was regional President of the Tramways Employees Union.
He was 59 years old when he was fatally injured by being crushed between two trams on Deansgate, Manchester, on Saturday 16th January 1904. He was taken to Manchester Royal Infirmary where he died on Monday 18th January.
The Salford Reporter of 23rd January 1904 records the Inquest which was held before Mr E.A.Gibson, Manchester City Coroner, on Tuesday 19th January 1904. Thomas Burns of 8, Bradshaw Street, Pendleton, was a Timekeeper in the service of Salford Corporation.
The first witness was Thomas's son Thomas. He was also employed by Salford Tramways Department. He said that he had seen his father on Friday night when he was in good health and spirits. He was also present when his father died at 6.25am on Monday 18th January at MRI. His father told him that they wanted to amputate his leg, but he refused.
John Riding, a passer-by, said that he saw the deceased in Deansgate at about 11am on Saturday. Two tramcars were standing on the near line and there was a space between them of about 3 or 4 feet. The deceased was standing in the gap and was giving directions to the Guard at the back of the first tramcar. A third tramcar came along and did not pull up until after it had struck the back of the second car. The second tramcar surged forward into the first tramcar and trapped the deceased's legs. He was very badly hurt.
Bernard Riley, a Motorman in the employ of Salford Corporation, of 20, Alder Street, Seedley said that he was the driver of the second tramcar. He had seen the first tramcar had stopped and pulled up about a yard behind it and put on the brake. He saw the deceased leave the footpath and came between the tramcars to speak to the Guard on the first tramcar. Suddenly he felt a bump from behind. The impact pushed his car up and squeezed the deceased between the two cars. He reversed slightly and went to assist and saw that the deceased's leg was badly crushed. He added that he had no problem stopping as the rails were not slippery.
Mr F.E.Taylor, Motorman, of 5,Albany Street, Pendleton said that he was the driver of the third tramcar. He was driving along Deansgate towards Blackfriars Street and saw a stationary tramcar in front. He applied the brake and the wheels skidded. Snow was falling. He was 10 yards off the back of the second car when he applied the brake. His brake would not act and he did not know why. He applied sand, but it did not stop the car. He later found out that the pipes that direct sand onto the rails were not aligned and the sand had dropped onto the setts, two or three inches away. He believed that this was because the tramcar went around tight curves and the pipes would interfere with the wheels.
Walter Roberts, a passenger on the third tramcar said that it was going quite slowly. In fact two ladies had alighted before the collision.
Dr Telford, Resident Medical Officer at Manchester Royal Infirmary described the deceased's injuries, which were extremely severe. The deceased refused to have his leg amputated, but he believed that the operation would not have saved his life anyway.
The Jury's finding was Accidental Death. However, the Corporation was to blame for not having efficiently working sandpipes.
The funeral of Thomas Burns was held on Friday 22nd January. A large crowd gathered at Weaste Cemetery. Special arrangements had been made by Mr E.Hatton (General Manager) to allow as many employees as possible to attend. The band of the Salford Tramways employees and a contingent of Motormen and Conductors assembled at the Salford tramcar sheds and proceeded to Thomas's house in Bradshaw Street, Pendleton. The band played "The Dead March in Saul". Councillor Jackson JP, (General Secretary of the Tramways Employees Union), Mr C.H.Chesters (Traffic Manager), Mr C.Hamilton (Chief Cashier) and other staff were waiting at the cemetery gate. Rev. J.G. Skemp conducted the service and Thomas was buried in a common grave in the Dissenters portion.