The Goose Ride to Tragedy

In 1845, Cooke’s Royal Circus was in Great Yarmouth, a seaside town in Norfolk, England. On the evening of May 2nd, a crowd gathered to see a clown known as "Mr. Nelson." His stunt, which was promoted on a large flyer, consisted of Mr. Nelson sitting in a bathtub on the river while being pulled by four geese. Thousands of spectators showed up on the bridge to witness the spectacle. As the clown approached, all the people flocked to the south side of the bridge, which flattened the crown of the bridge so much that the imbalance was noticeable from the shore. Before any warning could be given, a crack was heard. One after another, rails and chains gave way and the south side of the bridge fell down, hanging nearly perpendicular to the water. All of its occupants were thrown into the River Bure. Boats soon arrived on the scene to rescue the victims, but 79 people were killed in the collapse. An investigation disclosed that the cause of the tragedy was a welding defect that broke under the immense weight of the people who gathered on the bridge. It was ultimately determined that inferior materials and labor used to build the bridge were to blame.