Waterbury police began telling people to evacuate the apartment houses on North Riverside Street around 2:45 a.m. on Aug. 19 but the Naugatuck River rose so quickly it was soon impossible to walk away. Firefighters struggled, often in vain, to reach screaming, stranded families as debris began to shoot down the river and houses started to wash from their foundations.
Waterbury's first flood casualty came at 6:10 a.m. Firefighters had lashed a wooden ladder to the end of their truck's ladder to reach the house at 625 North Riverside St. As a firefighter tried to pass 2-year-old Donna Arroyo across the ladder to another firefighter, the ladder twisted and all three fell into the raging Naugatuck River. The firefighters were swept close to shore, and were rescued. Donna's remains were never recovered.
When the building at 563 North Riverside St. washed away, the entire Bergin family died: Marjorie Costa Bergin, 27; her husband, John J. Bergin, 29; and their children, Marjorie Bergin, 5; Joan Bergin, 3; and John J. Bergin 3rd, 1.
Agatha Skrinskas Sardinskas 79, and her son,Bronislaw C. Sardinskas, 50, died when the apartment house at 593 North Riverside St. washed away. Mrs. Sardinskas waved to neighbors and called out "Pray for me my friends; I am going to die." Their bodies were recovered downstream in Naugatuck, as was the body of another family member, Constance Shupenus Sardinskas, 50, a store clerk who lived nearby and was married to another of Agatha Sardinskas's sons. Constance's son, Robert Sardinskas, survived. But Robert's friend, Thomas Anthony Saviskas, a 22-year-old Navy veteran, perished. Robert had phoned Thomas at his house on Wilson Street for help around 2 a.m., and Thomas rushed to the Sardinskas home. Thomas' father, a Waterbury firefighter arrived minutes later, and saw the house swept away with his son inside.
Anna Klimas, 62, and her daughter, Jean Klimas, 33, lived on the second floor of a house at 535 North Riverside St. On the morning of Aug. 19, the first-floor tenants had escaped the rising water. Witnesses saw Anna and Jean Klimas come out on the porch, as if they intended to try to cross the flooded street, but they went inside again. They were last seen at a window as the house floated away.
Patrone Marcinkavicius Stanikas, 65, and her son Stanley Marks, 44, a factory worker, died when their apartment house at 567 North Riverside St. was destroyed. Another tenant, Vincent Saulenas, 69, who had worked for the Waterbury Street Department and the American Brass Co., also perished.
Clarence F. Rameikas Sr., 36, and Joseph Synott, 50, had reportedly evacuated their apartment house at 621 North Riverside St., but returned to move their possessions to higher floors. Rising water forced them and three members of the Sherwill family to the roof. The house floated down the river and hit a railroad trestle, where two of the Sherwills were pulled to safety. The roof collapsed, throwing Rameikas, Synott and Bernard Sherwill into the river. Only Sherwill managed to get ashore.
Three residents of 561 North Riverside St. died in the flood: Barbara Vitkus, 68; Vincent Vitkus, 72; and Mary Urban Shimkus, 33. Mrs. Vitkus's body was found during the demolition of Ward's Flats, a tenement on Bank Street where nearly 100 people had been trapped by the flood but were rescued.
The other residents of the neighborhood who died that day were: Stanley Garbukas, 60, whose exact address on North Riverside Street is not known; Peter Laukaitis, 71, a retired factory worker, and his wife, Teofila Laukaitis, 62, of 569 North Riverside St.; Margaret Padaigas, 62, of 597 North Riverside St..; Henry Russell, 17, a student at Warren F. Kaynor Technical School who lived at 599 North Riverside St.; and Winifred Grant Verrier, 47, and her daughter, Nancy Ellen Verrier, 6, of 587 North Riverside St.
Only two of Waterbury's 29 flood deaths occurred away from North Riverside Street. One of them was Frank Butkus, 39, of 1030 Highland Ave., who had been at work at the American Brass Co. on Washington Street.
The other was Edward Meier, 72, of 250 Highland Ave., who was swept away by flood waters on Freight Street in downtown Waterbury. His son Raymond, who was with his father, was rescued. The elder Meier had been a machinist at the Waterbury Farrel Foundry and Machine Co.