On January 10, 1911, at 12:25 p.m., Fresno Police Officer Clay V. Helms was escorting Dr. J.L. Davidson, a mental patient, to the Stockton State Hospital when the train in which they were riding, wrecked. The local Santa Fe train having just crossed the San Joaquin River ran into an open switch, collided with a three-car work train and de-railed. In the accident, Officer Helms sustained a fractured rib, which pressed against his lung.
In early February, Helms was hospitalized with typhoid fever, released and relapsed several times. To save his life, the doctors were finally forced to operate to remove the pressure from the fractured rib on his lung. Too much damage had been done. Helms died on May 15, 1911. The death certificate lists the cause of death as the abscess on his lung.
Per Deputy Coroner, Richard Tobin, with the Fresno County Coroner’s Office, Helm’s death can be traced to the injury, which never healed and exacerbated the typhoid. Under current California law the death would be listed as accidental as a result of the injury sustained in the train wreck.
Helms had been a patrolman with the Fresno Police Department for three years. While in the performance of his duty, Helms received an injury that lead to his death. He was 28 years old and left a widow and infant son.
The Fresno Morning Republican Tuesday, May 16, 1911
Clay V. Helms Succumbs After Long Illness; Wreck Is Cause of Demise
Clay V. Helms, a member of the Fresno Police Department for the past three years, passed away at 6:30 o’clock last night at the Burnett Sanitarium, following an illness of more than three months. Death was the result of injuries received in the wreck of a Santa Fe passenger train near Herndon, about the middle of January. Helms was taking an insane patient to Stockton and was aboard the wrecked train. He suffered the fracture of a rib, which pressed against one lung. A short time later he was taken ill with typhoid fever. He was first taken ill early in February. After the typhoid had gone, Helms suffered several relapses and it was finally found necessary to perform an operation, the surgeons believing that if the pressure of the rib against the lung could be removed, his life might be saved. The operation was performed one day last week and Helms seemed to rally for a time, but gradually sank to death. The ravages made by the typhoid and the relapses were so great that his constitution was unable to stand the effects of the operation.
Helms was born in Carthage, Illinois, and was 28 years of age. He joined the police department early in 1908 and was in service when he was first taken ill. His wife and mother were at his bedside when the end came, the latter coming from Carthage, Ill., last week.
He is the third member of the police department to be called by death while in the department in the past five years. William McSwain and Harry Van Meter, who was murdered, were the other two.
Helms leaves a widow and infant son in this city, and another sister and brother. The latter lives in Carthage. He was a member of the Eagles.
The funeral services will be held this afternoon at 3 o’clock from the undertaking parlors of Stephens and Bean. Frank A. Curtin will have charge of the services for the Eagles. The pallbearers will be three members of the local aerie of Eagles and three members of the police department.