It was perfectly located for USIA, just 200 ft from the harbour and ships that brought molasses from Cuba, and near the railroad tracks that would move the molasses from storage.Yet the five-storey storage facility was never properly tested - by filling it with water - because a shipload of molasses was due only days after the completion of the tank in December 1915. Streaks of molasses ran down the sides of the tank, and people living nearby filled up cans for home use.The clean-up eventually took some 87,000 man hours.Fire department pumps groaned as they removed thousands of gallons of molasses from cellars.The weather was mild for January, a relief from the cold snap that had been biting the area for several days.The 50 ft-high tank, which was 90 ft in diameter, dominated the neighbourhood where Commercial Street and the elevated railway tracks made 90-degree turns as they approached the harbour, a congested area densely populated with Italian immigrants and interspersed with pockets of Irish people, who would come to dominate the city.
The body of truck driver Flamino Gallerini was taken from the water underneath the railroad freight houses eleven days after the tank burst, and almost four months after that a final body, that of Cesare Nicolo, was pulled from the water under the Commercial Wharf.
Meanwhile, rescue workers, sightseers and residents carried the gooey brown residue on their clothes and boots to other parts of the city, making streetcar seats, trolley platforms and public phones sticky. In February, a month after the disaster, the Chief Judge of Boston Municipal Court, Wilfred Bolster, made public the results of his investigation into the tragedy and blamed the tank itself, saying evidence indicated it was 'wholly insufficient in point of structural strength to handle its load'. District Attorney Joseph Pellatier then presented evidence to a grand jury, which decided the tank had been built without a sufficient inspection of its plans and construction by the city.
But the jury stopped short of charging the company with manslaughter.
When Suffolk County medical examiner George Magrath arrived, several bodies had already been pulled from the molasses.
He said they looked 'as though covered in heavy oil skins ... A makeshift hospital was set up at Haymarket Relief Station about half a mile from the waterfront, and volunteers removed molasses from victims' noses and mouths so they could breathe.