Montrose, CO Gunnison Tunnel Cave In, May 1905


Denvver, [sic] May 31. --- A News special from Montrose last night says: By a huge cave-in at the Gunnison tunnel at 10:30 o'clock this forenoon from four to ten persons were killed and thirty-five others imprisoned, although it is believed all the entombed men will be brought out alive. The work of rescue, which is under the charge of Reclamation Engineer T. W. McCONNELL and Superintendent KNOWLES, is exceedingly difficult. The channel of Cedar creek has been changed to prevent the imprisoned miners from being drowned.

The air compressor is running steadily, pumping fresh air to the imprisoned men, thirty-five of whom, it is believed, will be brought out alive tomorrow. They are 675 feet from the breast of the tunnel in a space between two piles of rock brought down by the cave-in. Signals can be heard by tapping with a hammer on the air pipe.

The ten men who are believed to have been killed were a hundred feet from where the imprisoned men are.

The names of all the victims have not been furnished yet, as every official is giving his whole attention to the rescue work.

Among those know to be in the tunnel are: BLUMING KEMPER, Grand Junction; Foreman STEELE, from Oklahoma; FLOYD WOODRUFF, Montrose; JOHN GRASSE, Colorado Springs.

A trammer is believed to be the only one who got out of the tunnel after the accident. He said:
"At the point of the accident, which is in about 300 feet from the Cedar creek end, I met FLOYD WOODRUFF and MR. GRASSE going in. A moment afterward I heard GRASSE exclaim: "My God! I'm done for!" and then came the awful roar and dust. I was knocked off my car, but managed to escape. There were from eight to ten men working at the spot where the cave-in occurred, the other men being further in the tunnel."

The spot where the cave-in occurred had never been timbered, and recently, when Engineer McCONNELL took charge of the work, he considered it unsafe and ordered it timbered. The men were working at this task to-day when the accident happened. There is a theory extant that the work of timbering caused the walls to weaken and precipitated the cave-in.

Every available man is being used in three-minute shifts of the rescue work.

A shaft is being sunk on the north side of Cedar creek to reach the timbered work of the tunnel. It is hoped that this will be reached in the early morning. Signaling on the air pipe by striking with a hammer brings answering signals from those imprisoned.

Work in the tunnel removing the dirt progresses slowly. About 100 cars have been moved out, but it continues to fall in. The shaft will be the only means of rescue.

Men work as they never worked before, while the wailing and weeping children of the men caged in what may be their tomb stand by. Most of the men are Americans, and their wives are standing the strain in a manner inspiring.

Several knowing where their husbands were going to work, have given them up for dead. Among them is MRS. STEELE, whose husband was foreman of the carpenter shift, and MRS. BLUMING KEMPER, whose husband was boss of the diggers. STEELE was from Oklahoma and BLUMING KEMPER from Grand Junction.

FLOYD WOODRUGG is a Montrose boy, and GRASSE was from Colorado Springs.

Offers of assistance have been received from the miners of Silverton and Ouray, but so far they have not been called on.

Alamosa Journal Colorado 1905-06-02