Brownsville, PA Braznell Mine Explosion, Dec 1899

Terrific Explosion in a Pennsylvania Coal Mine.


Fire Damp Wrecks the Braznell Mines Near Brownsville – Coal Miner's Naked Lamp Ignited Gas and a Terrific Explosion Followed – Difficult Task of the Rescuers – Great Mass of Wreckage.

BROWNSVILLE, Penna. (Special). -- The most serious explosion in the history of the coke region occurred in the Braznell mines a few days ago. The mine is a wreck, and it is thought it will have to be abandoned.

The estimates of the number of the dead were conflicting. A. B. Braznell, President of the Stockdale Coal Company, said he believed that but twenty to twenty-five men had been killed. Men at work around the mine gave different figures. They said thirty-five to forty men were down the main shaft in the cages, while about twenty climbed down the steps in the elevator shaft. From fifty-five to sixty men were in the mine, and of this number but thirteen have been recovered alive. All the rest, whatever the number, are dead.

The explosion was the worst since the Hill Mine disaster at Dunbar. It was terrific, and was heard plainly at Brownsville, three miles distant. The main shaft was totally wrecked. About four cages filled with men had gone down to work. MR. THOMAS, the cage man, on his fourth trip went to the bottom with fourteen men and gave the signal for the cage to rise, when the explosion occurred.

The cage was blown with terrific force to the top of the shaft and fell back to the bottom, completely blocking access to the mine. Timbers were hurled hundreds of feet. The lower ring of brick work in the air shaft was completely wrecked and had to be tunneled to get into the mine at all. One hand and a foot and one shoe were blown from the mine and found on top of the shaft.

WILLIAM PASTORIOUS, a driver in the mine, tells a sensational story. PASTORIOUS, who has lived in Brownsville for many years and is regarded as a man of intelligence, says that the pit boss, JONES, on Tuesday morning issued a general order that all safety lambs might be dispensed with, and in their stead the miners were permitted to use naked lights. PASTORIOUS also states that the safety lamps were unlocked, contrary to regulations.

Superintendent BOYER, who is the superior of the pit boss, JONES, when told of the above statement said:
“I know nothing of the order to dispense with safety lamps.” He would make no further statement.

There will be a searching investigation as to the cause of the disaster. Notwithstanding that mine officials assert that the examination of the mine Saturday morning showed it to be clear of gas the fact develops that there was gas of such volume as to be dangerous.

The Braznell mine is a new plant, having been first opened last spring. It was operated by Benjamin Braznell & Sons, of Pittsburg, Penn., who employed ninety-two men. The pit was not considered gaseous, and was worked with open lamps.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1899-12-29