Wilkes-Barre, PA Coal Mine Disaster, June 1919 - Terrible Disaster
83 KILLED AND FIFTY BURNED AND MANGLED.
TERRIBLE DISASTER IN TUNNEL OF DELAWARE AND HUDSON COAL COMPANY NEAR WILKES-BARRE YESTERDAY AFTERNOON.
TROLLEY IGNITED POWDER.
DEAD AND MAIMED LITERALLY ROASTED ALIVE BY THE SUPER-HEATED GAS FLAMES FOLLOWING THE EXPLOSION.
NO CHANCE FOR ESCAPE.
(By Associated Press)
Wilkes-Barre, June 5. -- Eighty-three men dead and fifty others burned and maimed, many of whom will die, is the toll of a terrible disaster in the Baltimore tunnel of the Delaware and Hudson Coal company in the East End section of this city early today.
The disaster was caused by the explosion of 300 pounds of black powder and the dead and maimed were literally roasted by the superheated gas flames following the explosion. The tragedy occurred while the men were on their way to work this morning.
Owing to their working places being two miles from the mouth of the tunnel, the men were making the trip in a train of fourteen mine cars drawn by an electric motor, the powder being carried in two cars in the middle of the train. The train had penetrated the tunnel about 200 feet when AUGUST RUDDICA, one of the survivors, declared the overhead trolley, which sagged, touched a steel powder keg head and formed a short circuit.
In an instant there was a shower of sparks and then the powder exploded with a blast and a great sheet of flames drawn by the air current enveloped the helpless men, who were huddled closely together in the cars with no possible chance to escape. Owing to the ventilating system the flame was drawn inward and the first intimation of the disaster in those on the surface was the shrieks of anguish of the injured.
Rescue corps were at once formed and the dead and injured were rapidly brought to the surface, where the living were given first aid treatment by physicians and then rushed to hospitals in ambulances and vehicles of all sorts. Even the first aid aparatus was used in the emergency.
Dead Piled In Heaps.
When the rescuers first entered the tunnel they found the dead and dying piled up in heaps in the cars and along the tunnel. Bodies of the dead were burned to a crisp and cooked flesh came off in strips from the limb of the living. Of the dead, sixty-nine were found dead in the tunnel and fourteen others succumbed to their injuries at hospitals. But forty-nine of the dead have so far been identified.
Among the killed outright was JAMES G. MacCLOSKEY, a former baseball pitcher, at one time a member of the Philadelphia National League club.
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