Commodore, PA Mine Explosion And Fire, Feb 1984


Commodore, Pa. (UPI) -- Rescue workers early today located the bodies of three miners killed in an explosion and fire in a methane-filled mine shaft in western Pennsylvania's coal country.
The search for the bodies had been hampered by the methane fumes and Barry Novotny, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Mines Corp., which owns the mine, said the bodies would not be recovered until the fumes had been ventilated.
The three miners were killed and 10 were injured early Thursday in an explosion and flash fire apparently triggered by a methane buildup. Four of the injured were admitted to a hospital with burns, while the other six were treated and released.
The dead men were found shortly after 5 a.m. EST in the area where they had been pumping water out of the mine, Novotny said.
He said the area was full of water because it had been mined out. The bodies were to remain in the shaft until the fumes, which forced workers to suspend rescue efforts for about 14 hours, are fully ventilated. It was speculated that could take as long as a day.
Families of the three miners, staying at a house near the mine, were notified about half an hour after the bodies were located and identified. An unidentified woman apparently fainted and was rushed to a local hospital in an ambulance.
John McGrath, public affairs specialist for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, said an investigation of the accident would begin Monday after ventilation of the mine is completed and the mine condition stabilized.
Federal, state, company and union officials will take part in the investigationi, he said.
Rescue workers tried throughout the day to find the missing men, believed to be 5,200 feet from the base of an elevator shaft. The search was suspended temporarily at 4:45 p.m. EST because of a gas leak, officials said.
Novotny said the leak knocked out some ventilation. He said rescue workers had to move back and install plastic sheets inside the mine to seal off the air leak.
Rescue workers then had to pump fresh air into the area before moving forward.
Frank O'Gorman, a spokesman for the MSHA, said approximately 130 people were in the Greenwich Collieries No. 1 in Green Township, about 85 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, when the blast occurred about 4:30 a.m. Thursday. Most of the miners fled to safety.
"Three did not come up," said O'Gorman.
The dead men were identified as:
WALTER DEPTO, 49, of Hastings.
STEPHEN PARZATKA, 34, of Hastings.
GARY MILLER, 31, of Glasglow.

Syracuse Herald Journal New York 1984-02-17