Bellevernon, PA Fire Damp Coal Mine Explosion, Dec 1907
MANY MINERS ENTOMBED BY FIRE DAMP EXPLOSION IN THE NAOMI COAL MINE.
UP TO NOON TODAY RESCUING PARTIES HAD RECOVERED BODY OF ONLY ONE MAN -- FIERCE FIRE RAGING.
FAINT HOPE FOR THE MINERS.
BLACK DAMP HAS LIKELY ENDED THEIR LIVES IF THEY WERE NOT KILLED OUTRIGHT BY THE EXPLOSION LAST NIGHT -- SOME DOUBT AS TO EXACT NUMBER ENTOMBED BUT IT IS BETWEEN 30 AND 60.
Special to The Courier.
Fayette City, Dec. 2. -- In an explosion of gas in the Naomi mine of the United Coal Company two miles back of Bellevernon at 7:30 o'clock last evening between 30 and 60 miners were entombed. At 1 o'clock this afternoon there was only the very faintest hope that any of the entombed men could survive the fierce flames that are raging and the dense bodies of black damp that prevent rescuing parties from making any progress in the mine. The mine went up with a roar that shook the whole countryside. The engine house and boiler house adjoining the mouth of the slope were wrecked by the force of it. Fire immediately followed the explosion and the workings leading from the bottom of the slope are today burning fiercely. Many of them were timbered and heavy brattices also served to feed the flames. Open lamps were used in the mine and the supposition is that a miner walked into a body of gas that had come by a cut through from an abandoned working and which had accumulated in such force that a fearful explosion followed.
Within a few minutes hundreds of people surrounded the pit mouth. The screams were indescribable. Wives and children and friends of the men entombed wrung their hands and begged piteously for rescuing parties to enter the mines and bring out their loved ones. All night they refused to leave the pit mouth. Today the scenes are heartrending. Smoke rolls from the entrance to the slope in a steady volume. Officials and mine inspectors from all over Western Pennsylvania are at the mine. It is the opinnion of all that every one of the entombed miners have perished.
The officials are not certain how many men were in the mine. Some are sure not more than 10 men were in the pit while at the mine it is stated between 50 and 60 men were at work on the night shift. The mine ordinarily employs between 250 and 300 men. The body of a foreigner who was employed as a pumper is the only one recovered so far. He was found on the slope about 700 feet from the entrance to the slope. He had been overcome by blackdamp trying to make his escape. A majority of the men on the night shift were employed in working a considerable distance from the pit mouth.
W. S. Kuhn, of Pittsburgh, is one of the heavy stockholders in the United Coal Company.
Deputy Coroner William Correll of Fayette County was on the scene within a few hours after the explosion and fitted up the basement of the power house as a temporary morgue for the reception of the bodies of the miners. Doctors were hurried to the scene from Fayette City, Bellevernon and Charleroi.
Superintendent D. J. Calligan of the street car line running from Charleroi to the mine put six cars in service soon after the accident occurred to haul men to the mine to assist in the rescue work.
Superintendent Henersdon was the first man to enter the mine after the explosion. He only penetrated the mine for about 100 yards when he was overcome by gas and was rescued by companions with difficulty. He was taken out and soon revived in the open air. He then directed his attention to the rescue work.
The Naomi mine is a slope mine and one of the oldest operated by the United Coal Company which has its principal offices in Pittsburg. It is one of the biggest mines in the soft coal region and gave work to from 200 to 300 men all the year round. The property loss will be enormous as the mine was equipped at a cost of thousands of dollars with all the up to date mine appurtenances such as electric lights, electric coal cars and air ventilating systems.
The explosion completely wrecked the air system, and that in itself means that no human being can live very long in the mine as it is now.
What seems an almost insurmountable mountain of debris is between the struggling workmen and the imprisoned men. Some rescuers are trying to tunnel this while strenuous efforts to reach the imprisoned men by other means are being made.
Five rescuing parties were quickly formed last night but they were able to accomplish but little. They worked alternately but the fartherest they were able to get into the mine was 800 yards. They were gradually working their way inch by inch. Each party could only stay in the mine a few minutes. This necessarily makes the work of rescue slow.
The rescue parties are working under the direction of Deputy State Mine Inspector Henry Loutlit, John McVickers, superintendent of the fro the Monongahela River Consolidated Coal & Coke Company and Thomas White pit boss.
Mine Inspector Loutlit says: "It is impossible to say just what caused the explosion. The mine was remarkably free of gas but you can never tell about such things. Gas is likely to be found in the most unexpected places. The force of the explosion was terrific and I cannot think that any man in the Naomi mine escaped with his life."
"The mine was practically shattered and I believe we will eventually find thousands of tons of earth blocking the way to the entombed miners. We have been unable to get into the mine to any great distance. 700 yards has been about the limit."
The Naomi mine was considered one of the safest in this section. For more than three months the company has been making improvements and had just completed the installation of 250 tons of modern machinery.
At 1:30 o'clock this afternoon, it is known that 46 men are entombed. Rescuers are working but there is little hope of success in rescuing any of the men alive.
Daily Courier Connellsville Pennsylvania 1907-12-02
Listing of the Fatalities:
NENTHART ANTAL, 19, miner boy.
JANOS "JOHN" BADO, miner, married.
JOHN BALCHIK, JR., married.
CHARLES BEMETER, married.
GEORGE BIHARI, JR.
FRANK BOUCHNER, miner.
GEORGE CHRISTIAN, 25.
JOSEPH HAGERDISH, 25.
JOHN KISH, 25.
ANTAL MENZHURT, 25.
STEPHEN MOHARE, 25.
JOHN MURA, 25.
FRANK NAGE, 25.
DAVID ROBERTS, Fire Boss.
JOHN ROBEY, pumper.