South Wilkes-Barre, PA Coal Mine Explosion, Oct 1896

HORROR IN A MINE.

SIX MEN KILLED BY THE LURKING UNDERGROUND TERROR.

FIRE-DAMP BREAKS ITS BONDS.

BEING PROBABLY SET LOOSE BY A BLAST - ONE OF THE VICTIMS LOSES HIS LIFE WHILE HEADING A RESCUE PARTY -- POSSIBILITY THAT MORE BODIES MAY BE FOUND.

Wilkesbarre, Pa., Oct. 30. -- A terrible explosion of gas occurred in No. 3 mine of the Lehigh and Wilkesbarre Coal Company in South Wilkesbarre between 1 and 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon. Six men are known to be dead and two injured. It is not yet known how many men were in the mine at the time of the explosion, but twelve are reported missing, and it is believed all of those have perished.
The dead who have been brought to the surface are:
WILLIAM R. JONES, fire boss, married.
JOHN JOSEPH, assistant mine foreman, wife and five children.
Others known to be dead, but who cannot be reached because of the black-damp are:
THOMAS OWENS, miner, married and family.
WILLIAM LACEY, rock-miner, married and family.
JAMES HERRON, laborer, married and family.
JOSEPH WORTH, fire boss, married and family.
The injured, so far as known, are:
DAVID WILLIAMS.
JOHN DAVIS, both overcome by black-damp.
The cause of the explosion will possibly never be known. The mine was idle for the day. Usually there are from 400 to 500 men employed in the mine. Had they all been at work when the explosion occurred the loss of life would have been fearful. The only man in the mine yesterday were the company hands and fire bosses, who were at work in the rock tunnel changing the air course. Among those at work in the tunnel were, THOMAS OWENS, WILLIAM LACEY and JAMES WORTH. The place was very gaseous and the men worked with safety lamps. It is believed that the gas was ignited by a blast. DAVID WILLIAMS the driver boss, was at the head of the slope 500 feet away when the explosion occurred and was hurled some distance and injured. He was the only man in that vicinity who escaped alive.
The explosion was so severe that it was plainly felt at the mouth of the shaft. The roof of the fan house was blown off and all the air-ways and brattices inside were wrecked and blown away. The alarm was promptly given, and hundreds of men, women and children rushed to the head of the shaft. The grief of the womankind who had husbands, sons or brothers in the mine was heartrending. The work of organizing rescue gangs was begun without delay. It was a perilous undertaking, as the sequel proved, but no man faltered. Fire Boss William B. Jones and Assistant Mine Foreman John Joseph selected the men for the first party, and themselves led the way. All were overcome by the dread after-damp, but not until they had found Driver Boss DAVID WILLIAMS. All except JOSEPH succeeded in reaching the foot of the shaft and were removed to the surface, but the old fire boss, JONES, succumbed to the deadly after-damp and died in half an hour after being brought out, despite the efforts of the doctors, who did their utmost to revive him.
JOSEPH, the other hero, became separated from the first party, and the second rescuing party found his body and removed it to the surface. A number of company men who worked in a different part of the mine reached the surface by the No 5 shaft, and also by another opening. It is thought possible to reach the four men in the rock tunnel until the air currents are opened. Superintendent Lawall and other officials of the Lehigh and Wilkesbarre company were early on the scene and did all in human power to aid the men below. Large streams of water were sent down the shaft to establish a temporary air current while the work of rescue was in progress. Lawall believes there may yet be six men inside, but an old miner insists that there are twelve. It is the general supposition that all are dead. On March 2, 1890, in this same colliery eight men were imprisoned and died before they could be reached by the rescuing party.
Later -- The bodies of THOMAS OWENS, WILLIAM LACEY, JAMES HERRON, and JOSEPH WORTH, who were at work to the tunnel were found at 9 o'clock last night. They were horribly burned and hardly recognizable. The rescuers are now at work clearing the tunnel in the expectation of finding more bodies. It is believed, however, that six is the total number of dead.

Waterloo Daily Courier Iowa 1896-10-30