Coleraine, PA Sinkhole Tragedy, Dec 1869



The caving in of a coal mine near Hazelton, Pa., on Saturday morning last, by which ten persons lost their lives, lends additional interest to the following account of a similar tragedy which occurred just a week previous.
We copy from the Mauch Chunck (Pa.) Gazette:

On Saturday night, about half past 12 o'clock a remarkable and fatal accident occurred near Coleraine, on the railroad, between Beaver Meadow and Tresekow, in this county. A Mr. Duffy and wife had been attending a wake in Beaver Meadow, and on returning on foot along the track of the railroad, Mr. Duffy being a little in advance of his wife, saw a depression of the rails a short distance ahead, and on approaching nearer the ties suddenly began to give away under his feet. He barely saved himself by jumping to one side, and immediately after the road, rails, ties, embankment and everything caved in and left a cavern about sixty feet deep.
There has been an old coal mine underneath, and some of the pillars have become worn out or displaced, the whole superincumbent mass of earth and rock had fallen in. Duffy and wife proceeded to their house in Coleraine, near the track, and retired to bed, when shortly a truck was heard approaching. Duffy rushed out to give the alarm. The truck contained two young men, CHARLES McCONNELL and EDWARD SWEENEY, belonging to Tresckhow, who had started down to attend the wake. Supposing Duffey only wished to stop them so he could get on himself, they disregarded his warning and the truck rushed on at a furious rate until suddenly it was precipitated into the abyss.
The truck brought up on a projecting bank part way down, but the men were thrown the entire distance to the bottom which was afterward ascertained to be about sixty feet from the surface. SWEEENEY had sat at the rear of the truck, and was, therefore, thrown forward with a greater impetus as the truck turned in mid-air. He was evidently much hurt by the fall, and called to McCONNELL to go and help him. The latter replied that he had himself an arm badly broken, and could do nothing for him. Soon after another mass of earth fell, covering and hushing forever his cries for assistance.
Duffey, having tried in vain to prevent the disaster, now hastened through the town and neighborhood, and rallied a crowd to assist in getting out the unfortunate victims.
Two men were let down with a rope to the bottom of the pit, who fastened the rope about the body of MR. McCONNELL, and the latter was then slowly and painfully drawn up. When brought to the surface McCONNELL was found to be not seriously injured beyond the breaking of his left arm at the elbow, and his right leg just above the ankle.
Gangs of men then descended at the imminent peril of their lives, and began the laborious task of unearthing SWEENEY, whose locality was told by McCONNELL. After digging two hours and a half his lifeless body was exhumed and taken to Tresckhow.

Ogdensburg Journal New York 1869-12-30