Cumberland, BC Coal Mine Explosion, Feb 1923


Cumberland, B.C., Feb. 9. -- The number of dead from the mine disaster here was placed at thirty-three at 8 o'clock tonight. The bodies of fourteen white men and seventeen Chinese had been recovered and rescuers expressed the belief that only two Chinese remained in the tunnel.
Cumberland this afternoon was a place of mourning. Women ran aimlessly about the streets wailing their grief. As each body was taken to the morgue groups of men, women and children gathered about, waiting fearfully for identification. During the long night, while rescuers worked feverishly with the determination to save the lives of at least a few of the imprisoned men, the groups gathered, conversing in frightened undertones.
The work of rescue went on slowly. The men could work only four abreast. Each of the rescuers worked until he was exhausted. THen he was relieved by another. This afternoon the work was still in progress.
Men familiar with the mine said the explosion was undoubtedly due to the presence of both gas and dust. Work of penetrating the mine was at first extremely dangerous with volumes of gas pouring through the tunnels.
The first body found was that of W. MITCHELL, a 15 year old boy. Rescue workers saw him in the hoist some time before they reached him, but he died before help finally arrived. Like many of the others, he was bleeding at the nose, ears and mouth and the skin on his face and hands was scorched with the heat following the explosion. His brother, who was in the mine when the accident occurred, but escaped, ran two miles in an effort at rescue which failed.
The explosion occurred in No. 2 east drift and that portion of the mine was badly wrecked, with many working faces blocked. It was believed that about fifteen of the victims were killed outright, the others died from after damp. Officials expressed the opinion that if all of the men had remained where they were at the time of the accident, many more of them would have been saved, as survivors declared they ran into the after damp at the entrance of No. 3 west drift, in their flight toward the mine mouth.
One miner named PINCOLD found he could not force a passage through No. 4 level and remained where he was, inducing twelve others to stay with him. All were saved. Others went forward and were lost.
A number of men came up from the main slope and were overcome at the mouth of No. 4 level. These were the men rocovered by the rescue party and taken to the hospital. Not one miner came out of No. 2 east drift alive.
Ten Chinese, who were slowly being asphyxiated in one section of the mine, had an almost miraculous escape. Ventilation, which had been completely destroyed by the explosion, was restored as the rescue party went forward.
ARTHUR WATSON, one of the four fire bosses on duty at the time of the disaster, managed to crawl out alive and bring two boys with him, the three fighting their way through thick dust and choking fumes. After he had given the alarm he reentered the mine, finding six Chinese, two of whom were alive, huddled on one of the levels. The two survivors were taken on stretchers and hoisted to the surface. WATSON remained in the mine until after daybreak, helping in the work of rescue.