Moberly, MO Esry Mine Fire, Aug 1936
Premature Announcement False.
The Sexton family had been waiting in a hearse near the mine opening. They jumped down from the unusual perches and danced about hugging each other.
The grief of stricken relatives was most poignant because a few minutes before the official announcement by Maddox, relatives had been told all four trapped men had been found alive.
When the rescue party head McCann’s shouts they telephoned to the surface, “We hear their voices.”
This report was interpreted by some on the surface as meaning all were safe. The erroneous report was announced to the crowd as it went out over radio broadcasting wires.
The shock of learning their kin was dead after once believing them alive was more than some of the relatives could stand. Friends took the Stoner family and the Negro’s wife and her 4-month-old baby to their homes.
Hug Floor for Oxygen.
Coroner Maddox prepared to summon a coroner’s jury.
The miners were found on the floor of an abandoned tunnel. They had barricaded themselves behind an airtight wall, but left their refuge several times.
Rescue workers who burrowed through more than eighty feet of fallen debris encountered black damp and white damp, two of the worst perils of mining. By hugging the floor, Sexton and McCann apparently found enough oxygen to sustain themselves. The mule the miners were using to haul their coal had died from the fumes.
Sexton rallied well after being given stimulants and physicians held high hopes for his recovery. McCann was able to talk briefly of the ordeal.
“Stoner died about two hours after the cave-in,” McCann said. “Dameron went soon afterward.
Two Hundred Miners Help.
The miners were trapped between a mass of burning timbers and dirt and the fumes from the blasting operations they had performed just after the fire broke out on the surface.
Two hundred miners from a score of mines in Central Missouri participated in the Herculean job of clearing out the three-quarters filled main shaft. Almost to a man they worked without sleep, alternating in the shaft in relays of four and six, wielding picks and shovels.
The rescue party which entered the 110-foot level was led by Griffith who has not had a moment’s sleep since Tuesday. With him were Frank Bunch and Evans Jones, his assistants; C. A. Herbert, supervising inspector of the United States Bureau of Mines, and three volunteer miners, Willie Mikel, Marvin Wolf and Carl Toalsom.
The men carried gas masks but so thorough had been the job of aerating the mine with great fans and suction machinery that the masks were not needed. The air in the tunnel had been clear for three hours before the rescue was consummated.