Dunbar, PA Mine Explosion, June 1890 - Miners Suffocated


Terrible Fire Damp Explosion at Dunbar, Pa.


Desperate Efforts in Progress to Recover the Bodies

The Mine on Fire and Consuming the Victims – Two Bodies Only Rescued – Awful Scenes at the Mouth of the Flaming Pit – Parents and Relatives Mad With Anguish – Names of Victims.

DUNBAR, Pa., June 17. -- Thirty-one miners were killed by an explosion of gas in the coal mines at Hill Farm, owned by the Dunbar Furnace Company, and located one mile west of this place.

The explosion occurred at 10:30 a. m. The bodies of two of the unfortunates were taken out. The others are still entombed in the mine where a fierce fire is raging.
Desperate efforts are in progress to clear the way to recover the bodies, but so far without avail. A rescuing party of 100 men, headed by Mine Inspector KEIGLEY, of this district, spent some time in the pit, but had been able to rescue but two bodies.
The men, it was evident, had died from injuries sustained from the force of the explosion, but their bodies were badly burned. Their features are distorted and disfigured, and the corpses could only be recognized by the clothing.

Fifty-seven miners were at work about 5,000 feet from the mouth of the slope when the explosion occurred. Near the point at which the heading started an air hole had been drilled recently in which gas and water had accumulated.

A miner named PATRICK KERWIN penetrated this airhole, six inches in diameter, with his pick, whereupon a strong stream of water gushed out. KERWIN, alarmed, sounded the danger signal. His assistant, PATRICK HAYES, started hurriedly for the main entrance, and had scarcely moved, when the foul gas was ignited from his lamp. The explosion that followed was terrific.

What little air there was in the place drifted to the heading situated to the right of the main entrance. The fire followed swiftly and before the thirty-one men could be alarmed all hope of escape was shut off by the flames.

The twenty-six men employed in the left heading were notified of the danger in time to save their lives, although their escape was thrilling and was accompanied by the wildest confusion. It was at a point near where the explosion occurred that the two bodies of DANIEL SHEERAN, fire boss, and DAVID HAYES were were found. They had evidently attempted to escape through the flames.

Mad With Anguish
Thousands of people gathered at the mouth of the mines this morning. Among them were the parents, wives, children and sweethearts of the unfortunates, and a strong guard of police was necessary to prevent many of them, mad with anguish, from rushing into the deadly hole. Wives, widowed by the calamity, stood about illy clad and sore-footed, lulling to sleep their babes in arms. Mothers wrung their hands and cried aloud for their boys, while children from 8 to 15 years of age hurried about looking into the black faces of the escaped miners in the hope of finding their fathers or brothers.

Their suffering was pitiable, and while the authorities at the company were exerting all their energies to recover the bodies, the total absence of information regarding the fate of the missing men made their distress more severe, and moans and groans went up unconsciously from many of the pinched lids in the unhappy crowd.

List of the Victims.
Following is a full list of the missing miners:
FERNEY, MILT, married.
EAGAN, PETER, forty-four years old.
McGUILL, ROBERT, single.
COPE, JOHN, married.
COPE, ANDY, his son.
DEVILE, PAT, married.
DEBANNEY, JOHN, married.
DEBANNEY, JOHN, his son.
JOY, JOHN, married.
DAVIS, DAVID, married.
CAHILL, PAT, married.
COURTNEY, PAT, married.
COURTNEY, JOHN, his son.
SOUTH, DAN, married.
SHEARN, JAMES, single.
SHEARN, DANNY, single.
HAYS, WILLIAM, his son.
McCLEARY, JAMES, married.
McCLEARY, THOMAS, married.
DEWEY, ELMER, single.
BIGLEY, JOSEPH, aged 30, leaves wife and two children.
MAUST, EMANUEL, brothers.
MITCHELL, JOHN, aged 40, married.

Middletown Daily Press New York 1890-06-17