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H. C. Frick Coal and Coke Company
Gates No. 2 Mine Explosion

Gates, Pennsylvania
February 2, 1922
No. Killed - 25



Additional H. C. Frick Coal and Coke Company Disasters:


(From Bureau of Mines report, by J. W. Paul and W. J. Fene)

About 12:45 a.m., the regular night force of 25 men was in the No. 2 main section, about 2 miles from the bottom of the 559-foot shaft, when a local explosion caused the death of all of them, 9 by burns and violence and 16 by afterdamp.

The explosion was reported an hour later when a motorman took a trip to the affected area.  The afterdamp and smoke passed directly to the airshaft from the split of the ventilating current in the section.

Ventilation was restored and the bodies recovered by rescue crews.  Apparatus crews were kept in reserve.

Two small fires were found and extinguished.  The 16 men who were killed by afterdamp had traveled into the return from the explosion instead of escaping into fresh air in the opposite direction.  Three shots were fired in succession in a face in which gas was liberated.  The mixture of gas, dust, and air was probably ignited by an arc from the firing wires caused by using a nonpermissible singleshot blasting magneto.

The explosion picked up dust but lacked force to propagate because of the spalling of the weak shale roof along the haulage and airways.  Sprinkling of face areas was found ineffective.

Source:
Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I


16 Bodies Removed; Six Others Located by Rescuers
Morning Herald, Uniontown, Pennsylvania
February 3, 1922

Gates, Pa. -- At 3:45 this morning it was reported, after return of the Monongahela rescue train bringing six more bodies to Masontown, that seven additional bodies had been seen just before a heavy fall of slate in a heading in advance of the scene of the explosion.  This would bring the death toll to 29, with 22 of the bodies recovered.  It was said that the new fall of slate would delay the recovery of the other bodies until noon today.

With 16 bodies recovered and identified late yesterday afternoon, rescue teams, supplied with oxygen tanks, battled through gas and debris in a heroic attempt to reach nine or ten other miners believed to be entombed in the section where the explosion took place in the Gates mine yesterday morning about 1:30 o'clock.

The death toll, according to latest advices, is 26.  It is believed that at least one as yet unidentified man is still in the mine.  There is a possibility that there are more.

When the rescue workers took their second group from the mine, they had hoped that they would reach the others by early in the evening.  Their work was delayed somewhat when a fall occurred early in the afternoon in the vicinity of where the explosion occurred.  While there was some hope for life of those entombed, it was very, very remote.

The explosion took place at Butt No. 19 on the main haul about two miles from the shaft entrance about 1:30 o'clock in the morning.

Two theories have been advanced for the explosion.

One is that of a back-charge in which the force of the charge reversed, instead of penetrating the coal, and the second is that a gas pocket was struck.

Every indication was that the miners suffocated.  Following the explosion the oxygen was burned from the air, leaving only what is known as black damp or carbon monoxide.

Several of the men when found had their handkerchiefs in their hands and were in the act of placing them in their mouths when death came.  Indications showed that others had dipped their handkerchiefs in the coffee in their dinner pails and stuffed them in their mouths to prevent asphyxiation.  Expressions on each of their faces indicated that they had died struggling for breath.

It is believed that the first seven men taken from the mine had finished their work and were leaving the mine when caught by the explosion and overcome by gas.

They were found about a mile from the shaft entrance.  The next nine recovered were found from this point back to the section of Butt No. 19 where the explosion took place.  While the force of the explosion was not heard at the entrance, there was a heavy air current and persons familiar with mining knew something had gone wrong.

The mining village of Gates was fast asleep but in a short time the officials were notified and rescue parties were being formed to enter the mine.  It was several hours before the people at Gates realized the serious nature of the explosion.  Outside assistance began to arrive about 6 o'clock.

Sam W. Brown, superintendent of the plant, and Patrick Mullen, Frick mine inspector for the southern district, immediately began the organization work of rescuing the entombed men and entered the mine with trained men.

The Monongahela Railroad Company dispatched a rescue car from Brownsville in charge of M. J. Clifford, assistant train master, and carrying supplies, physicians and nurses and arriving on the scene before 7 o'clock.  The rescue car was placed in front of the shaft and ready for quick runs to the Brownsville Hospital.  The car was used in transferring the dead to the H. A. Johnston mortuary at Masontown and also in taking E. E. Girod, state mine inspector, to his home at Masontown, after he had become exhausted in the mine.

Rescue teams began to arrive early from the nearby coke plants and offers to assist were received from points as far as Pittsburgh.  These were declined, however, when officials of the company decided it would be possible to handle the situation with their own equipment.

Absence of hysterical women and excited relatives near the scene of the mine was the cause of much comment among the officials who had witnessed similar catastrophes.  There were no demonstrations of any excitable nature.  As soon as the dead were taken from the mine and placed on the train for Masontown, the families started for the mortuary to identify their loved ones.  Scenes at the mortuary were more intense than those at the mine.

Sheriff I. I. Shaw and deputies and Sergeant Donald Austin, with eight state troopers, arrived on the scene early in the morning and succeeded in maintaining perfect order.  There were no attempts to break through the safety line.

On one occasion a foreigner started through the lines and when stopped by a trooper insisted that his son was in the mine and he was going after him.  The circumstance proved a most delicate one for the trooper, realizing the feeling of the father for his son.  Orders must be obeyed, however, and the father was turned back and showed his disapproval by the language he directed at the officer, who took it all good-naturedly and the trouble ended.

Clay Lynch, general superintendent of the Frick Company, W. H. Clingerman, president of the company, W. C. Hood, assistant general superintendent, and Chief Engineer Dawson arrived on the scene early and took personal charge of the work, giving out what information they could and lending a helping hand generally.  All stayed on the job throughout the day and last evening.

Mrs. Brown, wife of Superintendent Brown, quickly organized a staff and early in the morning was sending coffee and sandwiches to the rescue workers.  At noon she and her assistants fed all the men engaged in rescue work in one of the company shacks.  Mrs. Brown and her assistants were highly complimented for their efficient service by officials of the company and workers generally.

While there were none injured reported, every arrangement had been made had any been taken from the mine.  In a store building nearby a temporary hospital had been established with physicians and nurses waiting an opportunity to give aid.  Physicians were in attendance from Brownsville and Masontown and Dr. R. H. Jeffrey accompanied W. C. Hood from Uniontown and remained until late last evening.

W. P. Schenk, executive secretary of the Fayette County Red Cross, and several other Red Cross workers were on the scene and ready to lead any assistance the occasion might warrant.


Casualties in the Gates Mine
Morning Herald, Uniontown, Pennsylvania
February 3, 1922

Miners recovered and identified are:
  • Thomas Horne, single
  • John Murinch, single
  • Andy Kopolar, married
  • Andy Rompella, married
  • Nick Yourchusky, married
  • Joe Smash, married
  • Elary Claico, married
  • John Dellango, single
  • James Argenti, married
  • Walient Kenicka, married
  • John Campelin, single
  • Nick Rabbits, single
  • Joe Hrebar, single
  • Tony Stodyhar, married
  • John Gallokovicz, married
  • Albert Petralla, married
Those Not Yet Recovered Are:
  • Peter Malok, married
  • James Poganelli, single
  • Mike Crickovick, single
  • Joe Popson, Sr., married
  • Steve Popson, aboves nephew, single
  • Martin J. Brennan, single
  • Mike Stefanick, single
  • Andy Swablic, married
  • Arist Decaroceica, married
The first seven named were taken from the mine at 11 o'clock yesterday morning and the next nine named were taken from the mine at 12:30 o'clock.

The body of Mr. Brennan was identified late yesterday at the Johnston morgue, at Masontown by a brother.  It is apparent that Mr. Brennan's check number was confused with that of another miner in the identification at the mine.


Dead and Missing in Mine at Gates
The Daily Courier, Connellsville, PA
February 2, 1922
  • Thomas Horne, single, dead
  • Martin J. Brennan, single, dead
  • Joe Hrebar, single
  • John Gallokovicz, married
  • John Campelin, single
  • Elary Claico, married
  • John Dellango, single
  • Andy Kopolar, married
  • Tony Stodyhar, married
  • Joe Smash, married
  • James Argenti, married
  • John Murinch, single
  • Albert Petralia, married
  • Peter Malik, married
  • Walient Konicka, married
  • Nick Rabbits, married
  • James Poganelli, single
  • Mike Setefanck, single
  • Mike Crickovick, single
  • Joe Popson, Sr., married
  • Steve Popson, single
  • Andy Roppella, married
  • Arist De Caroceica, married
  • Nick Yourchusky, married



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