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Mine Disasters in
the United States

Decatur Mine Fire

Decatur, Illinois
January 16, 1905
No. Killed 6

Results of the Fire in the Decatur, Ill. Coal Mine Shaft
Daily Free Press, Carbondale, Illinois
January 18, 1905

Decatur, Ill., Jan. 18. -- Nine persons are known to be dead or entombed as the result of a fire in a 600-foot coal mine shaft near here.

Rescuing parties went into the mine, but were unable to do anything, owing to the smoke.

All night hysterical women and men stood about the entrance to the shaft, awaiting the abatement of the fire to begin a search for the bodies of the dead.

The known dead and missing are:
  • August Jagusch, aged 51
  • Charles Laschinski
  • Emil Knorr, aged 20
  • Henry Gollan and son
  • Will Fagan
  • John Pride
  • August Rex
  • John Dunn
  • Martin Cullen
Those who escaped said it was impossible to live more than a few minutes in the choking clouds of smoke and miners were seen to fall and die in their efforts to break through the cordon of flames. Ten or twelve were enabled to crawl through an escapement at the rear of the shaft into a new shaft. One body was recovered in this way.  Fred Knorr, an aged man, escaped half suffocated. He was frantic with grief because he had seen his son, Emil, perish.
"I was near the mule stable when the fire started," said one survivor. "I started back toward the end of the shaft, shouting to the other workmen that the mine was on fire. I met two of them and one continued toward the back of the shafting crying the warning."

"The other man and I returned to the fire, thinking we might check it, but we found it smoldering, emitting gases in which it was impossible to live."

"We lowered our heads and burst through it, choking and gasping. The draft carried the smoke back into the shaft, so that we were able to get fresh air."

"Men came running up to the line of dark red fire, heavy with smoke, but could not break through it. They would fall shrieking or would turn back and suffocate in the fumes that were pouring back in the shaft."

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