December Mine Disaster Anniversaries
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|Did You Know?||The month of December has accounted for 91 mine disasters in which 1,970 miners were killed; 37 successful rescues (longest - 15 days); and the death of 15 rescuers in 6 incidents.|
|Successful Mine Rescues||Rescuer Deaths||All December Mine Disasters|
|Successful Mine Rescues in December|
|1869||December 18, 1869 - The East Sugar Loaf Colliery cave-in in Stockton, Pennsylvania claimed 10 lives on Dec. 18, 1869; only three bodies were ever recovered. The cave-in occurred at 5 a.m. when two houses were swallowed into the ground. A third home went into the subsidence and all but one person got out. It was a young girl who was later rescued from a rooftop. One outcome of the Stockton Mine cave-in was that houses were not built so close to mines after the incident. See more.|
|1885||Nanticoke No. 1 Mine Inundation, Nanticoke, Pennsylvania — Of the dead, many were fathers and sons of families throughout Nanticoke. One family lost three sons in the disaster, with the fourth being rescued "with difficulty," according to the Wilkes-Barre Record.|
|1895||Cumnock Mine Explosion, Cumnock, North Carolina — After pumping fresh air into the shafts following the Cumnock mine explosion, several miners were prevailed upon to venture down and investigate. They found and brought out 24 men from shafts Nos. 2 and 3. Five or six of them were badly wounded and some of them would probably die; others were slightly wounded.|
|1899||Carbon Hill No. 7 Mine Explosion, Carbonado, Washington — Two men were rescued more than 18 hours after the explosion. They are Peter Merp, a Frenchman, and Michael Kulsh, a Pole. Merp had been blindly groping around in the darkness most of the night on his hands and knees, seeking for some avenue of escape.|
|1901||McAlester No. 1 Hoisting Disaster, Hartshorne, Oklahoma — Two miners were rescued from the McAlester No. 1 mine after an undisclosed period. The cage was ascending with eight men when it jumped its guidings about 100 feet from the bottom of the shaft. 6 of the 8 dropped to the shaft bottom to their death. The other two, who held on to the cage, had to be drawn up to the surface with ropes. Miraculously, these men were said to be only slightly injured.|
|1905||Horton Mine Fire, Horton, West Virginia — After an undisclosed period, two of the miners who were in the more remote sections of the mine were rescued. These men, who were overcome by smoke, were revived after being brought out.|
|1906||Edison Tunnel Cave-in, Bakersfield, California — Rescuers worked around the clock to release Lindsay B. Hicks from his tomb in the Edison Tunnel near Bakersfield, California. Trapped there with five other miners on December 7, Hicks’ freedom finally came after his 15 day entrapment. He was the only survivor. On December 12, speaking through a pipe, Hicks told rescuers that he had survived on 40 cents of chewing tobacco. Victory finally came for his rescuers on December 22nd at 11:25 p.m. Source document.|
|1907||Monongah Mine Explosion, Monongah, West Virginia In his book, Davitt McAteer tells about Monongah survivor Peter Urban. Urban, a Polish immigrant, was found by rescuers sitting on the body of his injured brother, Stanislaus, trying to protect him.
"Peter and Stanislaus had run to escape the explosion, but Stanislaus fell and Peter stopped to try and help him up," McAteer writes.
"He was unable to move Stanislaus, and they remained there for five and a half hours. Underground, the rescuers attempted to remove Stanislaus, but just then, he expired. Stanislaus, a father of four, would be brought out days later."
On Oct. 9, 1926, almost 19 years later, Peter Urban was killed by a fall of coal in the same Monongah Mine. Source document.
|1908||Lick Branch Mine Explosion, Switchback, West Virginia — At 11 o'clock p.m., 8 hours after the explosion, eighteen of the entombed men had been taken out of the colliery alive. They had been stifled by smoke and were not seriously injured enough to make their removal to a hospital necessary.|
|Unnamed Coal Mine Cave-in, Brockwayville, Pennsylvania — William P. Harris, 30, boss mine driver, assisted in an attempt to rescue Michele Rubino, 28, miner, and helped to rescue Francis P. De Santis, 28, miner, from a mine cave-in, Brockwayville, Pennsylvania, December 12, 1908. De Santis and two others were trying to rescue Rubino, who had been caught by a fall of rock, when a second fall occurred, catching DeSantis’s trouser leg and pinning him to the floor. While other falls impended, Harris crawled close enough to hand De Santis a knife, with which he freed himself. Rubino, along with his two companions, Guiseppe Petruccelli, and Vincenzo Stefanelli, when released, were found to be dead. Mr. De Santis survived. For their demonstrated bravery in the rescue operation, Messrs. Harris, Petruccelli (posthumously), and Stefanelli (posthumously) were bestowed the Carnegie Hero Award. Source document.|
|1909||Mine A Explosion and Fire, Herrin, Illinois — James Guinney, Superintendent of the mine, and Robert Hueston, manager, headed the first relay of rescuers within five minutes of the explosion. Despite the blackdamp, they penetrated the workings. After sending to the surface three unconscious persons they found the first of the deceased miners. Afterdamp then forced them to retreat.|
|1910||Greeno Mine Explosion, Tacoma, Virginia — Four miners were either rescued or otherwise made their way to the surface after more than twelve hours following the explosion in the Greeno mine which killed eight. The four included John Swede, James Rosenburg, John Ritsky, and G. E. Lehman. Rosenburg was badly burned on his head, face and hands. The others were reported to be in good condition. Note: corrected name spellings are taken from the final accident investigation report.|
|1911||Five miners were found alive after 58 hours following an explosion in the Cross Mountain mine at Briceville, Tennessee. Discovery of Andrew Johnson was made when a dead miner was found in a sitting position in one of the interior chambers. Johnson and the other men were suffering from blackdamp. Source document.|
|1912||Copper Mountain Avalanche, Cordova, Alaska Nine miners were killed when a snow slide on Copper Mountain carried away seven buildings of the Great Northern Development Company. Two miners, John McCarthy and a Japanese named Kee, were rescued after an undisclosed period. McCarthy was seriously injured about the body and Kee's legs were broken. Source document.|
|1915||A rock slide choked the main gangway in the Newcastle Mine of the Pacific Coast Coal Company near Seattle, Washington, trapping Thomas Zathias for nine hours. Rescuers expected to find his crushed body when they broke through the 60 feet of debris, but instead, they found him calmly sitting on his dinner bucket, awaiting deliverance. Source document.|
|1916||Fidelity No. 9 Mine Explosion, Stone City, Kansas — Eleven miners were rescued from the Fidelity No. 9 mine after an undisclosed period. Overcome by the toxic gases, these men had to be resuscitated by pulmotor. Some of those rescued were badly burned.|
|Oliphant-Johnson No. 1 Mine Explosion, Bruceville, Indiana — 42 miners were rescued from behind two barricades 2¾ hours after an explosion in the Oliphant-Johnson No. 1 Mine at Bruceville, Indiana. There were 25 miners in one group and 17 in another. Two miners were killed in this incident. Source document.|
|1917||Acme Mine Explosives Detonation, Fleming, Kentucky — Four men entered the mine on a Sunday to blast some holes; after the holes were loaded and lighted, they started to leave the mine, but when they were about 500 feet from the point of blasting, all the holes went off at about the same time. A rush of wind down the entry caught the men and extinguished their carbide lights.
Two men jumped into a room and the other two stayed on the entry. The rush of wind was followed by a gust of flame. The two men that stayed in the entry were badly burned but were able to make their way out of the mine, where they were found by a rescue party.
The rescue party found the other two men, both badly burned, in the room into which they had gone. Their lights had been put out by the explosion and they had become so badly confused that they were unable to find their way out. All four men had entered the mine without the consent of the mine officials.
|1923||Unnamed Clay Mine Cave-in, Brazil, Indiana — Reuben A. Brown, 50, mine driver, attempted to save Andrew J. Hamilton, 35, clay miner, from a mine cave-in, Brazil, Indiana, December 3, 1923. Hamilton was caught under a fall of shale in a cross cut in a clay mine. Brown, who was 14 feet from Hamilton, hurried to him but was unable to lift a large slab of shale that rested on his back. Three other miners were attracted, and as Brown and two of them attempted to lift the slab off Hamilton, a second fall occurred. Brown was struck and held fast against the wall, and one of the miners, J. Franklin Elson, was instantly killed. Four other miners then arrived, and although bits of shale continued to drop, they freed Brown and Hamilton. Hamilton sustained a broken arm and cuts and bruises. Brown was severely lacerated and bruised and was disabled five weeks. The following men were given the Carnegie Hero Award for their bravery: Reuben A. Brown; J. Herbert Batchelor; Amos J. Stamper; R. Delane Tabor; Walter Penman; Robert F. Buchholz; John E. Martin; and J. Franklin Elson (posthumously). Source document.|
|1925||Overton No. 2 Mine Explosion, Acmar, Alabama — A Negro miner owed his escape to his mule. Back somewhere in the pit when the gas was worst and conditions appeared darkest for the entombed men, out through the slope opening flashed a big fat mule. Clinging to the mule's tail was the Negro who had become temporarily blinded by the blast and took this means of saving himself. He said he knew the mule would "get out if there was any getting."|
|Cardinal Mine Fire, Nederland, Colorado — 20 miners were rescued from behind a barricade sixteen hours after a fire in the Cardinal gold mine in Colorado. One miner was killed in the incident. Source document.|
|1929||Old Town Mine Explosion, McAlester, Oklahoma — Two miners found their exit blocked after the explosion. At this point, one of these men, Frank Gonzales, saw a third miner, Arnold Kissinger, collapse. Mr. Gonzales and the second miner, Joe Ponsella, next dragged Mr. Kissinger into a room where there wasn't much smoke and worked with him for about three hours. "After a while, said Gonzales, when no one came to help us, we believed we would die. I said my prayers but I was not scared." Rescue workers reached the three men five hours after the explosion.|
|East No. 5 Mine Explosion, Stotesbury, West Virginia — 12 miners were rescued from behind a barricade three hours after an explosion in the East No. 5 mine in West Virginia. Two miners were killed in the incident. Source document.|
|1932||Morgan Jones Mine Explosion, Madrid, New Mexico — Following the first impact of the explosion, some ten men near the outer edge of the area made a dash for the main passageway. Three of these, including Jimmie Taylor, 19, son of H. L. Taylor, assistant superintendent of the company's Madrid mines, were overcome. They were picked up and carried out safely by their comrades. Andrew Sampria, rushing out, picked up a prostrate form and carried it with him. When he had reached the area of clean air, he learned that it was his own son, Pete, he had rescued.|
|1935||Wolf Run Mine Explosion, Amsterdam, Ohio — 20 miners were rescued from behind a barricade 1 to 2 hours after an explosion in the Wolf Run mine at Amsterdam, Ohio. Four miners were killed in the incident. Source document.|
|1940||December 31, 1940 — 18 hours after a 70-foot roof fall entrapment in the Rochester & Pittsburgh Coal Company’s Kent No. 2 Mine in McIntyre, PA, the following miners were rescued: Edgar Swan, Louis Canton, J. Fulmer, Leland Stutchell and Paul Cochran. Six months later, a mine explosion in the Kent No. 2 mine would take the lives of 7 miners. Source document.|
|No. 4 Mine Explosion, Beckley, West Virginia — Soon after the explosion in the No. 4 mine, five men were brought out and taken to hospitals. The injured included Albert Wade, Harry Sexton, Joe Saunders, Roy Hill, and John Dalton. Physicians said Sexton may die but the others would probably recover.|
|1945||Belva No. 1 Mine Explosion, Fourmile, Kentucky — Approximately 3 hours after the explosion, nine miners barricaded themselves noting, "nine miners in here, 11 a.m. Thursday" on a pile of slate. More than 50 hours later, they were discovered and brought to the surface. The first out and the oldest of the group was Al Bennett. He died while awaiting rescue. The other eight miners were: Charles Lingar; McKinley Leath; William Branstutt; Ivan Philpot; Joe Hatfield; Huey Miller; Tom McQueen; and Bud Towns. Mr. McQueen died a few hours after the rescue. Mr. Towns died several months after he was rescued.|
|1950||His life saved by the same huge beam that kept him prisoner for 54 hours, John Wolti was freed from his tomb by rescuers in the Big 4 coal mine at Selleck, Washington. Wolti was brought out of the mine with a crushed arm and suffering from shock and was expected to be hospitalized for a week to ten days. Source document.|
|1951||One miner, Cecil Sanders, was rescued after 60 hours from the Orient No. 2 coal mine in West Frankfort, Illinois following an explosion which killed 119. At that time, this disaster was the nation's worst in the preceding 23 years. Source document.|
|1957||Mine No. 31 Explosion, Amonate, Virginia — Fourteen miners were trapped for six hours, but were rescued unharmed. They had protected themselves from poisonous fumes by stretching canvas over openings in the shaft. Woodrow Evans, 44, of Amonate, foreman of the 14-man group rescued at about 1 a.m., said his men remained calm during their wait and "some of them even ate their lunch." The 14 joined their families at the surface and went home to rest.|
|1964||Unnamed Anthracite Coal Mine Cave-in, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania — Frank J. Di Andriole helped to rescue Peter A. Byczkowski from a mine cave-in. After another cave-in, the mine was cleared of all rescue workers, who by then had dug a tunnel six feet into the debris to find that Byczkowski was alive. In a rescue that took 2½ hours, Di Andriole and Clair S. Sigworth, a mine inspector, were able to remove the debris and carry Byczkowski to safety. Several hours later another cave-in occurred in the area, and it required six days to uncover the body of a man who had been buried with Byczkowski. Messrs. Di Andriole and Sigworth were awarded the Carnegie Hero Award for their bravery. Source document.|
|1967||Abandoned Clay Mine Rescue, Wellsville, Ohio — After becoming lost in the abandoned clay mine for 30 hours, Mike Sanfrey, age 19, and Harry Reibold, age 18 were located and rescued by Columbiana County Sheriff’s deputies. The youths were found more than a mile from the mouth of the mine. Source document.|
|1970||Loren Hinkle was rescued after his 24-hour entombment following a roof fall in the Leckie Coal Company mine near Anjean, West Virginia. Rescuers delivered water and orange juice through a two-inch emergency air vent while they dug him out. Killed in the accident were R. B. Crookshanks and Charles Pitzenbarger. Ironically, Hinkle previously escaped death in a mine fire and another roof collapse. Source document.|
|1972||Itmann Coal Company, Itmann No. 3 Mine Explosion — Three miners were brought out by rescue crews about six hours after the explosion. They were identified as Larry Bailey, 23, of Brenton; Dallas Mullins, 32, of Pineville; and Jerry Billings. All three were said to be in critical condition.|
|1987||Charles Simpson, Jr. was rescued 19 hours after a roof fall accident at the Slate Top Coal Company mine near Woodbine, Kentucky. Source document.|
|2017||Abandoned Mine Shaft Rescue, Golden, Colorado — A 15-year-old was pulled from an abandoned mine shaft near Golden Colorado after more than 3 hours. Crews with the West Metro Fire Rescue rushed to rescue the teenager who was trapped in the old mine shaft. The boy was climbing in the old mine shaft when his rope snapped and he fell about 60 feet down the deep hole. He was already 40 feet down when he fell, so rescuers had to bring him up from 100 feet below. He was rushed to St. Anthony’s Hospital for treatment of a broken leg.|
|Rescuer Deaths in December|
|1907||Monongah Nos. 6 and 8 Mine Explosion, Monongah, West Virginia John Narey died in the mine rescue effort during the mine disaster at Monongah Mine, West Virginia Dec. 6, 1907. (from an article in the "Latrobe Bulletin," Latrobe, PA, Dec. 18, 1907.) In all, three men are said to have lost their lives in the rescue work at Monongah, apparently overcome with smoke or poisonous gases lingering in the mines because they had no proper equipment for entering exploding mines, or proper equipment to revive rescuers or miners who had succumbed to their smoke and poisonous gases.|
|1908||Unnamed Coal Mine Cave-in, Brockwayville, Pennsylvania — William P. Harris, 30, boss mine driver, assisted in an attempt to rescue Michele Rubino, 28, miner, and helped to rescue Francis P. De Santis, 28, miner, from a mine cave-in, Brockwayville, Pennsylvania, December 12, 1908. De Santis and two others were trying to rescue Rubino, who had been caught by a fall of rock, when a second fall occurred, catching DeSantis’s trouser leg and pinning him to the floor. While other falls impended, Harris crawled close enough to hand De Santis a knife, with which he freed himself. Rubino, along with his two companions, Guiseppe Petruccelli, and Vincenzo Stefanelli, when released, were found to be dead. Mr. De Santis survived. For their demonstrated bravery in the rescue operation, Messrs. Harris, Petruccelli (posthumously), and Stefanelli (posthumously) were bestowed the Carnegie Hero Award. Source document.|
|1921||Satanic Mine Fire, Morrison, Colorado Six men were killed by firedamp in the Satanic coal mine of the Colorado Collieries Company, when they attempted to place a bulkhead on the 100-foot level of an abandoned shaft, used as an air course, to stop a fire. The only man brought to the surface, apparently still alive, was Eugene F. Bovie, Sr., of Morrison, father of a young miner, who was overcome when he attempted to rescue his son.|
|No. 1 Mine Explosion, Ellsworth, Pennsylvania On December 31, 1921, Albert Gilmore, a section foreman, lost his life in the No. 1 mine of the Ellsworth Collieries Company, Ellsworth, Pennsylvania, while wearing a Gibbs 2-hour oxygen breathing apparatus following a local mine explosion.|
|1925||Cardinal Mine Fire, Nederland, Colorado — Charles Hjurguist died while he and three others were searching for two miners trapped in the Cardinal Gold Mine fire and cave-in on December 4 near Nederland, Colorado. One of the trapped men died in the fire and the other was removed in serious condition and hospitalized. Three other smoke-affected rescuers were also hospitalized in serious condition. Source document.|
|1985||No. 2 Slope Afterdamp Asphyxiation, Carlstown, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania Rick Wolfgang helped his injured brother from the No. 2 Slope of the MS&W Coal Company, but perished when he returned to the 4-foot wide tunnel to try to save his father, Gene Wolfgang. Toxic gas flooded the area after the men set off a dynamite charge in the mine. Frank Benner also perished in the accident.|
|Mine Rescue Research Documents|
|Successful Mine Rescues (MS Word format)
Listed in descending chronological order, this file contains hundreds of successful rescues in the United States. See more.
|Incidents of Rescuer Death (MS Word format)
Listed in descending chronological order, this file contains more than 100 incidents of rescuer death in the United States. See more.
|Carnegie Hero Award Recipients (MS Excel format)
Inspired by the bravery that Daniel A. Lyle and Selwyn M. Taylor displayed at the Harwick Mine Disaster in 1904, Andrew Carnegie started the Carnegie Hero Fund . The file linked here includes awardees associated with mining along with additional resources which you may find interesting.