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Mine Disasters in the United States


Pennsylvania Coal and Coke Company
Ehrenfeld No. 3 Mine Explosion

Ehrenfeld, Cambria County, Pennsylvania
March 30, 1927
No. Killed 4

1927 Report of the Department of Mines of Pennsylvania  (570 Kb)  PDF Format
Terrific Mine Blast Claims But 4 Victims
Titusville Herald, Pennsylvania
March 31, 1927

Ehrenfeld, Pa., March 30 -- Three hundred coal miners of this region were safe in their homes tonight, survivors of one of the most terrific explosions in the history of the central Pennsylvania coal fields.  They walked to safety, unharmed by the terrifying blast, which took a toll of four lives.

The explosion ripped through mine No. 3, of the Pennsylvania Coal and Coke company shortly after noon, when the entire day shift was at work in the headings leading from the main drift.  The force of the blast was felt 10 miles away, rocking this mining village of 200 houses as if it were the center of an earthquake.

Hundreds of miners and members of the families of the men in the workings rushed to the mine mouth.  They held little hope for their fellow workers and loved ones, believing that a blast of such force would surely claim the life of every man in the underground tunnels.

Walk from Supposed Tomb

As they watched rescuers trying to push their way into the main incline, they saw a miner, besmeared with coal dust, walk erect from a nearby undamaged entry.  And still others followed.  The watchers at last realized these were survivors, stepping from what was believed to have been their tomb.  A great shout of joy went up as wives and children of the survivors pushed forward.  Later, through two other entries and air shafts, came other survivors.  Mine officials, checking off the living, finally found all accounted for excepting four.

In the meantime, rescue workers, recruited from all parts of the field, succeeded in making their way down the main drift.  Near where the blast is believed to have originated, they came upon four bodies.  These men, caught in the open tunnels had no chance to escape.  The others, at work in digging rooms off the main channels, were safe, as the blast passed them by and spent itself on the surface, where it damaged mine property and shattered every window in the village.

As nightfall came upon the scene, a rescue squad marched from the main drift bearing the bodies of the four victims.  Federal and state mine inspectors then went into the workings, hoping to ascertain the cause of the blast.  Company officials believed that a runaway string of cars broke a trolley wire, causing a spark which ignited coal dust.

Rescuers Gather Quickly

The mine, a union operation, is one of the largest drift mouth workings in the field, and had been operated since 1883.  Today's was the first explosion in its history.

Mining men at the scene marveled at the speed with which rescue workers were gathered.

The United States Bureau of Mines' rescue car, "Holmes," with a trained crew was rushed in from Derry, Pa.  Doctors, nurses, ambulances and undertakers came from Johnstown and other points in Cambria County.  Salvation Army girls were on hand, feeding the rescuers.

Of the three hundred survivors, only six needed aid to get from the mine.  These men were affected by afterdamp, but recovered quickly.

Damage within the mine was not great company officials said, and it will be shut down only for a few days.

Dr. Charles Barto, company physician, was not in the mine when the explosion occurred, but he was injured more seriously than any of the survivors.  The doctor was seated in the company office, about 100 feet from the mine mouth.  When the force of the blast ripped out of the drift, it shattered the office windows and the physician was caught in a shower of glass.  He received many cuts.

Pathos Has Its Part

While others rejoiced that their loved ones had been spared in the explosion, an aged mother walked about the Pennsylvania Coal and Coke corporation property tonight in a daze, asking again and again, "Where is my William?" Her son, William Connelly, was one of the four who met death.

This aged mother has not been told that William is dead, because her neighbors fear the shock might kill her.  Only a week ago death visited the Connelly home.  Another son, John, who worked in the mine with William until recently, answered the last call, a victim of gas he inhaled during the World War.

The other victims of today's explosion were Dan McConghey, John Fesko and John Shedlock, all of Ehrenfeld and South Fork.




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