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Mine Disasters in the United States


Berwind-White Coal Company
Mine No. 38 Inundation

Foustwell, Somerset County, Pennsylvania
Fri., Apr. 26 Tues., Apr. 30, 1907
No. Killed 0



Additional Berwind-White Coal Company Mine Disasters:


Successful Rescue

Seven miners were rescued after 100 hours in the flooded Mine No. 38 of the Berwind-White Operations at Foustwell, Pennsylvania.  Their rescue was made possible by the bravery of Stiney Rodon and Charles Ream who located the men by swimming 50 feet through a water-filled heading.  Earlier, four others made a similar attempt, but were unsuccessful and returned half-drowned.  Mike Boyla, a mine contractor, took charge of the group of trapped men and led them to the highest point in the heading where they waited for rescuers.  Source documentExternal Link


Their Fate Hinges on Speed of Pumps
Reno Evening Gazette, Reno, Nevada
April 27, 1907

Johnston, Pa., April 27. - Twelve men, all foreigners, are reported to be imprisoned in the Foustwell mine of the Berwind-White Coal Company in Somerset County.  Their fate is not known, nor will it be until a vast quantity of water has been pumped out and this may require a couple days.

Meanwhile there is the wildest excitement among the relatives and friends of the imprisoned men.

Pumps have been going steadily since the accident but they are not making much headway and it is not known how great a body of water remained to be removed.  The cause of the flooding of the mines will not be known until the rescuing party can gain an entrance.

It is believed the men at their work tapped and old mine that was full of water in which case there would probably be no chance for their escape, while if the water rose more slowly from a burst pipe they would have a chance of safety by climbing up through the airshaft.

Even in the latter case it is doubtful they could survive for lack of air.

At 2:45 o'clock Mine Superintendent Meighan, who is the head of the rescuing party, succeeded in getting a signal over the pump line and it is now known that some of the men are alive.

It was then said all but seven had been accounted for.


Miners Still Alive
Indiana Evening Gazette, Indiana, Pennsylvania
April 29, 1907

Johnstown, Pa., April 29. - Despite the fact that 12 large pumps have been in operation for two days at Mine No. 38 of the Berwind-White company at Foustwell, where seven men have been imprisoned since Friday by a flood of water from abandoned workings, so little progress has been made that the miners may not be reached until too late to save their lives.

All day the tapping on the compressed air pipes has continued.  The rescuing party is greatly puzzled over the manner in which these taps are given.  Invariably the number is seven.  Whether the miners on the other side of the flooded headings mean that they are in No. 7 heading south off second right heading or whether they mean that seven men are living, is merely a matter of conjecture.  There is no possible way of reaching them in the No. 7 south heading until the main heading is pumped dry.

The flood was due to the breaking away of a wall between north and south headings off first and second right headings.  The south headings off first were all filled with water.  Men had been ordered to make the opening.  Just why no one realized that the quantity of imprisoned water was great enough to occasion much damage will be a matter for official investigation.

The men who set off the explosion were able to reach safety.  Those on the other side of the chamber were caught.  The men caught were all in the employ of Michael Boyla, a contractor who alone knows their names.

Mine Inspector J. T. Evans of this city went into the openings with Superintendent Thomas of the Berwind-White company.  These experts, upon returning to the outer air, gave it as their opinion that a rescue would e impossible until sometime this evening at the earliest.  The miners have now been shut off from the world for over 72 hours.  Their supply of food has long since been exhausted and it is only a question of time until the supply of air in the heading in which they are imprisoned will be exhausted.


Miners are Rescued
Indiana Evening Gazette, Indiana, Pennsylvania
May 1, 1907

Johnstown, Pa., May 1 - After one of the most harrowing experiences in the mining annals of the state, the seven men who have been imprisoned by a flood in mine 38 of the Berwind-White operations at Foustwell since Saturday afternoon, were rescued last night alive and well.  For over 72 hours the men were hemmed in on all sides by a flood of water that had broken through from an abandoned working.  Their rescue is the result of the unceasing struggle against the rising waters made by the workmen and the officials of the Berwind-White operations.

The men were rescued at 10 o'clock by Stiney Rodon and Charles Ream, who made a dash through 50 feet of water-filled heading.  Earlier in the day John Boyla, a brother of one of one of the imprisoned men, and three comrades made a futile attempt to reach them.  These men came back half drowned and reported that portions of the heading were still completely filled with water and that more pumping would have to be done before the imprisoned men could be reached.  The efforts at pumping were redoubled at 10 o'clock, the water had so far gone down that it was resolved to make one more attempt to break through to the overcast, where it was believed the unfortunate men were still alive.

Two Men Volunteer

Stiney Rodon and Charles Ream volunteered for the service.  Like the party that set forth earlier in the day they left the pumping crew and plunged out into the water and darkness.  It was over an hour before either man was heard from and then Ream came swimming back through the heading, bringing the first news from the imprisoned seven.

The effort had nearly exhausted Ream.  He reported that the seven men were alive and all in good shape, but until more pumping was done the passage to the place where they had taken refuge was impassable to those who could not swim.

When the news was received that the seven men were alive, it was resolved to allow them to remain where they were until the heading had been pumped out.

Ream and his comrade carried to the imprisoned men simply a flask of brandy and a little water.  They reported that Mike Boyla had since the breaking of the walls between the abandoned workings and the present operations been in charge of the movements of his comrades.  Boyla, who is a mine contractor, was a man acquainted with every turn of the mine in which he was imprisoned.

Prisoners Find High Place

When the flood broke out, according to the story he told Ream, he led his comrades to the highest point in the heading where the "overcast" was situated.  Under Boyla's direction each man, before fleeing, seized his lunch basket.  When they arrived at the "overcast" every lamp but one was extinguished and one by one the lamps were each burned out until when they were reached by Rodon and Ream there was but a single light remaining and that in danger of running low at any time.

Boyla said the lamps were burned because the darkness and noise of the water rushing in the headings as it was driven back and forth by the expansion of air cushions caused by the floods was so terrifying that the men feared that their reason would leave them if left in darkness.  Boyla stated that of all the dangers they faced, the darkness was the most terrible.



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