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Pacific Coast Coal Company
Black Diamond Mine Cave-in

Black Diamond, King County, Washington
December 22, 1920
No. Killed – 4



Victims were instantly killed by a fall of rock caused by a bump.

The deceased:
  • Frank Bussey, 63
  • Joe Grill, 40
  • Charles Heavilin (Hevlin), 38
  • Frank Navone, 53
Source: Washington Mining Fatalities, 1885-1960  (1.1 Mb)  PDF Format


Miners Buried in Slide

The Tacoma Daily Ledger
Tacoma, Washington
December 23, 1920

Rescue Work Being Rushed but no Hopes of Reaching Victims Alive are Entertained

Seattle, Dec. 22 --- Four men are entombed by a cave-in on the 11th level of the Pacific Coast Coal Company’s mine at Black Diamond.

One hundred volunteers fellow mine workers are tolling in two-hour shifts in desperate hope of rescuing their companions, although S. H. Green, manager of the mines for the Pacific Coast Company who is directing the rescue work, says there is no possibility that the men will be found alive as they were caught in a small area deep underground.

The entombed men are: Carl Hevlin, Joe Grill, Frank Bussy, and Frank Nivone, all residents of BIack Diamond.

The slide occurred early today when the 11th level was filled with workmen.  The shoring in the level gave way precipitating tons of coal and rock into the tunnel and cutting off the four men from their comrades.

At first it was believed that more men were behind the great barrier of rock dirt and coal but a check of the company’s pay roll showed only four unaccounted for.

At 9 o'clock this evening it could not be determined how long it would take to reach the men or their bodies.  The volunteers were prepared to work constantly, until the tons of debris were removed.

There were many affecting scenes around the mouth of the mine during the day.  All of the victims were widowers but they had many relatives and friends who crowded about the superintendent's office awaiting word from the level where the rescuers were working.

At first there was some hope that one or more of the entombed men might be found alive but this hope was dispelled when the exact nature or the disaster became known and gradually the crowd disappeared until there were only those concerned in the rescue work.

The spot where the tragedy was enacted was on the lowest level of one of the deepest mines in America.  It is about half a mile vertically below ground and a mile and three-quarters from the mouth along the inclines over which the miners travel.  The exact location of the cave-in is Pillar No. 39 of the 11th south gangway at the southeasternmost corner of the mine.

The four victims of the disaster constituted what is known as a pillar crew whose duty it is to take out pillars of coal one at a time.  The mine is what is known as a chute and pillar mine, the coal being removed by cutting each level into pillars approximately 60 feet square and then attacking each pillar separately, the coal being sent down chutes to a general gangway where it is loaded into cars.

The pillars are cut down by taking "skips" (triangular sections) off on each side and then removing the remaining triangular block of coal.  The two miners of the crew do the actual cutting while the other two men follow them and brace up the roof with timbers.

The crew had just finished the first skip — a triangle measuring about 45 feet in its altitude and 30 at the base — when the roof caved in.  The ventilation is good in the section of the mine where the disaster occurred so the rescue teams were not bothered by gas but the space In which they are able to work is so small that their activities were much restricted and only slow progress could be made.

The main gangway is only eight feet wide and six feet high while the chute is but six wide and five high This made it impossible for more than 20 men to crowd into the passageway and they worked in relays.  "It will be extremely difficult to affix blame for the disaster," Inspector Bagley said after going down to the level and viewing the cave-in at first hand.  "It's simply one of those things that happen.  Whether it was a jar from the surface or merely the removal of too much support from the roof probably will never be ascertained."

Bussey, one of the victims of the disaster was the oldest man in point of service in the employ of the mine.  He had been employed at the mine for more than 30 years.  The entire crew in fact was composed of veterans.

Bussey is survived by three daughters and a son — Mrs. Roy Carson, Mrs. Andel Weston, Mrs. Andrew Haag, and Roy Bussey.  Hevlin leaves two children, and Grill had a married daughter.  Nivone had no relatives in this country as far as the company knows.




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