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Pittsburgh & Eastern Coal Company
Cherry Valley Mine Fire

Cherry Valley, Washington County, Pennsylvania
January 21, 1912
No. Killed - 1

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Rescuer Death

On January 19, 1912, John Ferrell, in charge of a party of three other employees of the Bureau of Mines, entered the No. 2 mine of the Pittsburgh & Eastern Coal Company, Cherry Valley, Pennsylvania, to assist with the opening of a fire area that had been sealed on November 14, 1911.

An opening was made in one of the seals, and Ferrell and a coworker, wearing Draeger helmet-type apparatus, entered through a stopping to make an exploration to the seat of the fire, a distance of about 215 feet.

Within 5 minutes after entering, Ferrell's companion indicated that he was having difficulty with his apparatus and wished to return to fresh air.  Ferrell directed him to do so, indicating that he would follow.  When the distressed man reached the outside of the stopping he discovered that Ferrell had not followed him, as he expected.

Shortly after he reached the outside of the stopping he heard three raps on the trolley wire within the sealed area, indicating that Ferrell may have been in distress.  A second companion of Ferrell then entered the sealed area, wearing a Draeger mouthpiece-type apparatus, in an effort to locate him.  Returning in about five minutes, exhausted, he collapsed at the opening of the stopping, was pulled through to the outside, and revived by artificial respiration.

It later was determined that this man found Ferrell at the face of a room, lying on his back with his helmet off.  In trying to get Ferrell out through a narrow space between the rib and a car the would-be rescuer's nose clip was dislodged, and after inhaling some of the bad air he was compelled to return to the fresh air without Ferrell.

A third companion, wearing a helmet-type apparatus, made three attempts to locate Ferrell but each time returned to the opening exhausted.  Later in the night additional men from the Bureau of Mines arrived from Pittsburgh and recovered the body of Ferrell.  The oxygen supply of his apparatus was found to be completely exhausted, but the pneumatic face cushion of the helmet, although not on his face, was still inflated.  A bruise on his forehead indicated that he had fallen and dislodged his helmet.

Subsequent tests on the apparatus worn by Ferrell at the time of his death revealed that the apparatus was defective to the extent that outside air could get into it.  Whether this defect occurred before the apparatus was taken to the mine, after it was taken into the mine, or at the time of the accident could not be determined.  The apparatus worn by the other two men were also found to be defective.

Source: Loss of Life Among Wearers of Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (April 1944) PDF Format

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