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Citizens Coal Company
City Mine Explosion

Sullivan, Sullivan County, Indiana
February 20, 1925
No. Killed - 51

USBM Final Accident Investigation Report  (5.4 Mb)  
Tribune-Star News Article  
Terra Haute, Indiana
by Tamie Dehler
(includes the official list of fatalities)

Successful Rescue

Emery Davidson of Sullivan was the first injured man to be brought from the workings after an undisclosed period.  He had a badly crushed chest, suffered when slate and rock loosened from the roof of the mine by the blast fell on him.

50 Miners Trapped by Explosion
Cedar Rapids Republican, Iowa
February 20, 1925

Sullivan, Ind., Feb. 20 -- Approximately fifty miners were trapped this afternoon in the City Coal mine one mile east of here by an explosion which wrecked the mine.

Bodies of two men killed in the blast were brought to the surface, according to one mine official, but this report could not be confirmed.

The mine is filled with gas and the fate of the imprisoned men is unknown.

A rescue squad of twenty picked men equipped with gas masks has just entered the workings in an effort to reach the men.

120 in Mine

One hundred and twenty men were in the mine at the time of the explosion, the cause of which has not yet been determined.

Every mine rescue team in the Indiana and southern Illinois coal fields has been ordered to rush to the scene.

Every available doctor in Sullivan County was called to the shaft of the mine to be ready for any emergency.

Cots from stores in Sullivan were requisitioned and placed near the entrance to the mine as the rescue squad went down.

Emery Davidson of Sullivan was the first injured man to be brought from the workings.  He had a badly crushed chest, suffered when slate and rock loosened from the roof of the mine by the blast fell on him.

Thousands at Scene

Thousands of persons, including wives and children of the trapped miners, flocked to the scene of the explosion.  Authorities had difficulty in keeping the crowd back from the shaft.  The on-lookers at hand hindered efforts to organize rescue work.

The explosion occurred in the northeast shaft of the mine, where the fifty trapped men are held by a cave-in of rock and dirt.

The men in the opposite side of the mine were not affected by the explosion and made their way to the surface without assistance.

The mine had been in operation for less than a year.

Twenty-Three Bodies Recovered from Mine
Oelwein Daily Register, Iowa
February 21, 1925

Sullivan, Ind., Feb. 21. -- A total of twenty three bodies this afternoon had been taken from the city mine near here in which fifty-one coal diggers were killed by an explosion.  Some of the remaining twenty-eight bodies have been brought to the surface.

The number of bodies in the morgue was increased by two shortly after 2 p.m. when an unidentified man and Blaine Gibson were brought up in a lift.

Sullivan, Ind., Feb. 21. -- The dead in the City mine disaster here totals fifty, mine officials declared today as workers dug desperately to reach thirty-four men entombed in the diggings.  Sixteen bodies have been recovered.

Rescue crews came to the top at 7 a.m., and announced they feared a "squeeze" in rooms three and four of the north end.  If the slide occurs some of the bodies will be buried in the earth slide, they said.

This report tended to speed up rescue work, men racing with time to carry out the remaining thirty-four bodies from the west entry rooms.  There is no question but what all men are dead.

S. J. Wilton, deputy state mine inspector, said that no one could possibly be alive.

A "squeeze" following an explosion, is a sinking of the earth and all man power cannot check its course.  It is reported to be sinking an inch an hour.

In this section of the mine the rooms are only four feet ten inches high.

All men were cleared from the mine at six o'clock last night for a test of the air.  It was four hours before workers again went into the mine.  They reappeared explaining they could only go 700 feet back on account of gas.

When the next body is hoisted to the top is a question of time.  It may be momentarily or it may never be, if all the bodies lie in the section affected by the squeeze.

T. O. Thomas, check weighman at the mine, said this morning that if all men were in their right positions at the time of the disaster, twenty-one would be buried by the "squeeze" and thirteen would be scattered on other sections of the mine.  Recovery of the latter bodies will be difficult, he said.

Although Inspector Wilton refused to comment on any possible squeeze, he did report numerous rock, slate and dirt falls which would delay rescuers.  It took two hours, according to Wilton to reroute the rescuers in their "crawl" through the mile.  The men are forced to push air before them.  This work is slow.  Two rescue teams of six men each are relieved every two hours by fresh teams.

One hundred and thirty-five men were in the mine when the explosion occurred yesterday.  Eighty-four men, many bleeding at the nose and black in the face, crawled up the airshaft within half an hour after the explosion.  Bleeding at the nose is caused by the men sticking two fingers in their nose as far as possible to keep out the gas as they crawled slowly to the top.

The first injured man brought was Emery Davidson, seriously injured by falling slate near the mouth of the mine.  He will probably recover.  Check Weighman Thomas and Inspector Wilton, in a final check this morning, of those in the mine, said they know of only thirty-four bodies remaining in the mine.

Automobile after automobile loaded with miners from all over Sullivan county and surrounding counties began arriving as early as 4 o'clock this morning.

State motor police, ex-service men and Boy Scouts were aiding police to keep automobiles distant at least a mile from the cave.

One of the most tragic figures of the affair is John Slieder, mine engineer, who sent 135 men into the mine for their daily tasks.  He worked throughout the night and this morning he still refused to leave the mine and back to the surface.

"I sent them into the mine; I'm going to hoist every one of them to the top before I quit," he replies obdurately to every attempt to relieve him.

Slieder's face is a ghastly mask of suffering.  He stands tense and expectant for the signal to lift the cage.

Sandwiches and hot coffee was served throughout the night to the rescue workers, volunteers and bystanders.  The temporary Red Cross barracks erected served as an emergency hospital for fainting women.

The gas explosion was not heard above the ground.  Check Weighman Thomas, who was on top of the 130 foot tipple said he heard a sizzling noise and then a violent gust of air from the cageway as it struck the top of the tipple, rocking it and shaking tin from the siding.

Russell Stewart, fire boss at the mine, was the first to enter the mine after the explosion.  Equipped with only a safety lamp he braved the dangers of the "afterdamp" in order to get lined up on where his men were.  Stewart remained in the mine for four hours.  He was hoisted to the top on a stretcher, physicians reviving him.

Later Steve Williams, one of the eighty-four who escaped from the air shaft fell to the ground bleeding and choking violently.  As soon as he recovered he was again on his way into the mine to rescue, if possible, his less fortunate fellow workers.

Others followed him.  Every rescuer going into the mine this morning was thoroughly searched by inspectors for matches and other substances which might ignite gas.

Men going down into the mine now do now know whether they will come out alive.  Slate falls, gas, afterdamp and possible explosions now endanger the life of every rescue worker.

Sullivan, Ind., Feb. 21. -- With the hoisting of the body of Harry Anderson, mine superintendent, to the top shortly before noon today, thirty-three bodies yet remain in the mine to be recovered.  Anderson was the eighteenth victim to be taken from the mine that took the lives of fifty-one men.

Sullivan, Ind., Feb. 21. -- Working under favorable air conditions, for the present, rescue workers redoubled their efforts shortly after noon today as a result of which three more bodies were hoisted to the surface.  This makes twenty-one bodies recovered and thirty yet to be reached.

The nineteenth body brought to the top was identified as Frank Cottingham and the twentieth as that of John Collins.  The twenty-first body was said at the mine to be Earl Robertson, but there was some dispute at the morgue as to the identification.

Final official correction makes the seventeenth body recovered identified as that of Russell Dowdy.

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