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American Smelting and Refining Company
Carbon Coal & Coke Company
Cokedale Mine Explosion

Trinidad, Las Animas County, Colorado
February 9, 1911
No. Killed - 17

USBM Final Investigation Report  (7.2 Mb)  PDF Format

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Successful Mine Rescues

The Cokedale mine was wrecked by an explosion on February 9.  There were seventeen men in the mine at the time of the explosion, and only two shot-firers were rescued after an undisclosed period.  Superintendent Bailess of the company declared that the explosion was due to the accidental discharge of blasting powder.  The mine is owned by the American Smelting and Refining company.  Note: the news article called this the Gale Mine, however, the actual mine name is Cokedale, according to the final investigation report.  Source document PDF Format

(From Bureau of Mines Report, by J. C. Roberts)

At about 9 p.m. the explosion forced dense volumes of flame, smoke, and dust out of the main slope and fan shaft with frightful violence.  Cars and timbers were hurled out of the slope, and the shock was felt in Trinidad, 9 miles away.  The explosion doors at the top of the fan shaft worked perfectly, and the fan did not stop.

Damage to the mine was moderate.  The explosion was caused by a blown-out shot in a room, accentuated by the detonation of a sack of dynamite left near the face of the room, and propagated by coal dust.

The explosive used was 40 percent nitroglycerin dynamite.  Coal was supposed to be undercut by hand, but some places were shot on the solid.  Clay was used for stemming.  All holes were loaded and fired by shot firers after the shift had checked out.  A complete electric blasting system had been installed but had been abandoned because of the men cutting the wires.  Sprinkling was done but not in rooms.  The mine was dusty.

A chief shotfirer and 8 assistants were in the mine with 8 entry men; 2 of the shot firers escaped, but the others were killed.  Two mine officials attempted rescue with helmets; one collapsed and died.  Another man without apparatus was suffocated while trying to reach him.  The only trained men were the shot firers.  Helmet crews from other mines arrived later and recovered the bodies.

Rescuer Deaths

On February 9, 1911, E. A. Sutton, assistant superintendent of the Cokedale mine of the Carbon Coal & Coke Company, Carbondale, Colorado, lost his life while wearing a Draeger helmet-type oxygen breathing apparatus after an explosion in this mine in which 17 men were killed.

This company was one of the first in Colorado to install oxygen breathing apparatus, but only three apparatus were purchased and available at the time of the explosion.  Sutton had worn the apparatus on only two previous occasions, for periods of one-half hour each, and therefore was not thoroughly familiar with its operation.

Sutton and a superintendent from a neighboring mine each put on an apparatus and left the third at the fresh-air base in reserve.  When they had traveled a considerable distance from the fresh-air base, his companion, who was traveling about 150 feet behind Mr. Sutton, saw him struggle with his apparatus and suddenly fall.  The companion immediately returned to fresh air for help.

After considerable delay, two workmen volunteered to go after Sutton without the aid of respiratory protection.  When they reached a point within about 100 yards of where he was lying, one collapsed and the other returned to fresh air.

Thirty minutes thereafter additional apparatus crews arrived and recovered the bodies of Sutton and the workman.  They were treated with a pulmotor for more than an hour, but neither could be revived.

Examination of Sutton's apparatus revealed that one of the potash cartridges had not been connected at the bottom.  This permitted the injector to pull in outside air, which presumably contained carbon monoxide.

In the same incident, Robert Meek, a volunteer rescuer, also lost his life.  Meek fell unconscious from blackdamp after venturing ahead of the air circuit.  He died a few minutes after he was carried out of the mine.  Source document  PDF Format

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

15 Entombed in Model Mine
Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado
February 10, 1911

Trinidad, Feb. 9. -- Fifteen miners are entombed and may be dead as the result of an explosion in the Cokedale mine of the Carbon Coal and Coke Company, eight miles west of Trinidad tonight.  Seventeen men were in the mine but two shot firers escaped two hours after the explosion.

The force of the explosion was distinctly felt at Trinidad, and seems to have been greatest in the main slope.  Timbers were blown 200 feet from the mouth of the slope, but the explosion seems to have been attended by no serious falls of rocks.  The explosion wrecked the fan house but the fan was uninjured and is still working although the air has been "short circuited" by the blowing out of brattices and doors.

Twenty rescuers are working desperately to reach the more remote parts of the mine where the 15 men are supposed to have been working.

The rescue work is under direction of E. F. Layliss, general superintendent, and E. A. Sutton, assistant superintendent, who led the first party into the wrecked workings.  The rescue party has penetrated 2,000 feet along the main slope.  At that distance black damp was encountered and helmet men are now making their way through the poisonous gas, bratticing the entries as they advance.

Trained rescue men are being rushed to Cokedale from all over the district.  The government mine rescue car in charge of J. C. Roberts, which was at Berwind, has been summoned, and the rescue car of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company is on the way to the wrecked mine.

There are five exits from the Cokedale mine, and none but the main slope was injured.  It is hoped some of the men in the mine may make their way from one of these exits.

The two shot firers who escaped were working near the surface in No. 5 entry, and while both were overcome with gas, they were able to go to their homes without assistance.

There were no harrowing scenes around the pit mouth tonight such as have been common at other coal mine disasters.  The miners on the surface are thoroughly organized and the majority are engaged in carrying supplies to the rescue party.

The cause of the explosion is unknown, but it seems most improbable that it could have been an explosion of dust.  Precautions against the accumulation of dust were most strictly enforced at Cokedale.  The mine was furnished with water pipes throughout and a force of men was employed constantly in sprinkling and removing dust.

The Cokedale mine has been operated for four years and the camp was known as the model coal camp of America.  The property is owned by the American Smelting and Refining company and supplies the Guggenheim smelters.  It is said that more money has been expended in equipping the mine with safety appliances and modern equipment than at any coal mine in America.

List of Casualties:
  • Karl Francis, married
  • John Freisch, 35, married
  • Joe Ghezzl
  • Likas Gozndek
  • B. Hodbod
  • Ludwig Klapoch
  • Joseph Makrosh
  • Joe Malach
  • Robert Meek, 48, married
  • Karl Piecha
  • Andy Podzorsky
  • Andy Ranevsky
  • Rudolph Seliga
  • E. Sutton
  • Doniono Tabarelli, 37, single
  • Fortunato Tretter, 35, married
  • Fortunato Zanot, 33, married

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