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Jefferson and Clearfield Coal Company
Ernest No. 2 Mine Explosion

Ernest, Indiana County, Pennsylvania
February 11, 1916
No. Killed - 27

General Report of Explosion and news articles  (2.0 Mb)  PDF Format

See also: Ernest No. 2 Mine Explosion, Feb. 5, 1910

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Successful Rescue

Five miners were rescued alive, four of whom were transferred to the hospital and the fifth at his home in Ernest.  The patients in the hospital, all of whom were badly burned about the face, hands, and body and who were suffering from shock are: James McGuire, a member of the mine rescue team; W. R. Nord, Mike Carrel, and Tony Wilish.

No one on the outside heard the explosion. It was Jimmy Moody, the motorman, who brought the news to the surface.  Moody discovered the body of one of the miners only about a mile from the entrance. Hurrying back to the surface, he quickly summoned help.

One of the men, Ben O’Hara, was just walking out of the mine when he felt the force of the explosion on his back.  While on his way to the entrance of the mine he had passed George Bunton, Jr., going to work and as soon as O’Hara realized what had happened, he started back after his friend.  Before he reached Bunton, however, O’Hara encountered two other men lying on the floor of the mine.  He succeeded in dragging both fallen miners to safety and went back after Bunton but was unable to reach him.  Bunton’s body was brought to the surface shortly before 9:00 p.m. that evening.  The exact time of the tragedy was later determined from a watch found hanging from a pocket of one of the dead men.  The watch was smashed, and the hands pointed to 3:20 p.m.  Source document PDF Format

(From the U. S. Bureau of Mines Report)

At 3:20 in the afternoon an explosion killed 27 men in the section of the mine that was affected and burned 4 others who escaped.  The 150 men in other sections and those on the outside were not aware of the explosion until word was brought out.

Gas over falls in a pillar area was ignited by an open light.  The force was not great, and the explosion was local.  Dust was ignited but did not carry the explosion, as haulageways were damp.  Open lights were used, except in some pillar sections and in a section in which an explosion in 1910 killed 12 men.

Rescuers Worked in Relays Through Night, But Hope is Abandoned of Finding Any More Living
The Newark Advocate, Ohio
February 12, 1916

Indiana, Pa., Feb. 12. -- Six bodies were today at noon added to the 19 already recovered from the mine of the Jefferson and Clearfield Coal and Iron Company at Ernest, where an explosion occurred late yesterday.  This brings the total known dead to 25 and engineers from the Pittsburgh station of the Bureau of Mines, conducting the search, expressed the belief that no more bodies would be found.  The men were buried under masses of earth and coal blown down by the explosion near the face of the entries.  It was said that exploration of that part of the mine affected by the explosion had been completed.

Rescuers worked in relays throughout the night in an effort to penetrate the workings of the Jefferson and Clearfield Coal and Iron Company's mine at Ernest, where an explosion occurred yesterday.  Eighteen bodies have been recovered at present but according to officials of the company six men are still entombed.

After the explosion occurred, rescue teams from neighboring mines were dispatched to the scene and work of searching the debris began.

Because of the condition of the mine however, this work progressed slowly.  A number of rescuers were overcome by gas, the condition of one, James McGuire, being so serious that it was necessary to bring him to a local hospital.

County authorities as well as state mine inspectors began an investigation of the accident today.

Soon after the arrival of the Bureau of Mines rescue car a report spread that three men still were alive in the mine and efforts were redoubled to reach the section where they were believed to be imprisoned, but resulted in bringing to light another man who had been killed.  The workings ahead of the rescue crews were found to be filled with after-damp and all hope of further rescue was abandoned.  Inquiry into the cause of the explosion was commenced today by Coroner H. B. Butterbaugh and officials of the company.  Later in the day the bodies were brought here for interment.

Funerals of Explosion Victims Held Today
Indiana Evening Gazette, Indiana, PA
February 14, 1916

Developments in the examination tending to determine the cause of the disastrous explosion in the Ernest mine last Friday afternoon, in which twenty-six miners lost their lives are going forward slowly and as yet County Coroner H. B. Butterbaugh has not received enough tangible evidence to proceed with the inquest.  Dr. Butterbaugh stated this morning that it would probably be two or three days before the inquisition would be started.

A Gazette reporter was received at the Indiana office of the Coal Company this morning and given a few statements regarding the facts of the explosion.

According to the official, all the reports that the explosion was heard outside the mine, are false.  The explosion was merely local which is attested to by the fact that no one outside of the particular room where it occurred heard any noise and is again substantiated by the fact that the fans were not affected.

The officials stated the bodies of Strandquist and seven others were found huddled in one heap.  It was evident that Strandquist was piloting the seven to a safe place when they were overcome by the after-damp.  Nearly all the miners found were about 1,000 feet from the scene of the explosion and it is not doubted but that death was due to strangulation in practically every case.

Mine inspectors Thomas Lowther, C. H. Crocker, Thomas A. Furniss, Nicholas Evans and Mr. Ross are in charge of the investigation today.  The Hon. J. E. Roderick, Chief of the Bureau of Mines at Harrisburg will arrive in Indiana this evening and will personally take charge of the investigation.

One of the dead is still reported missing but it is believed that the body will soon be recovered.  The families of the dead miners are being taken care of by the company which is furnishing them with food and fuel.

The list of the dead which was given by the company officials Saturday evening too late for publication in the Gazette.  The list follows:
  • Noris Allen, aged 32, wife and one child an American residing in Indiana
  • John Connelly, aged 37, American, wife and five children
  • J. William Ball, aged 36, foreman, American, wife and five children
  • Paul Taggart, aged 30, loader, American, wife and small child
  • James Herman, aged 19, loader, married, no children
  • Mark Schmidt, aged 36, American, loader
  • George Bunton Jr., aged 25, motorman
  • Alex Broskin, aged 40, loader, wife and 3 children
  • Fred Barcella, aged 30, loader, wife and
    3 children
  • Ignally Valercuski, aged 22, single
  • James Camorratte, aged 45, loader, wife and five children
  • Charles Strandquist, aged 35, mine foreman, single
  • Frank Bonofhosk, aged 30, loader, wife and 3 children
  • James Bardeno, aged 35, cutter
  • August Mageon, aged 21, loader, single
  • Dominick, aged 24, single
  • George Guerrena, aged 26, cutter, single
  • Antonio Pauli, aged 23, single
  • John Asick, aged 30, wife and four children
  • Roth Artura, aged 32, single
  • Antonio Bellari, aged 32, single
  • Antonio Puzzani, aged 28, single, loader
  • Dominick Pana, aged 30, miner
Funeral services for J. William Ball were held at his late home in Ernest, Sunday evening and the body was taken over the B. R. & P. Railway this morning to Frostburg, where interment was made today.

Funeral services for Noris Allen were held at the Allen home on North Fourth street this morning at 10:30 o’clock and interment was made in Greenwood cemetery.  At 2 o’clock this afternoon funeral services were conducted over the remains of George Bunton, Jr., at the Bunton home in Ernest and the body was brought to Indiana on a special street car and taken to the Greenwood cemetery for interment.

Tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock the funeral services for Charles Strandquist will be held and interment will be made in Greenwood cemetery.  John Connelly was buried in the Greenwood cemetery this afternoon, following services at his late home in Ernest.

Pitiable scenes were enacted at St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic church this morning and afternoon when funeral services and mass were conducted for the remainder of the dead, all of whom were members of either the Catholic church at Ernest or the church here.

The services were in charge of the Rev. Emilio Farri of Ernest and the Very Rev. N. P. NcNelis, of Indiana, assisted by several priests from the county.  A large trench was made in St. Bernard’s cemetery and the caskets containing the bodies of the victims of the explosion were placed in the one grave.  The surviving relatives of the victims and the many little children made a sight that will long be remembered in the minds of those who witnessed.

Despite the sadness of the occasion there was little excitement, the widows and children of the married miners and the friends of the single men watching quietly the last rites over the bodies of their beloved dead.

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