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Morning Mine Elevator Accident

Mullan, Shoshone County, Idaho
October 6, 1936
No. Killed - 10

USBM Final Investigation Report  PDF Format

Ten men were killed when a man-cage fell 900 feet.  Immediately prior to the accident, 5 men, including the cager, got on the lower deck of the 2-deck cage at the 3,450-foot level.  They were hoisted to the 3,050-foot level to complete loading on both decks.

The cager permitted 6 men to get on the lower deck, making a total of 10 men.  The cage doors were then closed and fastened.

The engineer was signaled, and the cage was lowered until the upper deck was flush with the station floor.  While the cager was opening the cage doors to the upper deck, the rope broke about 1,200 feet above the cage.

No evidence was on the cage guides to indicate that the safety catches contacted them.  The cage was used exclusively for hoisting and lowering men and material.

Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume III

10 Men Plunge to Death in Idaho’s Worst Mine Disaster
Twin Falls Daily News, Idaho
October 7, 1936

Mullan, Idaho, Oct. 6. -- A mine cage, plummeting 900 feet after a hoisting cable broke, carried 10 miners to death early today in the Morning Mine shaft near here.

The body of Louis Goff, 25, of Mullan, was found this afternoon crushed under the wreckage and debris at the bottom of the mine.

The lower deck of the elevator cage had just been loaded.  Cageman Henry Aune, at the surface, was lowering it so men could enter the middle deck when the cable snapped 1400 feet above.  The cage shot downward with the men, with tons of cable whipping behind and crushing the wreckage at the bottom.

Company officials completed identification of the mangled bodies late today:
  • Rex Mitheletta, 27, unmarried, of Cle Elum, Washington
  • Harry McGowan, survived by his widow at Dickey, North Dakota
  • Andrew Kese, 54, unmarried, Ravendale, Washington
  • August Siponene, 48, survived by his widow at Hancock, Michigan
  • Carl Donaldson, 24, married, Wallace, Idaho
  • William R. Buchanan, 22, unmarried, Spokane, Washington
  • Jerry Phelan, 28, survived by his widow, daughter and a brother who is a traffic officer at Missoula, Montana
  • Cleo Purcell, 29, survived by his widow and two children, Mullan, Idaho
  • Elmer Woodworth, 46, unmarried, of Mullan; survived by his mother, Mrs. Alice Woodworth of Butte, Montana
  • Louis Goff, 25, of Mullan
Arthur Campbell, Idaho state mine inspector, called an inquest for 10 a.m. tomorrow.  At the request of Morning Mine officials, he said he was having the broken section of the cable brought to the hearing.  Experts, he said, will examine it in an effort to determine what caused it to break.

"This is the worst accident in the history of Idaho mining," he said.

Body of Tenth Mine Tragedy Victim Found
Ogden Standard Examiner, Utah
October 7, 1936

Wallace, Idaho, Oct. 7. -- (AP) -- A coroner's jury returned a verdict today that the plunge of an elevator cage which crushed ten men to death in the Morning Mine yesterday near Mullan, was "an unavoidable accident."

State officials looked today to a coroner's inquest to reveal why an elevator cable broke, dropping 10 miners 900 feet to death in the Morning Mine shaft, near Mullan.

The men had just boarded the cage, or elevator, on the 3,050-foot level after a night's work when the massive cable snapped 1,400 feet above.

The cage plummeted to the bottom of the shaft followed by the wildly whipping 55,600 pounds of cable, which tore framework from the shaft.

The bodies were so mangled that identification was difficult, and it was not until late yesterday, more than 12 hours after the accident, that it was determined 10 men had lost their lives.  At first it was believed only nine died.

Arthur Campbell, Idaho state mine inspector who was here to investigate another mine fatality Monday, said an inquest would be held in the district court room at Wallace today.

At the request of officials of the mine, Campbell said he had ordered sections of the cable near the breaking point taken to the inquest.  Study of them by experts may indicate what caused the break.  Some 20 other miners waiting to board the cage when it dropped, mine officials and others were expected to testify.

"This is the worst accident in the history of Idaho mining," Campbell said.

Yesterday's victims:
  • Louis Goff, 25, Mullan
  • Rex Mithelleta, 27, Ole Elum, Wash.
  • Harry McGowan, 39, Dickey, N.D.
  • Andrew Kese, 54, Ravendale, Wash.
  • William R. Buchanan, Spokane
  • August Siponene, 48, Hancock, Mich.
  • Carl Donaldson, 24, Wallace
  • Jerry Phelan, 28, Mullan
  • Cleo Purcell, 29, Mullan
  • Elmer Woodward, of Mullan
Five of the 10 victims left families.

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