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Mine Disasters in the United States

United Electric Coal Company
Fidelity Mine Explosives Disaster

Du Quoin, Illinois
February 14, 1941
No. Killed - 7

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FBI and Others Looking into Mystery that Killed 7 Employees
Edwardsville Intelligencer, Illinois
February 15, 1941

DuQuoin, Ill., Feb. 15, (AP) -- At least five separate investigations were under way today in the explosion that claimed the lives of seven employees of the United Electric Coal Companies' liquid oxygen plant at the Fidelity mine near this city yesterday.

But Fred Huff, superintendent of the mine, said the cause of the blast was as much a mystery as it was Friday.  Besides the company's investigation, others were being conducted by Robert M. Medill, state director of mines and minerals, by Coroner W. E. Gladson and by insurance officials.

In addition it was known that agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had entered the case but secrecy enveloped their activities.

All seven victims were instantly killed and there were no injured survivors to aid the investigators.  Some of the men were unloading lamp black cartridges from a freight car on a siding a few feet from the plant.  Others were working in the plant where the cartridges are soaked with liquid oxygen, converting them into explosives used in blasting coal and rock.  Neither the lamp black nor the liquid oxygen is explosive by itself.

So far the investigation has not disclosed, Huff said, whether the explosion occurred in the freight car which arrived Wednesday night from Samford, Tex., or in the plant.  Both the car and the plant, a two-story frame building, were demolished.

Huff said the property damage was "pretty close to $200,000."  He disclosed that much of the plant equipment was manufactured in Germany and cannot be replaced at this time because of the war.

Meantime the mine's 275 employees were idle today as survivors of the victims prepared to bury the dead.  Separate funerals tentatively are planned for all seven tomorrow.

Coroner Gladson empanelled a coroner's jury to investigate the deaths and announced an inquest probably will be held next week.

The killed were:
  • James Thornton
  • Lyle Cook
  • Russell Cook
  • Lew Barker
  • John Bailey
  • John Rapusi
  • Nelson Todd, all of DuQuoin

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