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Gilberton Coal Company
Packer No. 5 Colliery Fire

Girardville, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
May 4, 1949
No. Killed - 4

1949 Anthracite Fatalities  PDF Format
Evening Herald Front Page, May 5, 1949
See also: Gilberton Mine Explosion, Aug. 25, 1894
Gilberton Mine Roof Fall, Aug. 8, 1930
Gilberton Mine Explosion, Jan. 21, 1935

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Rescuer Deaths

Raymond J. Ey External Link, 38, mine laborer, and William J. Kelly, Sr. External Link, 48, died attempting to save William T. O'Brien, 52, mine fireboss, from suffocation, Girardville, Pennsylvania, May 4, 1949.

Ey, Joseph P. Wowak External Link, and William J. Kelly were members of a crew of five at work in a mine in which fire started in a slope between the second and third levels.  After attempting to discover the source of smoke in the main tunnel of the second level, which was 490 feet below the surface, the crew and a hoist engineer and another man entered a haulage-way, which was separated from the tunnel by a brattice and was clear of smoke, and walked to the top of another slope leading down to the third level.

They learned from a crew at the foot of the slope that they had seen no sign of fire on that level and that they had left O'Brien at a haulage-way on the two and a half level.

At Kelly's suggestion that they find O'Brien and warn him of the fire, Ey and Wowak entered a man-car with Kelly and were lowered to the third level, which was 800 feet below the surface.  They again inquired of the other crew about O'Brien's location.

The other crew then was hoisted in the car to the second level, and they and four others including the engineer, ran to the main tunnel and through dense smoke to the main shaft, where they were hoisted to the surface.  All suffered from nausea.

A rescue crew, protected by smoke-helmets, descended 200 in the shaft but was hauled up because of the dense smoke.  Almost two days later, after smoke had been cleared from the mine, a rescue crew descended and found the bodies of O'Brien, Ey, Kelly, and Wowak close together in a haulage-way of the second level near the top of the slope.  All were dead.

Messer's Ey, Wowak, and Kelly were awarded the Carnegie Hero Award for their bravery.

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