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Victor-American Fuel Company
Hastings Mine Explosion

Hastings, Las Animas, Colorado
April 27, 1917
No. Killed - 121

USBM Final Investigation Report  (1.9 Mb)  PDF Format
1917 Annual Report Narrative  PDF Format
Mine Fatalities List  MS Word Format
Mine Fatalities List from the Annual Report  PDF Format
Hastings Mine Explosion Monument
Location: 37° 20.33′ N, 104° 37.518′ W.
Marker is in Ludlow, Colorado, in Las Animas County.  Marker is at the intersection of County Road 44 and County Road 51, on the left when traveling west on County Road 44.  Monument is on the south side 2.4 miles west of the Ludlow Memorial, also on County Road 44.  Marker is in this post office area: Trinidad CO 81082
Photographed by Mark Hilton
Source: Historic Marker Database
See more mine disaster markers, memorials, and monuments.
See also: Hastings Mine Explosion, June 18, 1912
From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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(From Bureau of Mines Report, by D. Harrington)

The workings are reached by a rock slope.  The coal is undercut by hand, except that an electric cutting machine is used in slope entries.  All workings are gaseous, and firebosses are employed.  Prior to the explosion all places were reported "clear" unless tests with a flame safety lamp gave a cap greater than 5/8-inch in height.

A continuous current is used for ventilating the mine.  Non-permissible electric cap lamps are used by all miners, inspectors carry key-locked flame safety lamps, and firebosses carry magnetic locked Wolfe lamps. The mine is generally quite damp.

Two firebosses made their rounds preparatory for the day shift on that morning and made written reports that the mine was clear of gas.  A trip of cars on the rope going in after 9 o'clock had reached a point 1,300 feet inby the mouth when the explosion occurred.  The trip rider neither heard nor felt anything unusual, but the explosion caused the signal wires to cross and rang the bell to stop the trip.  He then saw smoke coming up the slope and ran out to give the alarm of fire.  He was the only man in the mine who escaped.

Smoke issued from the main slope and the south manway, and an investigating party of officials followed fresh air until the affected area was reached.  Oxygen-breathing-apparatus crews were then required, as practically all stoppings in the "B" seam were totally wrecked and heavy falls had occurred.

Gas and dust had spread the explosion to every section of the mine.  One apparatus man died under the severe strain, and another collapsed from overexertion but recovered.  The explosion was caused by a mine inspector striking a match to relight his safety lamp about 120 feet from the face of 7 South entry.

Recommendations were made for adequate ventilation, competent inspection, permissible electric equipment, cap lamps and safety lamps, exclusion of matches and smoking materials, and regular sprinkling or rock dusting.

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

Rescuer Death

On May 6, 1917, Walter Kerr, a member of a mine rescue team of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, died wearing a Draeger 2-hour oxygen breathing apparatus, while helping to recover bodies, after an explosion in the Hastings mine of the Victor-American Fuel Company, Hastings, Colorado, in which 121 men were killed.

Kerr, while assisting other members of an apparatus crew in carrying a body, suddenly left his crew and was later found dead in a crosscut at the face of a pair of entries.

Detailed information concerning this occurrence is not available; however, while there apparently was some idea that the apparatus worn by Kerr might have been defective, an autopsy disclosed that he had a defective heart, that overexertion caused heart failure under the strain of wearing apparatus, and that a defective heart condition existed previous to his death.

This case again emphasizes the need for a careful physical examination before a man wears an apparatus under actual mine conditions.

As described in the 1917 Colorado Annual Report:
May 6 - Walter Kerr, American, miner, age 27 years, married, three children, member of the Berwind Colorado Fuel & iron Company s Helmet Crew; took part in the rescue work at the Hastings explosion.  While carrying a body out of the mine, he suddenly left his crew and was later found dead in a cross cut at the face of the seventh north entry.  It was found that he had a defective heart, and over-exertion caused heart failure.
Source: Loss of Life Among Wearers of Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (April 1944) PDF Format

Hundred Twenty Men Perish in Mine Explosion
The Ogden Examiner, Utah
April 28, 1917

Trinidad, Colo., April 27 -- There is no escape for the 120 or more men caught behind the fire in the Hastings mine of the Victor-American Fuel company near Ludlow and it is feared that all have perished.  Rescue crews reported tonight that they cannot reach the entombed men because of the wreckage, the explosion having torn down ceilings and walls of the main slope.

Superintendent Cameron tonight said he had little hope of saving any of the men who were in the mine when the explosion occurred.  If the men are alive behind the fire, it is a miracle, he said.

The exact number of men caught in the mine still is undetermined.  The company has compiled a list of the names of men known to be in the mine but it is asserted that the list is not complete.

Late tonight only meager reports of the progress of the rescue work had been received here.  The only means of communication between Trinidad and Hastings is a single telephone wire which has been crowded with official messages relating to the organization of the rescue work.

Hundred and Nineteen Missing

A list containing 119 names of missing was given out by company officials tonight.  It included David Reese, mine inspector; David Williams, pit boss; H. J. Millard, fire boss; twenty-five company men and 91 miners.

The company men follow:
  • Jeff Jones
  • Paul Vincenzi
  • Steve Stuhlae
  • Joe Lzyba
  • William Short
  • Ben Valdez
  • Frank Mauro
  • Steve Antoniucci
  • Felipo Herrera
  • E. H. Atwood
  • Jim Lochart
  • Jim Howard
  • Bruno Nicolucci
  • Charles Nicolucci
  • Steve Badel
  • Gonzales Flores
  • Petench
  • Frank Paper
  • Joe Tator
  • Joe Hernandez
  • George Markas
  • and three unknown men
Virtually all of the miners listed are foreigners.

The disaster is one of the greatest in the history of the southern Colorado mining district, and although the rescue work was unabated tonight, company officials hold out little or no hope that any of the men will be taken out alive.  The few, if any, who escaped the flames that swept the interior of the mine, are believed to have been suffocated.

Helmet Parties Working Ahead

The helmet parties are working 400 feet ahead of the rescue crew and tonight had penetrated to the "fifth north," one of the main partings, where the cars are gathered for the long drive to the surface.

One body, that of Jim Lochhart, a negro, has been discovered half buried under fallen rock.

The rescue parties are working constantly to reach the innermost recesses of the pit, but are hampered by lack of air and by falls that have torn down the brattices in important places and make ventilation almost impossible until the breaks have been repaired.  All lumber and canvas for this repair work has been carried by the men on their backs for more than three-quarters of a mile.

At 11:30 o'clock tonight it was reported that five bodies had been found.

Rescuing crews, working continuously in short shifts, expect to reach the remaining men before daylight tomorrow.  No hope is held out that any of them will be rescued alive.

Spontaneous Combustion

The explosion which caused the disaster is said to have been caused by a sudden change of temperature this morning, resulting in spontaneous combustion of coal dust.

All of the bodies found were badly burned, it was said, indicating that a sheet of flame swept through the mine after the explosion, probably killing all of the men in the mine instantly.

The Hastings mine is situated three miles up Hastings canyon from Ludlow, which stands at the entrance to the Hastings and Berwind canyons, 20 miles from Trinidad.  The main slope of the Hastings Mine is driven straight into the mountain, with only a slight pitch, to the present workings which are back some 3,600 feet from the entrance.  The mine normally employs about 100 men to a shift and has a capacity of 1,000 tons a day.

In holding out hope that the men caught in the mine might have escaped instant death, company officials asserted that the explosion apparently was slight.  It apparently was not sufficient in force to be heard on the surface, they said.

The first indication of trouble was a cloud of black smoke which billowed from the mouth of the slope.  Superintendent Cameron hastily organized a rescue force of five men and entered the slope but the smoke and heat from fire within was so intense that they soon were forced to retreat.  Another rescue force was organized and equipped with oxygen helmets.  These men, eight in number, again led by Mr. Cameron, reentered the mine determined to reach the imprisoned men.  Whether debris from the explosion was blocking the slope farther back had not been determined at last reports.

Listing of the Fatalities:
  • Steve Antonucci, slopeman, 53, married, one child
  • Jim Anusis, miner, 40, single
  • E. H. Atwood, timberman, 42, married, one child
  • Steve Badel, miner, 38, married, two children
  • Joe Banner, miner, 45, single
  • M. Barber, Electrician, 30, married
  • Haris Basakas, miner, 36, married, one child
  • Pietro Bertolina, miner, 34, single
  • A. T. Brown, miner, 25, single
  • George F. Brown, miner, 35, single
  • Jesus Caderia, miner, 27, married
  • George Capaco, miner, 44, married, three children
  • Mike Chiek, miner, 36, single
  • Frank Churcich, miner, 36, single
  • Vincenzo Circo, miner, 39, married, five children
  • Tom Conkas, miner, 36, single
  • Joe Corretich, miner, 23, married, one child
  • Mike Cortese, miner, 31, married, three children
  • Jim Costas, miner, 30, single
  • John Cresevik, miner, 38, single
  • Gust Cristulakis, miner, 23, single
  • R. L. Davis, driver, 38, single
  • Tony Dekleva, miner, 27, single
  • Alex Dely, miner, 30, married, one child
  • John Diakas, miner, 23, single
  • Pedro Diaz, miner, 26, married
  • Saveriano Diaz, miner, 35, married, one child
  • Frank Dolan, miner, 25, single
  • Isadore Dorado, miner, 39, married, two children
  • Anton Evancich, miner, 40, married, one child
  • Sam Fabian, miner, 29, single
  • A. B. Felix, miner, 29, single
  • Frientafolas Fleitis, miner, 26, married, one child
  • Flores Gonzales, driver, 22, married
  • Libor Gardelkie, miner, 38, married, three children
  • Franc Gerl, miner, 20, single
  • Tony Glavich, miner, 27, single
  • Joe Hernandez, driver, 27, married, one child
  • Felipo Herrera, trapper, 16, single
  • James Howard, driver, 31, married, six children
  • Trator Joe, parting tender, 29, single
  • Jesse Johnson, miner, 45, married, one child
  • Mike Jonas, miner, 23, single
  • Jeff Jones, trackman, 46, married
  • John Junos, miner, 20, single
  • John Katres, miner, 30, single
  • Walter Kerr, miner, 27, married, three children
  • Sam Kikos, miner, 37, married
  • John Klobas, miner, 30, married, two children
  • G. Konigeres, miner, 36, married, one child
  • John Kopelas, miner, 31, married, three children
  • Frank Kosich, miner, 36, single
  • Joe Kosich, miner, 25, single
  • Martin Kresovich, miner, 29, married, two children
  • Tony Kresovich, miner, 23, single
  • Mike Kunelis, miner, 24, single
  • James Legas, miner, 35, single
  • Joe Leyva, trapper, 16, single
  • James Lockhard, driver, 31, married, two children
  • Pedro Lopez, miner, 30, single
  • Tom Manville, miner, 33, single
  • Salvatore Mariana, miner, 25, single
  • Anton Marincich, miner, 37, single
  • George Markes, driver, 23, single
  • Frank Mauro, Roadman, 40, married, eight children
  • Miguel Mayorga, miner, 29, married
  • William Meredith, miner, 28, married
  • George Meridakis, miner, 52, married, one child
  • George Metaxas, miner, 37, married, four children
  • James Metaxas, miner, 27, single
  • H. J. Millard, fire boss, 26, married, one child
  • Arthur Mitchell, miner, 34, married
  • B. B. Myers, miner, 27, single
  • Pete Nenich, driver, 22, single
  • Bruno Niccoli, driver Boss, 34, married, five children
  • Charles Niccoli, driver, 34, married, five children
  • John Nowather, miner, 33, married, six children
  • Mike Obradovichi, miner, 45, married, three children
  • Serafino Odorozzi, miner, 35, single
  • Frank Papes, driver, 23, single
  • Athan Pappas, miner, 27, single
  • George Pappas, miner, 35, married
  • John Pappas, miner, 40, married, five children
  • Theros Pappas, miner, 43, married, six children
  • Apiros Pappaulis, miner, 26, single
  • Dimitrius Pappaulis, miner, 33, married, four children
  • Valentine Pavelik, miner, 31, single
  • Keriakas Pietrakas, miner, 26, married, two children
  • Anton Poslep, miner, 38, married, three children
  • E. O. Pratt, miner, 45, married, three children
  • D. H. Reese, mine inspector, married, two children
  • Steve Rokich, miner, 27, single
  • William Short, trackman, 41, single
  • Mari Simonelli, miner, 25, single
  • Mike Skaulas, miner, 29, single
  • George Skrakes, miner, 30, single
  • John Slok, miner, 21, single
  • Archie Smith, miner, 39, single
  • Charles E. Smith, miner, 42, married
  • Joe Smolick, miner, 31, married, four children
  • Antonio Spanodda, miner, 32, single
  • Anton Steros, miner, 32, single
  • Matt Stimoc, driver, 28, single
  • Steve Stuhlas, driver, 24, single
  • Andy Takovic, miner, 29, married, three children
  • Jack Tomsick, miner, 23, single
  • Joe Torchio, mason, 58, married, five children
  • John Turkovich, miner, 30, married, two children
  • Jose Valadaz, miner, 25, married, one child
  • Ben Valdez, pumpman, 27, married, three children
  • Matt Valencich, miner, 21, married, one child
  • Alejandro Vigil, driver, 35, married, five children
  • Theros Vihos, miner, 31, single
  • Paul Vincenzi, trackman, 20, single
  • Tom Vlahos, miner, 37, married, two children
  • Frank Vurnick, miner, 48, single
  • Dave Williams, pit boss, 34, married, four children
  • Ludvik Yednik, miner, 34, married, four children
  • Frank Zarnada, miner, 25, single
  • Tony Zatkovich, miner, 42, married, four children
  • Jack Zele, miner, 29, married, one child

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