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Pittsburg and Westmoreland Coal Company
Hazel Kirk No. 2 Mine Explosion

Monongahela, Washington County, Pennsylvania
October 29, 1905
No. Killed - 5

Pennsylvania Department of Mines Annual Report  (3.0 Mb)  PDF Format
Gas Explosion Kills Five
Indiana Democrat, Pennsylvania
November 1, 1905

Because the output of coal was not large enough from Hazel Kirk mine No. 2, near the village of Van Voorhis, six miles from Monongahelia, Pa., six experienced men went into the pit Saturday night to open up a bricked entry.  An explosion of fire-damp killed five of them instantly and injured one so severely that he may not recover.

This is the second explosion within three weeks.  The other, on October 10, caused the death of two other miners.

The dead:
  • John Hornickel, superintendent
  • Daniel Griffith, foreman, married
  • Joseph Hunter, fire boss, married
  • John Lavery, fire boss
  • Henry Clayborn, colored, fire boss
The injured man is:
  • Andrew Roder, foreman, burns may be fatal
Superintendent Hornickel was one of the best liked and most prominent men in Monongahela.  Roder escaped most miraculously.  His face and hands were so badly burned that the flesh dropped off, exposing the bones.  With wonderful grit he crawled over the dead bodies of his companions and slowly crept out of the mine, a distance of over half a mile.  It was 4 o'clock when he reached fresh air.  Then he fell exhausted and is in a critical condition.

The five mangled bodies, charred almost beyond recognition, were brought to Bebout's morgue at Monongahela on a special train at 10 o'clock in the morning.

On October 10, a sudden combination of gas caused Hazel Kirk Mine No. 2 to be set on fire.  An explosion also occurred at that time and two men, John and Joseph Kosko, lost their lives.

In order to check the fire, which was spreading through the mine, brattice work or brick walls were put up in the entries and water turned into the mine.

Saturday it was believed that the fire had been smothered and it was determined to investigate and if possible remove the bulkheads and open up the portion of the mine for operation.  It was decided to take this step after all the work for the day had been done.

Superintendent Hornickel ordered that every man be withdrawn from the diggings.  The mine machinery was stopped and Hornickel and the other officials entered the mine shortly after 11 o'clock and began tearing down one of the brattices.  Scarcely had the brattice been pierced with a pick when firedamp rushed through, tearing out the remaining portion of the wall and exploding through some unexplained reason.

The six men were thrown with terrific force about 16 feet.  Hornickel's body was flattened almost into pulp and half of his bones were broken.  Others killed were in much the same condition.

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