Mine Safety Training Repository
united states mine rescue association
Mine Disasters in the United States

Tank's Poetry

Father Time
See more disasters
from this year
Calendar Image
Mine Disaster Calendar

Liberty Bell Mining Company
Liberty Bell Mine Avalanche

Telluride, San Miguel County, Colorado
February 28, 1902
No. Killed - 19

Chicago Tribune News Article  (821 Kb)  PDF Format

Rescuer Deaths

As many as 3 rescuers were killed when a second avalanche hit the Liberty Bell mine at Telluride.  In all, 19 miners were killed on February 28 when the buildings and equipment were smashed and lives were dashed by 4 separate snow slides.

Snow Slide Carries Away Buildings at the Liberty Bell Mine
Daily Journal, Telluride Colorado
February 28, 1902

Another dire mining disaster has overtaken Telluride, second only in destruction of life and property to the fire at Smuggler last fall.

At 7:30 this morning a tremendous snow slide swept away the boarding and bunk houses and the tramway station and ore-loading house at the Liberty Bell mine.  The accident of course broke the telephone circuit and it was an hour before word of the disaster reached town, being brought down by one of the workmen who escaped.  All the doctors available and many citizens at once started up the trail to lend such assistance as was in their power in digging out the buried and injured men, and it was well towards noon before any authentic information could be secured as to the extent of the awful disaster.

First reports placed the dead at all the way from fifty to seventy-five, but at this writing (noon) it is thought the death list will not exceed six or eight.  At noon five dead bodies had been recovered, and that of the steward, Fred Clemmer, known to be in the slide, had not been recovered.  Five of the injured had also been brought to town and placed in the hospital.

Most of those who escaped serious injury came to town with the injured and wounded and the dead.  Just before noon bulletins over the signature of the Tomboy Company were posted calling for all the men available to work on the slide.

Snow had been drizzling down for a day or two, probably a foot of fresh snow accumulating up to last night.  Just before midnight the snow began falling in earnest, and from midnight to noon today nearly two feet had fallen.

About 11 o'clock the clouds lightened up slightly and showed a disposition to break away.  The snow came down less heavily for a few moments, but the respite was brief, and by noon it was snowing harder than ever.

This afternoon, since the foregoing was put in type, the disaster appears not to have been as bad as first reported, though sufficiently terrible as it is.  The buildings destroyed and swept away are the boarding house, tram house, and one corner of the new bunk house.  The old bunk house, in which the night shift was sleeping -- some sixty men -- escaped.  The day shift had gone into the mine to work.  This explains the exaggerated accounts that first reached town, when it was supposed the day shift was at breakfast and that the old bunk house where the night shift was asleep had been swept down.

The most lucid and connected account of the disaster is that given by L. M. Umsted.  Mr. Umsted is employed with a few mules packing a short distance from a crusher to the tram station.  He had just come from breakfast and was in the stable saddling his animals, when he heard a terrific crashing and rattling.  The stable grew -- suddenly dark as night, and stepping to the door he opened it and found the outside totally dark and the air filled with flying snow.

Thinking it was a terrific gust of wind, he slammed the stable door shut and waiting a few seconds, he peered through a crack and as it grew light again, he opened the door and saw the tram cable swinging about and buckets rolling down the hill.  As the snow in the air settled, he stepped out a few feet and looking up towards the boarding house could see no signs of these buildings.  Then looking down the hill he saw boards and timbers sticking out of the snow and scattered about.

He then went up to the ore and tram house, or where it had stood, and saw what he thought was a piece of overalls.  Grasping it and attempting to pull it out he found he had hold of a man's body; tearing away the snow and boards he pulled out the body of Gus Kraul.  His body was terribly mangled and his head crushed till it was no thicker than the two hands laid flatly together.  He then started towards the boarding house and met his brother, Charlie Umsted, who told him what had happened.  Charlie was employed in the boarding house and escaped by being out at the spring at the time after a bucket of water.  But for this CHARLIE would most certainly have been among the victims, as none of the boarding house occupants escaped.

Accounts indicate that the slide, though a heavy one, had not ran far, as the snow spread out and stopped a few hundred feet down the gulch, leaving the victims and debris on top of the snow or near the surface.  Had it come far enough to have gained the usual velocity of a snow slide, this would not have been the case.

Second Slide Comes Down on Rescuing Party

At 1:30 word came to town from the Liberty Bell office asking that bulletins be posted asking for all the help possible, as a second slide had come down covering the rescuing party.  Nothing farther could be learned as to whether any of the rescuers had been killed or injured.

A large party was at work shoveling in the slide of the morning and when the second slide came, they had recovered seven bodies.  Many went up from town this morning and more have gone since word came of the second slide.

At 2:15 word came to town to send no more men up: that the storm was so severe that the work of rescue could only be carried on under the most extreme danger to the living, and that the men buried in the snow were all dead beyond question.

It is not known how many of the rescuing party were caught in the second slide.  One man was pulled out, but he was dead.  His name could not be learned.  All the men have now come off the hill and no attempt will be made to recover the bodies until the storm subsides and the snow settles.  It is impossible to give today any accurate estimate of the property loss.

Manager Chase, of the Liberty Bell, went up to the mine as soon as word came of the accident and has been there all day.  Men familiar with the property wrecked say the loss will not be less than $5,000, and probably much more.  It will probably necessitate shutting down the property for at least three months.

This locality has always been considered safe from slides, and the building site was selected on this account.

Eight of the injured are in the hospital.  Chas. Goodo, miner, has slight internal injuries.  Ferdinando Zanzuke, miner, scalp wound.  These two were in bed in the corner of the bunk house when it was carried away.

Henry Pauer, cook, has his left leg broken in two places, is seriously hurt internally and badly bruised and cut.  Ealik Palo, miner, is hurt in the back.  Jack Marshall, head cook, injured internally; Jacob Golden, employed in boarding house, right arm cut off below elbow, badly cut and bruised and injured internally; Jim Conlon, waiter, several ribs broken, cuts in left arm and scalp wound; W. A. Latshaw, scalp wound.

Several men from the mine came to town last night, and after the first slide others started down, and as fast as the injured were taken out, crews started to town with them, hence it is difficult to determine who and how many are missing.  And it is not known who nor how many were in the crowd of rescuers caught by the second slide.  Men from the mine who came down since the second slide seem to think the dead will number a dozen or fifteen, and perhaps more.

A Third Slide Comes Down and Kills Three

After the rescuers quit work and started for town a party was caught in a slide near the curve station on the tram and three men were killed.  The dead are: Gus Von Fintel, John R. Powell, Paul Dalprez.  Doctor Allen was in this party and received injuries, but got out alive.  None of these bodies were recovered.

Of those known to be dead in the first slide are Fred Clemmer, Harry Summerland, Gus Swanson and a young Dane whose name could not be learned.

The second slide that came down in the track of the first and caught the rescuing party, killed Harry Chase and two other men.  Only the body of Chase was recovered.

The following received injuries more or less serious in this slide: Lee Carroll, Stockton Smith, Knute Talso, John Isakson and Charles Hall.

Late estimates this afternoon place the loss by the Liberty Bell at a considerable figure.  The tramway terminals are gone, with crushers, etc., and the entire tram and most of the towers are down.  It will be at least four months before work be resumed.

Corrected List of Known Dead

At 4:15 Manager Chase, who has just reached town, gave the Journal the following list of those known to be dead:

These seven were caught in the first slide.
  • Gus Swanson, crusher feeder
  • H. S. Summerland, tram brakeman
  • Harry FNO, flunky
  • Gus Kraul
  • F. C. Clemmer, Steward
  • Wade Crow, miner
  • E. Bishop, miner
These last two were recent graduates of the School of Mines and were working simply to get a little experience.

These were the rescuers caught in the second slide.
  • L. D. Stanley, carpenter
  • Harry A. Chase
These were caught in the slide at the curve on the way down the hill.
  • Gus Von Fintel, head mechanic
  • John R. Powell, surveyor
  • Paul Dalprez, miner
Only one body, that of Summerland, has been recovered, the rest being buried in the slides.

See more about these products