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Mine Disasters in the United States


Pennsylvania Consolidated Coal Company
Penco Mine Explosion and Roof Fall

Lorentz, Upshur County, West Virginia
January 26, 1907
No. Killed 12



Successful Rescue

Following the explosion, almost eighty men were still at the bottom of the shaft.  Almost suffocated, they huddled closely together and cried pitifully up the shaft for assistance.  Several rescuers took possession of the elevator car and quickly ran it down into the shaft.  There were accommodations for only about twenty of the men at a time, however, and the foreign miners, who were crazed from fright, fought like demons to board the car, greatly retarding the work of rescue.  On the last two trips a majority of the miners were unconscious and had to be carried from the car.


Description

The Penco Mine is operated by the Pennsylvania Consolidated Coal Company and is situated at Lorentz, Upshur County, W. Va., on the line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

This mine consists of two drift openings driven in the coal, which is known as the Red Stone coal bed. One opening affords a haulage way for the mine cars and tlie second opening answers the purpose of a traveling way and an air course, the fan at the opening being elevated and permitting persons to pass under it and through a door to the outside.

This mine exploded on January 26th, 1907, at 6:30 P. M., causing the death of twelve persons, all that were within the mine at the time.

Only two of the persons killed were burned, the others having died from the effects of the afterdamp. Those who were burned were found on the No. 2 Main entry and it appears that they may have been on the No. 1 main entry at the moment of the explosion, and in their confusion walked into the No. 2 main.

The seat of the explosion appeared from the conditions within the mine to have been on the main No. 1 entry about 100 feet from the face of the entry and may have been the result of the explosion of a powder flask and a 25 lb. keg of powder at this point.

At this point "A" the remains of a powder flask and powder keg were found and off some distance was found a tube containing some squibs which are used by the miners in igniting the powder within their shot holes.

About 250 feet from the face of the Main No. 1 entry we found the bodies of seven persons, all of whom, excepting one, had abrasions on the hands and faces, which were nothing less than scars inflicted by the persons running in darkness and colliding with the coal on the ribs of the entry. The body found on the 3rd left had no marks of burns or violence and appeared to have died at his working place.

In the vicinity of the point "A" the ribs and roof of the entry were covered with a thick deposit of charred dust which diminished towards the First Right entry, none having been observed at the face of the No. 1 Main entry.

Six of the seven men found on the No. 1 main entry worked at the faces of the Main heading, air course and the Third Left. The seventh was a young man who was engaged as a car pusher, and it appeared from the surrounding circumstances that this car pusher may have been experimenting with the powder flask on the entry and accidentally discharged.

There was a sufficient quantity of fine coal dust on the Main No. I entry to propagate the flame of the powder as far out as the mouth of the No. 2 Main entry. From the No. 2 Main entry to the mouth of the mine there was no evidence of heat or flame.

Had the explosion been due to the presence of fire damp (Methane gas) the air current moving into the First Right would have been sufficiently charged to have permitted the explosion to go up this entry and inflict burns on the two bodies found on this entry, but they were not burned.

A careful examination of this mine on the day following the explosion failed to disclose the presence of any explosive gas, although at times prior to the explosion it is stated that gas was given off in inappreciable quantities.

This accident emphasizes the extreme danger of permitting black powder to be exploded within a mine where its flame may have sufficient intensity and length to inflame the dust.

The Coroner's jury which viewed the remains of the victims of this explosion, after taking the testimony of various persons and the District Mine Inspector rendered the following verdict:

State of West Virginia, County of Upshur, to-wit:

An inquisition taken at Lorentz, in the County of Upshur, on the 27th day of January, 1907, before James Dailey, a Justice of the Peace, of said county, upon the view of the bodies of Glen Miles, Charles Bauserman, Bruce Johnson, Asberry Bailey, H. H. Fox, Antonio Rich, Joe Alluni, Joe Capriette, Dominik Pochich, Louis Mosper, Nedz Lester and Nedz Capriette, there lying dead, the jurors sworn to inquire when, how and by what means each of the said parties, Glen Miles, Charles Bauserman, Bruce Johnson, Asberry Bailey, H. H. Fox, Antonio Rich, Joe Alluni, Joe Capriette, Dominik Pochich, Louis Mosper, Nedz Lester and Nedz Capriette came to their death; upon their oath do say, that the said (naming them) came to their death at Lorentz, Upshur County, West Virginia, on the 26th day of January, 1907, by the careless handling of powder on their own part and in violation of the rules of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Coal Company.

The two succeeding grand juries of Upshur County found misdemeanor indictments against Floyd Gandy, the Superintendent of the mine, but the court each time nollied the indictment.

Source:
1907 Annual Report of the West Virginia Department of Mines


Terrific Explosion Wrecks Shaft at Lorentz, W. Va.
The Washington Post
January 27, 1907

Weston, W. Va., Jan. 26 -- Five Americans and seven Italians are known to be dead as the result of an explosion of firedamp in the Pennsylvania Company mine at Lorentz, W. Va., near Buckhannon, W. Va., which occurred about 5:30 this afternoon.

Immediately following the explosion the mine caved in, and 100 miners narrowly escaped entombment and probably death.

The bodies of twelve dead men have been recovered, and it is not yet known whether any others met death.

The Americans who were killed are:
  • Charles Boserman
  • William Bailey
  • James Scott
  • Charles Johnson
  • Glenn Miles
The bodies of seven Italians have also been recovered, but as they are known only by numbers their identification is not possible until later.

Were Just Leaving Mine

The explosion occurred just as the day force was leaving the mine.  Only a few of the men had reached the surface when, with a terrific report, the firedamp exploded.  The mine elevator had just started for the top carrying about twenty, and almost eighty men were still at the bottom of the shaft.

Immediately there was a panic among the men still in the mine.  There was but one direction in which they could run, and this was back into the drift.  From this direction, however, a strong flow of gas was slowly enveloping them.  Almost suffocated, they huddled closely together and cried pitifully up the shaft for assistance.

Several rescuers took possession of the elevator car and quickly ran it down into the shaft.  There were accommodations for only about twenty of the men at a time, however, and the foreign miners, who were crazed from fright, fought like demons to board the car, greatly retarding the work of rescue.  The car was finally loaded and run to the top.

Unconscious When Rescued

As quickly as possible the elevator continued to make the trips until all the men at the bottom of the shaft were brought to the surface.  On the last two trips a majority of the miners were unconscious and had to be carried from the car.

The five Americans and seven Italians, who were killed, were found about 300 feet back in the mine.  Apparently the twelve men had been overcome with gas and died as their bodies were not burned.

At 10 o'clock tonight a rescuing party entered the mine to look for additional bodies, but after reaching the bottom of the shaft had to abandon the search.

The officials are endeavoring to prepare a list of the men who escaped from the mine.  The work is slow, however, as a majority of the men who escaped are foreigners, who quickly disappeared on gaining the surface.

Frantic With Grief

The explosion attracted a great crowd.  Nearly all the miners live in the immediate vicinity, and in a few minutes hundreds of excited people gathered about the shaft.  Women and children were almost frantic with grief.

A message was immediately sent to nearby Westonborough, and a special train, bearing physicians and rescuers, was quickly on the scene.

The mine was totally wrecked by a cave-in, which followed the explosion.

It is said if any others lost their lives that it will be many days before their bodies are recovered owing to the accumulation of earth and stone which blockades the mine passage.

The mine, which is owned by Philadelphia capitalists, was opened a year ago, and has been in operation six months.  It was equipped with new and modern appliances, and the direct cause of the explosion will not be known until an investigation is made.



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