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Midwest Coal Company
Midwest Mine Explosion

Palisades, Mesa County, Colorado
October 7, 1923
No. Killed - 6

Colorado Inspector of Coal Mines Report  PDF Format
Mine Explosion Snuffs Out Six Workers Lives
Nevada State Journal, Reno
October 8, 1923
Grand Junction, Colo., Oct. 7. -- An explosion of gas in the Midwest Coal Mine at Palisades, Colo., at 11 a.m. today killed six of the seven men working in the mine.

The dead are:
  • Robert P. Scott, manager
  • J. K. Keys and three sons, Harvey Keys, W. B. Keys and Robert T. Keys
  • George McKee
McKee had entered the service of the company today, and this was his first shift.

The government mine rescue crews that were fighting the fire in the Bookcliff Mine arrived an hour after the explosion, and located four bodies.

Jim Benda, the other miner in the workings at the time of the explosions, was badly burned. He crawled three quarters of a mile through the smoke and gas to safety. It is said that he will recover.

The usual force at the Midwest mine is 40 men, but only a short clean-up crew was at work today. Superintendent Scott had entered the mine on an inspection trip.

The explosion wrecked the mine badly, it is said. The mine entry is far up on the side of Grand Mesa above Palisades.

Three members of the government rescue crew attempting to recover bodies from the Midwest mine were so overcome by the smoke and gas, despite the helmets, that their companions had to carry them from the workings.  All of the bodies except those of Robert P. Scott and W. B. Keys were recovered tonight and it was announced that no further efforts will be made to recover them until morning, when it is hoped that some of the gas and smoke will have cleared away.

It is now believed that the mine did not take fire but that the smoke was from the explosion.

The body of George McKee was the first to be recovered. He was found among wreckage of cars which had been started down grade toward the portal by the force of the explosion.

The string of cars hit his body and were derailed by it. He was mangled by the cars. The bodies of J. K. Keys and one of his sons were found close to the air shaft which was wrecked by the blast. The younger men had been blown against one of the mine timbers with such force as to crush his body.

The great exhaust fan at the top of the airshaft on the surface was blown from its foundation and hurled down the hill.

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