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Mine Disasters in the United States



Mountain City Copper Company
Mountain City Mine Asphyxiation

Mountain City, Elko County, Nevada
August 13, 1936
No. Killed - 6



Rescuer Deaths

Two men persuaded a third to lower them to an area of dangerous atmospheric conditions.  The third man realized the seriousness of the situation but gave little or no thought to the atmospheric conditions.  He proceeded down the manway until he was overcome and fell to the bottom.  A fourth man, in a solitary attempt to rescue the third, was overcome and also fell to within 5 feet of the bottom.  When the shift boss and four others arrived, they attempted to recover the bodies.  Two men were lowered in the bucket, and both were overcome.


The 600 foot level was shut down and had not been ventilated for approximately 2 months prior to the accident; its only connection to the 500-foot level was by the 541 winze.  The winze was divided into two compartments - one for hoisting by bucket and the other for a manway - and was equipped with staggered ladders and platforms.

No one was permitted to descend the winze because of dangerous atmospheric conditions on the 600 foot level.  Regardless of the danger, two men persuaded a third to lower them in the bucket to the 600 foot level and evidently fell from the bucket before it reached the bottom.

The third man evidently realized the seriousness of the situation but gave little or no thought to the atmospheric conditions.  He proceeded down the manway until he was overcome and fell to the bottom.  A fourth man, in a solitary attempt to rescue the third, was overcome and also fell to within 5 feet of the bottom.  All men were wearing electric cap lamps, which gave no warning of oxygen deficiency.

When the shift boss and four others arrived at the 514 winze, they attempted to recover the bodies.  Two men were lowered slowly in the bucket, having been instructed to light matches to test the atmosphere for oxygen deficiency.  Approximately 30 feet below the collar of the winze both men were overcome.

When attempts were made to raise the bucket, it was found that the leg of one of men was wedged in the timbers of the winze, and all efforts to save these men failed.  By the use of a pipe, the man's leg was finally freed, and the bodies were brought to the 500-foot level.  After oxygen breathing apparatus was obtained and ventilation was restored at the foot of the winze, the other four bodies were recovered.

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


Six Miners Died in Nevada Copper Mine Thursday
Corsicana Daily Sun, Texas
August 14, 1936

Mountain City, Nev., Aug. 14. -- (AP) -- The bodies of six men -- five of whom a company official said died "heroically but needlessly" -- were recovered today from the gas-filled depths of a copper mine in which they perished last night.

The victims were:
  • John Sheppard, 32, Wellington, Colo.
  • Lawrence Willis, 32, Emmet, Idaho.
  • June Barr, 45, Mammoth, Ore.
  • Albert Atel, 41, Mountain City, Nev.
  • Frank Teixera, 44, Mountain City, Nev.
  • William Burns, 48, Mountain City, Nev.
At Salt Lake City, James O. Elton, president of the International Smelting company which operates the mine, said five of the six "died heroically but needlessly" when they braved the lethal fumes in an effort to rescue a pumpman who had failed to return early last night from the 500-foot level.

In their haste, he said, they neglected to obtain gas helmets available at the mine plant.

Mine authorities said they were uncertain as to the source of the fumes which continued to taint the air today in spite of continued pumping.  It was customary for a man to inspect the pumps regularly.  It was while making this inspection that the first victim met death.  State Mine Inspector Matt Murphy was reported on his way to investigate.


Corsicana Daily Sun, Texas
August 14, 1936

Mountain City, Nev., Aug. 14. -- (AP) -- Lethal fumes balked determined attempts by grim-faced miners today to recover remaining bodies of six men from the black, gas-filled depths of a copper mine.

A. P. Lofquist, Mountain City Copper Company mine superintendent, impatiently awaited additional oxygen equipment from Salt Lake City.

"We can't do much until we get it," he said.  "The air's getting plenty thick down there and gas is pouring in from somewhere, a fissure probably."

The bodies of John Sheppard, 31, of Wellington, Colo., and William Burns, 48, of Mountain City, were brought up shortly after midnight from the 500-foot level as tearful women and children of this mushrooming Northern Nevada mining camp crowded around the entrance to the shaft.  They had been there ever since news of the tragedy spread in early evening.

Lofquist said the bodies of Lawrence Willis, 32, of Emmett, Ida.; June Barr, 45, of Mammoth, Ore.; Albert Atel, 41, of Mountain City and Frank Tiexigra, 44, of Mountain City, rest in the mine where they were overcome.

"I went down with the crew, in search of the men when they failed to show up after shift," the superintendent said.  "We found gas and came back for masks."




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