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Bicknell Coal Company
Panhandle No. 2 Mine Explosion

Bicknell, Knox County, Indiana
May 22, 1941
No. Killed - 14

USBM Final Investigation Report  (20.4 Mb)  PDF Format

This explosion is believed to have been the result of the ignition of mine gas by a "non-permissible" cutting machine.  Fourteen men were killed in the accident.  Two of the dead men showed signs of having been severely burned, while the other twelve apparently died from suffocation.  Fourteen other men in the mine at the time of the explosion succeeded in escaping unharmed.

14 Hoosier Miners Die in Explosion
The Kokomo Tribune, Indiana
May 23, 1941

Bicknell, Ind., May 23. -- (AP) -- The bodies of 14 miners killed in the Panhandle mine near here last night by an explosion described as a big "woof," were brought to the surface this morning one by one.  Seventeen other men working on the same level walked from the underground workings safely by a circuitous, 2 mile route.

The bodies of most of the dead were burned badly.  Mothers, wives and children who had waited stoically since the explosion at 9:10 o'clock last night broke into sobs as rescuers brought the bodies of their loved ones to the surface.

The deceased:
  • Charles W. Harrinton, 47
  • E. R. Cole, 48
  • James M. Smith, 65
  • Richard Smith, 41
  • Dewey Stinett
  • Maurice Taburlaux, 40
  • Floyd Harper, 30
  • Charles Osborn, 30
  • Charles Wright, 38
  • Virgil Sager, 30
  • Wilbert Redmond, 24
  • Charles B. May, 50
  • F. M. Vincent, 47
  • Arthur Gourdouze, 44
Jack Ogilvie of Bicknell, in charge of the rescue squad, expressed belief gas or a mixture of gas and dust had become ignited in some manner.  He said part of the level was damaged badly, with timbers and other debris hampering rescue work.

The rescuers, aided by oxygen masks, brought out the bodies of Wright and James Smith to the surface soon after the explosion.  They were not burned.  They had to wait some time for the gas to clear before they were able to reach the others.

Ambulances waiting under a sign with this motto: "Work carefully today that you may enjoy life tomorrow," took the bodies to the morgues.

Frank Pierce, mine superintendent, led the first group of rescuers into the mine.  Most of them were employed at the workings, owned by the Bicknell Coal Company.  The blast occurred about 2,500 feet back in the level.

Charles Mossel, a miner working on the same vein but 1,000 feet away, said the explosion sounded like a big "woof."  He said he and the men around him didn't realize what had happened as no blasting was scheduled for last night.

Motorman Benny Hughes then saw smoke rolling down the level and the group started for the shaft.  Fumes and coal dust became so thick they turned off to one side and followed a long, 2 mile route to the opening.
"Dust flew up in front of us and our eardrums thumped," said Loader Quince Hardesty.  "It was like walking through hell's half acre to get out."

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