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Mine Disasters in the United States


Peabody Coal Company
No. 47 Mine Explosion

Harco, Saline County, Illinois
December 28, 1941
No. Killed 8

(From the Illinois Department of Mines and Minerals Annual Coal Report)

A gas explosion in Peabody Coal Company Harco mine No. 47, December 28, 1941, killed eight men.  Two men escaped but were suffering from shock and the effect of black damp.  They were expected to recover.

The bodies of seven of the deceased were brought to the surface at once but search continued for the eighth.

A crew of electricians had gone into the mine during the weekend holiday to finish dismantling of equipment that was being removed from a section about to be abandoned.

Seven bodies were found a mile from the shaft at the generator room.  The section in which they had been working was a half mile further.  Apparently they had completed their job there and were returning to the shaft when the unexplained blast came.  No rock fell.

Rescue crews from Eldorado, Herrin, DuQuoin and Benton went into the mine.  The Eldorado six man crew was first to enter at 6:50 a.m.

William McElder, superintendent of Mine No. 47, went into the workings and directed the rescue work.  Lloyd Anderson, superintendent of Peabody Mine No. 43 at Harrisburg, supervised above ground.  Also on the job was Robert M. Medill of Springfield, State Director of the Department of Mines and Minerals.

The crew entered the mine about 2:30 a.m.  The first indication on the surface that all was not well was the discovery of a short circuit in the wiring system.  Henry Dempsey, 56, night superintendent, went down to investigate.  Not far from the shaft he discovered two men crawling painfully along.  He aided them to the shaft and to safety.  Because of the presence of gas, rescue work proceeded slowly and the bodies were not reached until 12:45 p.m.  The accident happened about 3:30 a.m.

Deceased:
  • McCoy Cobb, of Eldorado, electrician boss, 36, married, leaves a widow and one child
  • Orval Daugherty, of Harco, electrician, 40, married, leaves a widow and two children
  • Roy Donaldson, of Harco, electrician, 33, married, leaves a widow and two children
  • John Fletcher, of Harco, electrician, 41, married, leaves a widow and three children
  • Harry Holden, of Harco, mine examiner, 30, married, leaves a widow and two children
  • Charles Pemberson, of Marion, electrician, 30, married, leaves a widow and two children
  • Harold J. Smith, of Harco, electrician, 41s, married, leaves a widow
  • William Strange, of Harco, electrician, 46, married, leaves a widow and one child


Eight Killed in Mine Explosion
Edwardsville Intelligencer, Illinois
December 29, 1941

Harco, Ill., Dec. 29. -- An electric spark from a power switchboard was believed today to have caused an explosion which killed eight men and injured two as they were leaving an abandoned shaft of the Peabody Coal Company mine 47.

"Marsh gas," common to coal mines, was believed to have been ignited, resulting in the explosion.

The crew of 18 had worked through Saturday night removing machinery from the shaft 400 feet below the surface.  They had left the shaft when the blast caught them at 3:15 a.m., Sunday.

Frank Dietz and C. M. Phelps, who were in another part of the mine, escaped with injuries described as not serious.  Harold Holden, 30, a mine inspector employed by the company, was among those killed.

Four state mine rescue squads aided in bringing the bodies to the surface.  Seven of the dead were taken from the mine Sunday afternoon and Holden's body was recovered about 10 p.m.  After the bodies were brought out, workers at once set about clearing the mine of gas and debris and to repair the ventilating system.

Coroner Earl Thornton said an inquest would be held Wednesday at the court house in Harrisburg at 7 p.m.  Two rescue crews working in alternate shifts labored for nine hours before any of the bodies were found.  Nearly 500 persons including the wives and children of the trapped miners, waited at the mine entrance.

The dead:
  • Harold Holden, 30, mine inspector
  • McCoy Cobb, 36
  • Orvil Daugherty, 40
  • William Strange, 46
  • Roy Donaldson
  • John Fletcher, 49
  • Charles Pemberton, 30
  • Harold Smith, 40



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