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Mine Disasters in the United States


Lehigh Valley Coal Company
Prospect Colliery Roof Fall Accident

Midvale, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
May 13, 1908
No. Killed – 5

1908 PA Annual Report Description  PDF Format
Official List of the Deceased  PDF Format
Other Children Killed in Mine Accidents


(From the 1908 Pennsylvania Anthracite Dept. of Mines Annual Report)

At 12:30 noon, May 13, a fall of roof occurred in No. 4 lift road, No. 246 Bowkley vein in Midvale slope, Lehigh Valley Coal Company, by which Martin Degnan, timberman, Andrew Wasko, timberman’s helper, Paul Bozent, miner, Peter Zwintski, driver, and Michael Libzak, doorboy, were instantly killed and two others slightly injured.

It appears from testimony taken at the Coroner's inquest held at Wilkes-Barre, that Anthony Smith, runner, had run a trip of two loaded cars down a section and had failed to place the proper number of sprags in the wheels, which allowed the trip to get beyond control.

When the trip landed on the gangway road it jumped the track discharging four props that stood on the lower side of the road, and a portion of the roof fell on top of the cars.  The runner sent the driver to call the timberman to replace the cars on the track and to secure the roof.  When the timberman arrived, they replaced one of the cars on the road and pushed it back so that they could replace the other derailed car and the props.  While this was being done, a large piece of top rock fell, without warning, catching seven of them.  It also appears from the testimony that the timberman had failed to sound or examine the roof before they commenced to work at the derailed cars.  He should have seen that the roof was safe to work under, knowing that all the props under this particular piece of rock had been discharged.

The following is the verdict of the Coroner's jury in the case:
We find that Martin Degnan and others came to their death from injuries received at the Midvale Slope of the Prospect Colliery of the Lehigh Valley Coal Company, May 13, 1908.  The evidence shows that a run-away occurred in the gangway, the cars jumping the track and knocking out four props that stood along the side of the gangway to protect the roof.  A fall of rock occurred which Martin Degnan attempted to remove.  Others were watching his movements when a second fall took place fatally injuring five men.  The props that were knocked out were not reset, nor had any precaution been taken to secure the roof by the workingmen before trying to get the cars back on the track.

We therefore find that the men took no precaution whatever for their own safety and that the said company were in no way responsible for the accident.  Jury: John Nygren, Patrick Mourigan, William Bower, Griffith Pritchard, F. D. Vincent, W. S. Casterlin.
The deceased:
  • Martin Degnan, 38, Timberman
  • Andrew Wasko, 35, Helper
  • Paul Bozent, 45, Miner
  • Peter Zwintski, 19, Driver
  • Michael Libzak, 17, Doorboy


Fatal Accident in Colliery Near Wilkes-Barre
Daily Gazette and Bulletin, Williamsport, Pennsylvania
May 14, 1908

Wilkes-Barre, May 13. -- A trip of runaway cars jumped the track this afternoon in the Prospect colliery at Midvale and disturbed the propping.

Seven men started to the spot to put the cars back when two falls of roof came down on them in quick succession.  All were caught.  Four men were killed almost instantly by being buried beneath tons of rock and coal, the others were released by the heroic efforts of several miners who came to their rescue.

The mine is one of the oldest in this valley, owned and operated by the Lehigh Valley Coal Company.




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