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Conemaugh Smokeless Coal Company
Robindale Mine Explosion

Seward, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
March 30, 1916
No. Killed - 8

Seven Bodies Recovered After Mine Explosion Which Occurred in Robindale Works
Indiana Evening Gazette, Pennsylvania
March 31, 1916

Of the eight men killed in the explosion at the Robindale Mine of the Conemaugh Smokeless Coal Company, near Seward, yesterday morning, six leave widows.  Another was a widower with one child and only one of the men was childless.

The dead:
  • John Waddell, superintendent of the mine, 40
  • Thomas Hoover, tipple boss, 40
  • George Watson, assistant superintendent, 45
  • H. H. Yocum, electrician, 55
  • Joe Polad, miner, 40
  • Sam Verbun, miner, 26
  • George Nolarditch, miner, 25
  • Mike Balowith, miner, 40
All the bodies except that of Hoover have been recovered.

Rescue parties who entered the mine believe that he is buried under the mass of debris which is piled at the foot of the 150-foot deep shaft.  There is no possibility, in their opinion, that he is alive.

At 8 o'clock last evening the work at the mine was suspended, as it would require hours for the recovery of the one missing body and it was decided to postpone the search for it until today.

Chief James E. Roderick, of Harrisburg, chief of the state Bureau of Mines, arrived from Pittsburgh in the forenoon.  Before 3 o'clock in the afternoon eight mine inspectors were on the scene and they were reinforced by five men from the United States Bureau of Mines in Pittsburgh.

Chief Roderick accompanied by Mine Inspector T. D. Williams of District No. 6, Johnstown; C. H. Crocker, District No. 30, Blairsville; Joseph Knapper, District No. 8; Nicholas Evans, District No. 24, Johnstown; Thomas A. Furniss, District No. 12, Punxsutawney; Thomas S. Lowther, District No. 25, Indiana, and Joseph Williams, District No. 10, Altoona, arrived in Johnstown early last evening.

The delegation of mine inspectors was at the Crystal Hotel last night.  Mr. Williams acted as spokesman for them and issued a brief statement.
"I was at the mine about an hour after the explosion," he said.  "The Pennsylvania Railroad officials were kind enough to stop the train for me at Seward and I was able to reach the scene quickly.  When I arrived clouds of yellow smoke were coming from the mine and the machinery from the fan and pumps was wrecked."

"The big motor which ran the fans was ruined and the company used a small motor the strength of which was insufficient to bear the burden.  I organized a crew as soon as was practical and entered the mine.  We found things in a very bad shape.  Beams used in the overcast were twisted into shapeless masses so terrific had been the explosion and I at once gave up hope of rescuing alive any men who might have been in the mine."

"The water in the mine started to rise and we withdrew and the company was given permission to start the pumps.  We had refused them permission to do so before as there was danger of electrocution if a short circuit was formed.  The wires carried 2200 volts of electricity and we did not want any more fatalities."

"We were joined in the afternoon by other rescue squads and located the bodies early in the evening.  Seven were sent to the surface and we believe the eighth is buried under the mass of debris at the foot of the shaft."

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