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Mine Disasters in the United States

Knox Coal Company
Schooley Mine Explosion

Wyoming, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
April 10, 1947
No. Killed - 10

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Mine Explosion Fatal to Nine at Exeter, Pa.
Titusville Herald, Pennsylvania
April 11, 1947

Exeter, Pa., April 10. -- (AP) -- The nation's second coal mine explosion in little more than two weeks killed nine anthracite diggers and injured nine others as they worked 350 feet underground today.

The blast -- attributed to gas -- brought no immediate comment from United Mine Workers Chief John L. Lewis, who closed the country's bituminous workings in mourning after 111 died in the March 25 tragedy at Centralia, Ill.  However, an immediate report was asked in the Pennsylvania Legislature.

The Government operated the Centralia mine as it does some 2,500 other bituminous workings, but has no hand in anthracite setup centered chiefly in eastern Pennsylvania.

The explosion, so terrific that it splintered supporting timbers and crumpled mine chamber walls, came shortly after the day work crew reported at the Schooley Shaft of Knox Coal Company.

Dust and smoke rose from the pit-head as rescue forces rushed into the operation near Wilkes-Barre.  Two bodies were removed immediately.  Injured were speeded to nearby Pittston hospital where doctors said some had been burned, others overcome by fumes.

Within a matter of several hours -- while anxious-eyed relatives and tense fellow miners stood by -- the other bodies were recovered from mounds of debris.

While no statement was forthcoming from the company, Joseph J. Walsh, deputy state secretary of mines, said the blast was caused by ignition of methane gas.  He said the mine was in "first class condition" after recent inspections.

Officials of the Knox Company said 175 miners are normally employed, but that only 20 are believed to have been in the blast-torn shaft -- operated on sub-contract by the Panzetta Coal Company.  Two of these 20 escaped unhurt.

Benjamin Fogila, 48, groped his way to safety after throwing his shirt over his head.  He said a fellow worker, Michael Giambra, 21, was killed while carrying a keg of explosive from one mine chamber to another.

The list of casualties are:
  • Joseph Tomaszewski, Minooka.
  • Charles Ellard, Minooka.
  • John Castellani, Taylor.
  • Eugene Vivaldi, Duryea.
  • Stephen Allesandra, Yatesville.
  • Michael Giambra, Pittston.
  • Michael Panzitta, Pittston Township.
  • Victor Trotta, Pittston.
  • Joseph Gawlas, Wyoming.
  • James Jackson, Wyoming.
The pithead soon after the blast became the scene of frenzied activity amid mute crowds of bystanders.  Among those who rushed to the mountainside mine were several clergymen, including Rev. George Joeckel, who descended into the pit to administer last rites.

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