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Mine Disasters in the United States

Smokeless Coal Company
Smokeless Valley No. 1 Mine Explosion

Johnstown, Pennsylvania
May 24, 1915
No. Killed - 9

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Rescuer Death

On May 25, 1915, Gomer Phillips, an instructor in charge of first aid and mine rescue for the Cambria Steel Company, lost his life 400 feet beyond the fresh-air base while on an exploration trip after an explosion in the No. 1 mine of the Smokeless Coal Company, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in which eight persons were killed.

A crew consisting of Phillips and three other mine rescue men of the same company, wearing Fleuss oxygen breathing apparatus, left the fresh-air base to make a contemplated exploration trip of about 1,400 feet.  After advancing about 500 feet, Phillips complained that he did not feel well but was persuaded by a member of the crew to continue on the exploration.  After traveling some distance, Phillips suddenly turned, broke away from the crew, and started running toward the fresh-air base.

He ran about 30 feet and fell forward on his face.  The other three men of the crew followed him, picked him up, and carried him about 60 feet, but stopped because of exhaustion, and two of them fell down.  The remaining crew member succeeded in reaching the fresh-air base and reported that the other three men were down.

Two other men, without apparatus, attempted to reach Phillips and the other two members of the rescue crew, but this effort failed.  Canvas brattices were then erected in the crosscuts, and fresh air was directed toward the point where the men had collapsed.

One of the men was met crawling toward the fresh-air base on his hands and knees.  Phillips and his companion were found where they had fallen.  They were carried or dragged back to the fresh-air base, a distance of about 350 feet.  On reaching the fresh-air base artificial respiration was applied, and Phillips' companion was revived in about one-half hour.  However, continued artificial respiration and the use of a pulmotor for over an hour failed to revive Phillips.

Careful examination of the equipment worn by these men failed to reveal any defects.

Source: Loss of Life Among Wearers of Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (April 1944) PDF Format

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