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Mine Disasters in the United States


Sonman Shaft Coal Company
Sonman Mine Hoisting Disaster

Sonman, Cambria County, Pennsylvania
August 17, 1907
No. Killed 5

Correspondence and news from the period  (852 Kb)  PDF Format

See also: Sonman Mine Explosion, July 15, 1940


(The following is an excerpt taken from the 1907 PA Department of Mines Annual Report)

Falling Down Shaft

Adam Kunkle, Polish; Ralph Richie, American; Russel Hollern, American; Oscar Groki, American; and John McAllister, Scotch; all company men, together with three others, got on the cage to descend to their work.

The engineer, instead of lowering the cage, hoisted it to the automatic dump in the headframe with such force as to displace the angle guides, upsetting the cage straight down the shaft.

Five men fell to the bottom, a distance of 350 feet; the other three escaping by clinging to the cage and shaft timbers.

At the inquest, the engineer stated that he had left the engine after hoisting a man up the shaft to see if there was water in the boilers.

Upon receiving a signal to let the men down, he unintentionally sent the cage the wrong way, hoisting it to the automatic dump instead of lowering it into the shaft.  The evidence shows that he hoisted the cage slowly at first, but when an alarm was given by the men around the top of the shaft, he became excited and shot the cage up.

The following is a copy of the verdict:
We, the jurors, find from the evidence presented that the death of Adam Kunkle and four others at the Sonman mine, August 17th, 1907 was due to an unintentional mistake of E.D.B. Holmes, operating the engine that raised the cage instead of lowering it, causing the fatalities.
J. B. Prothero, Coroner
Cambria County


Five Drop to Death
Washington Post, District of Columbia
August 18, 1907

Johnstown, Pa., Aug. 17. -- Owing to what is said to have been a defect to the machinery a cage containing eight miners who were preparing to descend to their work in a mine of the Sonman Shaft Coal Company at Sonman, Pa., about sixteen miles east of here today started upward instead of going down and rising to the top of the tipple eighty feet above the ground, turned over throwing the men out.

Five of them dropped to the bottom of the shaft, a distance of more than 400 feet, and were killed.  The others managed in catching hold of the timber of the tipple and escaped with slight injury.

The dead:
  • John McAllister, 55, roadman, of Jamestown, single
  • Oscar Groki, pumper, of Sonman, Pa., married
  • Ralph Richie, 25, utility man, of Portage, Pa., single
  • Adam Kunkle, utility man, of Sonman, married
  • Russell Hollern, 28, engineer, of Portage, Pa., single




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