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Utah Fuel Company
Sunnyside No. 1 Mine Explosion

Sunnyside, Carbon County, Utah
May 9, 1945
No. Killed - 23

USBM Final Investigation Report  (3.3 Mb)  PDF Format
List of the Deceased  PDF Format
From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Successful Rescue

Seven injured miners were brought to the surface within two hours following the explosion.  These men were rushed to the hospital at Dragerton, less than a mile from Sunnyside, where Dr. F. V. Columbo, resident surgeon, assumed charge.  Included in those injured and rescued were Martin M. Dean, Tony D. Trujillo, James A. Coleman, Guadalupe Sandoval, Tony J. Leger, Edward H. Edwards, and John B. Gulierez.  Source document PDF Format

23 Miners Killed in Gas Blast at Sunnyside Mine
The Ogden Standard-Examiner, Utah
May 10, 1945

Sunnyside, May 10 (UP) -- Twenty-three Carbon county coal miners were dead today -- victims of a terrific gas explosion about two miles underground in the Utah Fuel Co. No. 1 mine.

The blast was the greatest Utah mine disaster since the explosion in the Castle Gate Mine, another Utah Fuel company building, in March, 1924, in which 173 miners were killed.

The seared bodies of 21 of the victims were recovered during the night.  Rescue crew of 35 continued to dig through the coal-strewn tunnels of the mine in search of two remaining workers.  They were believed buried under several tons of coal brought down by the blast.

Seven miners were critically injured and were hospitalized in nearby Draggerton.  Those killed were taken to mortuaries in Price, Utah.

87 Working In Mine

S. C. Harvey, chief coal mine inspector for the state industrial commission, said 87 men were working in the mine at the time of the explosion.  Fifty-seven escaped injury.  They were working on different levels in the mine.  Harvey attributed the explosion to gas.

Victims, all from Sunnyside, Draggerton and Price, were:

Known dead:
  • C. Della Cord
  • Charles Matsuma
  • James Wycherley
  • M. H. Bradock
  • James Jardine
  • James Bailey
  • Pedro Gabaldon
  • Efram Manzanars
  • Manuel Trajillo
  • Tom Vigil
  • Joe Montoya
  • Clell Forsyth
  • Warren Hotchkiss
  • Lawrence Figuera
  • Joe Padella
  • James Gillmore
  • Virgil Stamper
  • Ira Hill
  • Arvil Stubblefield
  • John Martinez
  • G. Sandoval
Missing and Believed Dead:
  • Irving Leonard
  • Bud Walton
  • James Coleman
  • Martin Dean
  • Edward Edwards
  • Nick Sandoval
  • Tony Trujillo
  • Tony Ledger
  • J. B. Ginterez
To Investigate Blast

Members of the Utah industrial commission were expected to arrive at the disaster scene early today to investigate the exact cause of the explosion.

Harvey said only the use of rock dust firebreaks prevented greater damage to the mine shaft.

The blast occurred about three-fifteen p.m. yesterday -- 4 minutes before the men were scheduled to go off shift.

Carl Westberg, manager of the fuel company's Sunnyside operations, said the explosion was about two miles inside the mine.  He said he believed it was caused by gas or coal dust.

Persons at the surface said the blast sent flames shooting up the shaft, damaging the mine tipple.  The mine's ventilating shafts also were burned.

Rescue workers reported they were hampered in their search for additional victims by fallen coal and mine timbers.  They added, however, that no area of the mine was sealed off as far as they could determine.

During the early part of the rescue work, crews wore masks as protection against possible gas.  At latest reports, however, fresh air was being pumped through most of the mine.

All medical facilities in the area were mustered into service for aid to the injured.

"We put our faces down to the mine car rails and followed the rails away from the blast," Craig said, in an Associated Press dispatch.

One of his companions, Cliff Mahan, said: "It was a terrible sight."

Stanley Harvey of Price, a state coal mine inspector who led the rescue crews, expressed the belief that methane or marsh gas caused the explosion.

Carl Westberg, project manager of the company's Sunnyside operations, told reporters that "the accident apparently was caused by a gas explosion in the left district, where the blast seems to have been the most severe."

Nearly 60 other miners in the shaft reached the surface safely and one of them said the fact no cave-in followed the blast helped hold down the toll of lives lost.

"If the shaft hadn't been straight, none of the crews would have lived," he said.

The explosions occurred in the third left entry of No. 1 dip about two miles from the mine entrance.  Some of the bodies were severely charred and the clothes of one miner were ripped off his body.

Rescuers with breathing apparatus from the Columbia, Horse Canyon, Castle Gate and Kaiser company mines toiled through the night to bring out bodies.

Available records indicated the explosion was the third worst mine disaster in Utah's history.  The worst occurred at Scofield, May 1, 1900, killing 200 men.  On March 8, 1924, 175 men were killed at Castle Gate.

Maw Seeks Remedy

Gov. Herbert B. Maw said he was "very much shocked" at news of the explosion.  "A thorough investigation will be made of the cause of the blast," he said, "and every available means employed to remedy conditions causing such calamities."

All three members of the state industrial commission -- Chairman S. M. Royle; R. H. Dalrymple, safety division chairman, and O. A. Wiesley -- came here from Salt Lake City to investigate.

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