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Superior Smokeless Coal Company
Tahona No. 29 Mine Explosion

Tahona, LeFlore County, Oklahoma
September 3, 1926
No. Killed - 16

USBM Final Investigation Report  (1.4 Mb)  PDF Format

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Successful Rescue

After about 3 hours, George Adams saved himself and three workmen, including Sam Cox.  Cox was burned and was bleeding about the body.  Adams dragged him through the debris to the surface and then returned for the two other men.  At another location, Lee Carter was almost overcome by gas fumes when a rescue party carried him to safety.

Oklahoma Miners Trapped by Explosion
Ada Evening News, Oklahoma
September 3, 1926

Tahona, Ok., Sept. 3. -- (AP) -- Little hope for the 16 or 17 men trapped in the entry No. 7 of mine No. 29 of the Superior Smokeless Coal Company, at Tahona by a gas explosion at 8:30 o'clock this morning, was expressed at 11:30 o'clock by Lee Carter, last miner brought out of the mine at that time.

Carter was almost overcome by gas fumes when a rescue party carried him to safety.  He had little hopes for the men remaining in the mine, he said.

Rescue parties using sponges for protection against the gas went into the wrecked mine at regular intervals.  Company officials did not say how many men had been taken out, although it is understood only a few have been rescued.  Officials declined to say how many men were in the mine at the time of the explosion.  Miners say about 200 men are employed, but the explosion occurred just before 25 machine men had gone in.

The explosion appears almost to have wrecked the mine.  The property is roped off and no one is allowed inside except company officials and the rescue crews, while women and children, relatives of the trapped men pressed against the ropes.

Dave Griffith, superintendent of the Superior Coal Company, declined to make any statement.

Men from Covington mine No. 12, which is nearer No. 29 than any other mine in the field, suspended work to lend their assistance.

The Superior mine is owned by the Peabody Coal Company.

Observers and miners attribute the explosion to accumulated mine gas, although mine officials and state mine inspectors declare that only an investigation will reveal the cause of the blast.  Officials at the mine said they had not learned from the miners who came out the conditions in the workings.

At McAlester, Jim Stiver, deputy state mine inspector in charge of the district in which the ill fated mine is located, said the Superior mine was one of the largest in Oklahoma.

The mine last month employed 183 men and most of them were on duty this morning when the explosion occurred, Stiver said he had learned.

Tahona, Okla., Sept. 3. -- Twelve miners were trapped in the Superior Smokeless Coal Company's mine here this morning, following a gas explosion in which several men were hurt, none seriously.  Names of the injured men are not known and the names of the imprisoned ones could not be learned.  It was expected that the 12 would be reached before noon.

Two miners were brought out of the mine shortly after 11 o'clock seriously burned.

Rescue parties were organized and physicians sent from Ft. Smith, Ark., and other nearby towns.

Oklahoma City, Sept. 3. -- Ed Boyle, Oklahoma chief mine inspector, left here at 9 o'clock this morning, after being informed that an explosion had occurred in the mine of the Superior Smokeless Coal Company this morning.

The explosion occurred shortly after the men entered the mine at 8 o'clock this morning, the chief mine inspector's office was informed.

No information as to the number of men entombed was received by the chief mine inspector in a long distance conversation with mine officials.

An immediate call was sent out by the mine officials for rescue workers.

Although from 125 to 150 men were employed at the time, there was no information as to how many of the men were in the entries when the explosion came.

Headquarters of the mine are at Shady Point, near Tahona in LeFlore County.

The entrance to the mine is believed to be opened making the work of rescuing to the entombed miners much easier.  The chief mine inspector was not informed as to whether the ventilation was cut off after the blast.

McAlester, Okla., Sept. 3. -- In readiness to depart for Tahona, employees of the U. S. Bureau of Mines in this city, at 11:30 a.m., awaited further details of the accident in which they were informed that 12 men were trapped in the early morning explosion.  W. W. Flemming, superintendent of the district bureau, said that most of the miners were believed to have found their way out of the workings.

Miners Caught in Gas Blast
The Salt Lake Tribune, Utah
September 4, 1926

Tahona, Okla., Sept. 3. -- (AP) -- Seven bodies had been taken from the Superior Smokeless Coal Company's mine here tonight and little hope was entertained that nine others, believed to have been entombed by an explosion in the mine this morning, still lived.

The bodies recovered were those of:
  • Dennis James
  • Henry Berry
  • Russ Green
  • Anuak Wanin
  • Bob Chambers and his son
  • Bruce Davis
  • Will Davis
Rescue workers continued their efforts to penetrate to the place where the others were entrapped.  They expected to reach it by midnight.

Poteau, Okla., Sept. 3. -- (AP) -- How he poured water on their clothing, covered their faces, and brought them to safety after fighting his way through tunnels of flame and deadly gases, was told by George Adams, miner, who saved himself and three workmen today from the explosion in No. 7 mine of the Superior Smokeless Coal Company.

Adams was on slope No. 7 when the first blaze occurred.  He had just started work and was alone.
"When I heard the explosion, I made a break for the shaft and saw the gas and dust coming down on me.  I kept right on going up the shaft, and at the entrance of 7 I saw Sam Cox and two other men."

"I had a bucket of water, so I poured it over our shirts and covered our faces."

"When we got to the entrance of No. 5 slope, I heard a second explosion.  We dropped into a hole and tried to cover up.  We just crouched there until everything was quiet, then fought our way out through the heat, damp and smoke."
Cox was burned and was bleeding about the body.  Adams dragged him through the debris to the surface and then returned for the two other men.

Shady Point, Okla., Sept. 3. -- (AP) -- Mine 29, of the Superior Smokeless Coal and Mining Company at Tahona, scene of an explosion and fire early today which is believed to have trapped sixteen men in an entry, began to give up its dead tonight.

The only sign of life found in the entry of 7 West when rescuers first entered was a mule.

The explosion, attributed to gas, occurred shortly after 8 o'clock this morning.  At the time 138 men were at work in the mine, but with the exception of the sixteen caught in entry 7 west, all made their way to the surface.  Several were severely injured.

Fire, which came in the wake of the blast, blocked efforts to penetrate the wrecked entry.

An appeal was sent to Fort Smith, Ark., about ten miles away, for firefighting apparatus and a truck reached here at 3 o'clock this afternoon with firemen to augment rescue parties, which, under the direction of Pit Boss Herbert, had worked for five hours, pushing a blanket in the doomed entry in an effort to battison off the flames and bring air into the damp filled workings.

Only three oxygen helmets were available, but others of the rescue crew joined in the task, improvising masks of sponges as protection against the fumes.

Difficulty was experienced by newspaper men in obtaining definite information as to the extent of the disaster, owing to reticence of the mine officials and such information as could be obtained had to be taken a distance of two miles to reach a telephone.  Company officials early in the day declined to give information and permission to use the company telephone was denied.

Last of Sixteen Bodies Recovered from Death Shaft
The Ada Evening News, Oklahoma
September 5, 1926

Tahona, Sept. 4. -- (AP) -- Another chapter in Oklahoma's mine disaster history was closed here Saturday afternoon when the last of 16 bodies were removed from the Superior Mining Co's mine No. 29 here in which 16 men met death in an explosion Friday morning.  Rescue workers had toiled incessantly since the blast.

Fifteen bodies were brought to the surface by noon and only that of M. K. Hise remained buried in the debris.

It was dug from under the fallen timbers and dirt shortly after noon and brought to the surface, completing the work of the rescue crew.

Six bodies were recovered Friday, one during the night and the remainder Saturday.

One hundred forty-three men went into the workings Friday morning at 8:30 o'clock.

Accumulated gas and coal dust is believed to have caused the explosion which centered about entry 7 West.

All but 16 men came out of the mine entrance after the explosion, two seriously burned, leaving the mine entrance after the blast.  Many of those who escaped were slightly burned.

As soon as Hise's body was sent to the surface, the rescue workers who had been on duty went to their homes for much needed sleep, several of them slightly affected by the gas which was not cleared from the mine until this morning.

Other miners, however, went back into the mine to clear away the debris and put in new brattice work.  The mine is expected to be reopened within a short time.

Just how much damage was caused by the explosion has not been determined.

Tahona was today preparing to bury its dead tomorrow.  As the bodies were removed from the mine today then were taken to little mine shacks the miners called home, followed by sorrowing friends and relatives.

Individual funeral services will be held for nearly all of the dead tomorrow.  Some bodies were shipped to Poteau, Cameron and Bokoshe where they will be placed in little cemeteries tomorrow.

Hundreds of persons who stood at the main entrance as the rescue crews worked, offered consolation to relatives who had lost a father or son.

No special services have been planned at Tahona where most the bodies will be buried.

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