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Union Collieries Company
Renton No. 3 Mine Explosion

Renton, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
July 19, 1920
No.Killed - 9

Bureau of Mines Investigation Report  (3.7 Mb)  PDF Format

Cause of Explosion:  Allowing men to enter mine after fan had been shut down and before mine had been re-examined.  The cause of the explosion in not known exactly -- locomotive in mine somehow ignited gas.  Two days before the explosion, power was shut off for repairs to the line.  The fan was restarted but then stopped again about two hours before the blast.  At 3:20 there was a violent explosion, wrecking the mine workings and blowing cages into the headframes.  The men in the mine were killed and much dangerous work was performed by rescue crews in finding and removing the bodies.  Ignition was evidently caused by an arc from a trolley locomotive moved into an entry not yet cleared of accumulated gas.

Official list of the deceased:
  • John Luteman, Night Foreman and Fireboss
  • Edmund Rigby, Fireboss
  • Charles Reese, Fireboss
  • John Marks, Pumper
  • Mike Kosti, Pumper
  • Cross De Blatta, Pumper
  • Nick Matuskenok, Timberman
  • Lewey Kuffer, Timberman
  • Mike Kokard, Supplyman

Blast Entombs Eight Miners
The Kansas City Times, Kansas City, MO
July 19, 1920

Pittsburgh, July 19. John Luteman, night foreman, two fire bosses, two pumpers and three laborers were entombed by an explosion in the mine of the Union Collieries Company, at Renton, eighteen miles from here, early today.

The explosion blew the cars out of the shaft, and as soon as repairs to the hoist apparatus can be made, rescue crews from the Pittsburgh station of the Bureau of Mines and similar crews from adjoining coal properties will endeavor to find the buried men.

The ventilation system of the mine, which is 513 feet deep, is operated by electricity furnished by a power company.  Saturday afternoon it became necessary to make repairs to the plant, and the power was shut off.

At midnight Sunday, Foreman Luteman and the crew entered the mine to see that all was in readiness for operation this morning.  It is not known how far they have gone into the workings, but at 3:30 o'clock a terrific explosion shook the entire neighborhood.  The cage, by which the men had gone to the bottom of the shaft, was blown up to the surface and the machinery at the top of the tipple wrecked.

A crowd quickly gathered, but nothing could be done as there was no means of reaching the buried men.  A rescue car and a full crew was ordered to Renton from the Pittsburgh station of the Bureau of Mines.

Arriving at the scene, the government men rigged up a bucket, and a small party was sent down the shaft.  They have not decided whether they will prosecute.

Body Recovered From Renton Mine Cave-in
The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel, Fort Wayne, IN
July 20, 1920

Pittsburgh, July 20. -- The body of one of the nine men who were entombed yesterday by an explosion in a mine at Renton, eighteen miles from here, was recovered by the Bureau of Mines rescue crew early today.  Hope of the rescue of the other eight was practically abandoned when the rescuers, after a trip through a section of the wrecked mine, said the force of the explosion was general.

The body recovered this morning was burned and leaders of the rescue crew said they believed it would be impossible to establish the identity of the victim.

Members of the crew were forced to dig their way through a mass of debris and then make a passage through five mine cars which were wrecked near the bottom of the shaft.  After a struggle of many hours the crew finally entered the mine level.  Nearby the body was found.  The crew than came to the surface, reported that further progress was impossible until they had cleared a way through the level, and expressed the opinion that the eight missing men had been killed by the explosion.

Explosion Buries Nine Miners Alive Near Pittsburgh
The Philadelphia Inquirer
July 20, 1920

Pittsburgh, Pa., July 19.-- Nine miners are entombed following an explosion in the mine of the Union Collieries Company at Renton, eighteen miles from here.

It is hoped the men are still alive, and every effort is being made to reach them before they die a slow death of suffocation, more than five hundred feet below the surface.

The missing include three fire bosses, three pumpers and three laborers.

As soon as the cage of the mine was repaired late today, a mine rescue worker, carrying a canary bird, was lowered in the shaft a distance of slightly more than five hundred feet.  He was pulled up in ten minutes, and as the bird showed no ill effects from the trip, members of the rescue crew said the mine was free from gas and fire.  They explained that the bird was used as a gas and fire test.

Mike Thomas, a lampman who was on duty when the explosion occurred, said today that shortly after the nine men went into the mine on a tour of inspection, he received a telephone call from John Lutman, fire boss, who was with the party at the mine.  Lutman, he said, asked that he turn on the power, but, he added, when the fire boss told him there was no danger, he complied with the request.  A few moments later the explosion occurred Thomas said.

A second accident was narrowly averted late this afternoon when rescue teams were repairing the shaft for the work of the exploration.  The improvised cage on which they were working tipped and the men barely saved themselves from dropping to the foot of the shaft.

The chance that the entombed miners still live lies in the possibility that they found a place of safety somewhere in the workings before the blast reached them, according to mining experts.

Following the explosion a rush of men, women and children was made to the mine.  Many distraught and waiting with fear and agony left their beds and rushed to the scene of the explosion without donning their clothing.

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