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Mine Disasters in the United States


Lehigh Valley Coal Company
Warrior Run Mine Cars Disaster

Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania
August 28, 1908
No. Killed 6

1908 PA Annual Report Description  (2.4 Mb)  PDF Format
Official List of the Deceased  PDF Format


(From the 1908 Pennsylvania Anthracite Dept. of Mines Annual Report)

An accident occurred by which six men were killed and five injured.  The accident has a number of peculiar features about it that will be best understood by referring to the accompanying plan showing the arrangement of tracks about the head of the slope upon which the accident occurred.

The empty cars were run by gravity from the breaker plane to head block near the head of the slope over the light track shown in plan.  It was the duty of the car runners to run the empty cars with sprags from the head of the breaker plane to head of the slope, also the loaded cars from head of the slope to head of the breaker plane.

Orders had been given to these car runners to take a car of manure, as shown by arrows, from a point A to the hole B down which the manure was to be put for use in building a dam inside the mine.  The method of doing this should have been to run the car, properly spragged, to the head block at C along the light track which had an average grade of 1.93 per cent.  At C it should have been stopped and attached to the hoisting rope passing over the drum D and used for hoisting up the main slope.

The car should then have been pulled past the spring switch E, stopped before reaching the slope track and then dropped back along the loaded track, and, after having been detached from the rope, allowed to run by gravity to the hole B attended by the car runner.  This procedure was, however, not carried out, and the evidence shows that instead of the car loaded with manure being attended to by the regular car runners, this duty was being looked after by a headman whose business it was to attend a switch lever at the head of the slope at point F.

This change of work was evidently an arrangement between the headman, who should have been at F, and the car runners, so that the runners might go home earlier without waiting to shift the car.  Although the head block at C was known to have been in place some days prior to the accident it is probable that it was not in place on the day of the accident.

The superintendent of the colliery testified at the inquest that when he last examined the head of the slope the block was in place and that he was given no orders for it to be removed, and that anyone giving such orders did so without authority.  It was claimed that the head man stated to a witness immediately after the accident that he had ordered the head block removed, but this statement was denied by the headman at the inquest.

The car in running down the light track evidently gained greater headway than the man who was running it expected and he was unable to sprag it so that it would slow up before reaching the switch E.  The evidence showed that instead of stopping the car at C and then transferring it from the light to the loaded track by attaching the car to the hoisting rope, an attempt was made to switch the car from the light to the loaded track without attaching the hoisting rope to the car.

This point does not seem to be disputed by either side, and the headman claims that it was a common practice to thus switch the cars, while the company officials claim that it was contrary to direct orders to do it.  However, this may be, an effort was being made to make such a switch at the time of the accident, but the car had gained such headway that it was impossible to stop it between the switches E and F.  Consequently, the car ran up the plane at the head of the slope to the point G opposite the foreman's office.  To do this it was necessary for two wheels of the car to pass over the hoisting rope, which ordinarily stands taut about 5 inches above the track when the rope is down the slope and loaded as it was at the time of the accident.

It was also necessary for the car wheels to turn switch at F, and ordinarily this would have left the switch in a position for the car to run back upon the loaded track.  At this point the day after the accident, a trial hoist, under the condition at the time of the runaway, showed that the car was derailed each time that it was hoisted past switch F trusting to the switch being thrown by the car wheels instead of by hand as was customary.  Hence the conditions were such that the car should have been derailed before reaching the main slope even though the head block at C was not in place.

The evidence brought out at the inquest showed that when a car had previously run away under similar conditions and had passed the head block at C, it had gone up the slope and returned upon the loaded track as was to be expected.  At the time of the accident, however, the car passed over the rope, the switch F was thrown, and after reaching a point G the car returned down the slope for a distance of 900 feet, where it came in contact with man-cars, attached to the hoisting rope, containing twenty men ready to be hoisted to the surface.  The impact broke the rope cone and allowed the cars and men to fall 200 feet farther down the slope, killing men and injuring 5 others.  See Warrior Run graphic.

The verdict of the Coroner's Jury was as follows:
We find that James Gallagher, Julius Muscavage, Peter Ostrafsky, Adam Buscavage, John Tokarshak, and Frank Proprota, came to their deaths from injuries received August 28, 1908, at Warrior Run Colliery of the Lehigh Valley Coal Company in a collision on a slope between a man-car coming up and a loaded car going down.

The evidence shows that a car loaded with manure was being run down a plane with a pitch of one and one-eight degrees towards the mouth of the slope with the intention of switching it off on another track before it reached the mouth of the slope, but the head-man who was running the car at the time lost control of it and it ran down past the mouth of the slope up on the apex and then backswitched and ran down the slope, meeting the man-car coming up.

The evidence shows also that the customary head-block near the bead of the slope was not in place, it having been previously removed.  It is quite evident to us that had this head-block been in place the accident would have been avoided.

We, therefore, find that the outside foreman,, whose duty it was to look after this safety device, was negligent in his duties in not maintaining in good condition a head-block near the head of this slope as Article 12, Rule 50, of the Anthracite Mine Laws directs.  We find too that the headman and the two runners were guilty of contributory negligence in running cars over the tracks at this point with the head-block missing.
The deceased:
  • James Gallagher, 24
  • Adam Buscavage, 17
  • Peter Ostrofsky, 46
  • John Tokarshak, 56
  • Julius Muscavage, 24
  • Frank Poprota, 20


Runaway Car Kills Five Men
The News, Frederick, Maryland
August 29, 1908

Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Aug. 29. -- Five men were instantly killed, another expected to die and five others were seriously injured in a collision at the Warrior Run colliery of the Lehigh Valley Coal Company, about six miles from this city.

The men were being hoisted up the slope when a runaway car struck the cars, on which were twenty men, who were employed in the mine.  Only six of them escaped entirely uninjured.  Those killed were horribly mangled.

The car which ran away was being switched from one track to another when the head man in charge of it lost control of it.  It went beyond the point intended, jumping the latches at the head of the slope and running up a steep incline.  It then ran back down into the slope 1000 feet before it struck the other cars with the men on.

The cars with the workmen aboard had just stopped at what was known as No. 3 lift to take on other employees from that part of the mine.  A signal to start upwards had just been given the hoisting engineer when the roar of the down-coming car warned the men of the danger.  The few who escaped jumped from the cars at once, but the others were caught before they could escape.




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