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Connellsville Coal and Iron Company
West Leisenring Mine Explosion

West Leisenring, Fayette County, Pennsylvania
February 20, 1884
No. Killed - 19

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The Coal Mine Horror
By Associated Press to the Herald
Titusville Morning Herald, Pennsylvania
February 22, 1884

Uniontown, Pa., Feb. 21. -- The scene of yesterday's terrible disaster was visited by large numbers today.  The majority were simply curious, but many came with the earnest intention of investigating and, if possible, ascertaining the cause of the explosion.

Heretofore gas has not caused much trouble in Western Pennsylvania mines, but it is evident that a vast quantity had generated in a short time without being discovered.  The majority of experts who have examined the mine this morning incline to the belief that the explosion resulted from the falling of a portion of the roof of one of the chambers and exposing a crevice filled with fire damp.  None, however, are willing to stake their reputation on this until a more thorough examination has been made.

Coffins for nineteen victims arrived from Pittsburgh this morning and all will be buried from Uniontown tomorrow.

Two-thirds of the victims were Catholics and it has not yet been decided whether union services will be held or each family bury its own dead.

The list of the dead:
  • Michael Hefferin, Irishman, 32, burned in face; leaves a wife and six children
  • John Buckley, Irishman, 30, unmarried, no visible injury
  • Patrick Kennedy, Irishman, 20, burned in face; unmarried and only child of a widow
  • James Tracy, Irishman, 45, badly burned in the face and body; single
  • James Baker, Irishman, 34, terribly burned in the face; leaves a wife and two children
  • David Lloyd, Welshman, 22; unmarried, burned on the head and face
  • William Davis, Welshman, single, 23; no marks
  • Thomas McGarey, Irishman, 35; badly burned, leaves a wife and three children in Cumberland County, England
  • John Hart, American, 25, single; no marks
  • Michael Repko, Hungarian, 35, leaves a wife and two children
  • George Kallis, Hungarian, 25, leaves a wife in the old country
  • Daniel Beckner, colored, leaves a wife and two children
  • John Murray, Irishman, 34; been in America since May last; he leaves a wife, who came in August, and one child
  • Peter Watter, Irishman, 31; single, brother of Mrs. Murray
  • William Searing, American, 35; leaves a wife and four children
  • Joe Bakos, Hungarian, 28; leaves a wife
  • Andy Warmus, German, 30; single, and sent his wages to his mother in Germany every month
  • Alban N. Hackney, of this county; 35; leaves a wife and one child
  • Garey E. May, nothing known about him except that he was from Maryland
The Connellsville Coal and Iron Company, the owners of the mine, will pay all funeral expenses.  There are none here who censure the company.  The opinion is universal that the explosion cannot be charged to their neglect as the shaft was a model.  The most approved appliances were used for safety and greater precautions taken than required by law.

The families of the dead miners are not in immediate destitute circumstances, but the sudden withdrawal of support caused by the taking off of husbands, fathers and brothers will be seriously felt in the near future.  Many had their lives insured only last week.  An insurance agent circulated among the miners and a large number availed themselves of the opportunity among them were several who were killed.

A closer examination of the mine leads many to believe that it resulted from improper ventilation, the air doors were lacking in places where, if they had been erected, they would probably let off the foul air and prevented the explosion.

This afternoon Mine Inspector Steluer made a thorough examination of the mine, and also made a chart showing the different apartments, which he will present at the Coroner's investigation.  He would not say directly what he thought caused the explosion, as he preferred giving his testimony first before the Coroner, but said that he was convinced that the heavy gas must have come from the break in some vacant room and the room filling up, ran over and followed along the roof until some tall miner, perhaps John Murray, touched it off with his head lamp.  These facts are borne out by the fact that only four men were killed by the explosion.

The air channels showed a good current and if the men had been in a current, or the distribution had been somewhat equalized by the erections of doors at proper places, the proportion of smothered and killed outright not to be so great.  The Coroner's Jury also went through the mine this afternoon and examined the apartments, the means of ventilation, etc., very closely.

The company is doing all in its power to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded and the sorrow of the afflicted.  The former are now able to be about, most of them were nearly prostrated by the afterdamp.  One was painfully bruised and burned, but he will get well.  The funerals take place from here tomorrow and the Coroners will begin the investigation Saturday.

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