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Samples Coal Company
Wheatley No. 4 Mine Explosion

McAlester, Pittsburg County, Oklahoma
October 27, 1930
No. Killed - 30

Bureau of Mines Investigation Report  PDF Format
From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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30 Believed Dead in Mine Disaster in Oklahoma
Jefferson City Post-Tribune, Missouri
October 28, 1930

McAlester, Okla., Oct. 28 -- (AP) -- The explosion at the Wheatley Number 4 coal mine, which is believed to have cost 30 lives, recalled that a toll of 463 lives had been taken previously in similar Oklahoma tragedies in the last 38 years.

The Krebs explosion January 7, 1892, claimed exactly 100 lives while 91 miners perished in a blast at Wilburton January 13, 1926.

McAlester, Okla., Oct. 28 -- Gas today drove rescue workers from the lower levels of the Wheatley No. 4 coal mine, tomb of 29 miners since an explosion last night, and officials virtually abandoned hope that any of the trapped men would be found alive.

One man, William Donnelly, was killed at the head of the mine by the blast.  Bodies of four trapped miners were sighted on the 16th level.

Several rescue workers were overcome by the gas, known as coal damp, and one, John Moore, was carried from the mine.

The damp sent rescuers -- numbering about fifty -- back to the tenth level of the mine where ventilation was good.  Efforts were being made to obtain brattice cloth to curtain off mine entries and aid ventilation lower down.

Workers estimated it would require six men from five to six hours to carry one body from the lower levels, because of the mass of debris to be traversed.  It was impossible to send a car into the affected regions.

No Hope Held Out

Miller D. Hay, chief mine inspector, who entered the workings on his arrival here early today from Ada, Oklahoma, was authority for the statement there was little hope for the men trapped in the 16th, 17th and 18th levels.

The names of the dead and trapped miners as given out by the company, follows:
  • William Donnelly
  • Nick Zontic and his son
  • Nick Zontic, Jr.
  • Sam Hobegta
  • B. Lewis
  • Isam Cole
  • J. P. Hamman
  • Marcellus Ross
  • Joe McCauley
  • Richard Fauckner
  • Bob Corriter
  • Frank Husted
  • Seth Heathcock
  • Steve Delugas
  • Tony Campbell
  • John Wright
  • Harry Lehman
  • Bob Logero
  • Dominic Molet
  • Ernest Fears
  • Frank Poppy
  • T. B. Meredith
  • W. H. McMurty
  • Tom Holt
  • Lige McBee
  • Phillips Bietz
  • John Ghigo
  • Homer Bond
  • August Marco
A few more hopeful watchers at the mine said there was a bare possibility of some of the trapped men surviving if they had kept their edge doors closed.  The force of a mine explosion is upwards they said and indications were that the blast occurred between the 12th and 10th levels.

Cause Is Undetermined

No one would conjecture as to the cause of the explosion, which crushed Donnelly against wooded struts at the mine head, ripped sheet iron housings off the top of the shaft and shot flames 200 feet in the air, casting a reflection on the gray walls of the state penitentiary half a mile away.

Although the mine is on prison property it is owned privately and operated by civilian labor.  It is said to be one of the most modern in the state, with every available safety advice.

Existence of the damp added to fears for the trapped men.  It is quickly fatal, although not explosive.

Rescuers were repairing telephone lines and were in touch with the engine room at all times.  The first rescue group was led into the mine 20 minutes after the explosion by W. C. Robbin, district mine inspector.  Three hundred or more persons were gathered about the shaft mouth and the engine room this morning.

T. W. Wheatley, McAlester, mine manager, and part owner, collapsed in a private office near the scene of the blast.

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