Michel, BC Coal Mine Gas Explosion, Aug 1916
NO HOPE HELD OUT FOR MINERS CAUGHT BY BIG EXPLOSION.
RESCUE PARTY BELIEVES GAS HAS KILLED THOSE WHO MIGHT HAVE LIVED.
Dead And Missing:
THOMAS PHILLIPS, fire boss, leaves a wife and five children.
DAN HALL, hoist man, single.
M. MARMOL, brattice man, single.
M. DMYTRIV, rope rider, single; came from Coalhurst two weeks ago.
H. EVANS, laborer, three children at home and two married.
A. FICON, laborer, single.
J. MIKUS, two children and wife in Old Country.
P. HIPKA, timberman, single.
GEORGE KMETZ, miner, two daughters married and one son in U.S., and one child at home.
C. DeVALDER, minor, single.
T. HAMPTAN, miner, single.
DI DAVIES, miner, wife and one child.
(Special to the Herald)
Michel, Aug. 10. -- The shift which came out of the wrecked mine last night at midnight reported slow progress in the rescue work, owing to the amount of caves and the accumulation of gas where the air currents could not be used. No Draeger apparatus could be made use of owing to the heavy caves obstructing the passages so that in many places men could not pass with apparatus strapped on their backs.
After working many hours in the return air tunnel and reaching about two thousand feet into the mine, it was found impossible to continue on that course and a retreat had to be made and a new course pursued. After this was done fair progress was made as reported by the eight o'clock shift when it came out. It is thought that with fair success today the localities in which the entrapped miners are supposed to be may be reached and the final search for the men be made. There is a strong probability though that some at least of these men had not reached their places and if so they may be buried beneath the caves somewhere in the passages and thus be difficult to find. A full force of men are constantly at work and will continue until a thorough exploration of all parts of the mine has been made. No hopes remain of finding a single man alive, as the gas has accumulated to such an extent as to render life impossible if any of the men escaped instant death.
Story of Disaster
Michel, Aug. 9. -- scarcely had the miners throughout the Crow's Nest Pass returned to their accustomed places and resumed their daily round of toil when like a blast from the home of the gnomes came the terrible shock of an explosion here which has put out the life of one man certainly and in all probability, the lives of eleven more of his companions who had had barely time to reach their working places when the shock, followed by the caving of a very large portion of the haulage ways and side tunnels of number three mine east here shutting off all communication with the outside world, took place.
A frightful thunderstorm was raging here at the time the night shift of twelve men went to work, peal after peal of thunder following each other in rapid successioni, the lightning being blindingly vivid, filling the valley with electricity. Many people who heard the explosion thought it but another peal of thunder and paid no heed to it, until men who had just come off shift and the men in the fan house gave the alarm, and it was learned that a disastrous explosion had closed the entrance to number three, cutting off those who had just entered.
Mine Superintendent Russell and Pit Bos Cuniffe were soon on the ground and rescue work began almost immediately. Word went to Fernie and all other mine headquarters and the rescue apparatus at Fernie was prepared for shipment at once. As soon as this and the apparatus from Coal Creek were got together, a special train was run up with Manager Wilson, Superintendent Chas. O'Brien and others on board, arriving a little after five o'clock this morning.
In the meantime the Michel men with Mine Inspector GEORGE O'BRIEN, who happened to be here, went into the mine in search of any men who might be alive and in reach. This party consisted of some forty or fifty men, and after surmounting many difficulties, they came upon the body of Fire Boss TOM PHILLIPS, who was quite dead from blows from flying rocks upon the head and breast, and laid about six hundred feet from the entrance to the mine.
Mine inspector O'BRIEN, who led the party, succumbed to the effects of gas which they encountered as they undertook to penetrate further into the mine. O'BRIEN came out rather exhausted and had to be put to bed, but has since recovered almost entirely from the effects of the gas. About fifty feet of the timbering and covering of earth at the entrance of the tunnel have caved in and underneath these cavings are buried a trip of loaded coal cars which were left by the offcoming shift. Shifts of men are busy clearing these obstructions, but the work is slow because but few men can work at once.
A side entrance about three rods from the main entrance is being used to get into the mine, the tunnel from which rejoins the main haulage way about one hundred feet in from the main entrance. The rescuers have reached a point about two thousand feet from the entrance and are making slow progress, owing to the very bad caving they find in the mine. They are carrying the air with them, cutting off all sidings as they go and keeping the passage clear of gas. Eight of the missing men were supposed to go to work about three thousand feet in from the entrance, and the other three were to go to the right side of the haulage way, but not so far away as the others.
If these men did not reach their several destinations and were caught by some of the many cave-ins, it may be a long time before they can be located.
Very little hope is entertained of recovering any of them alive, owing to the extent of the damage to the mine, and the difficulties which have to be overcome by the workers.
The force of the explosion can be judged from the fact that the windows in the school house just across Michel Creek and about at right angles from the direction of the blast from the tunnel were badly shattered. Some of the windows in the Michel hotel were also shattered, while many of those in the rear of the Trites-Wood store, a little further south, were blown out by concussion.
The hoist house, which stood almost directly fronting the tunnel, was badly damaged, and part of the tin roofing on the lamp house was ripped off.
The shed covering of the hoist has been renewed and the hoist apparatus is about ready for operations again.
The fans are in good order and working well. Manager Wilson has been at the entrance all day, not leaving for meals. All the fire bosses and pit bosses are on duty and have been joined by fire bosses and officials from adjoining mines. Manager Drinnan, from Hillcrest, Manager McDonald from Frank, Graham from Corbin, Caufield from Coal Creek, are all on the ground.
Pitt Boss WHITESIDE from number eight, across the creek, and CUNLIFFE of the mine where the disaster took place, are also constantly on duty, stopping only to get a few bites to eat.
No estimate can be made as to the time it will take to reach any of the entombed men, owing to the new difficulties constantly croping up to bar the way of the workers, but it is thought that an all night effort will scarcely accomplish the task the men have before them.
At this writing, the shift of twelve men, accompanied by Superintendent Russell, Mr. Drinnan, McDonald, Graham of Corbin, and others are in the mine having relieved Cunliffe and Whiteside, who have just come out with a shift of twelve men who have done thier bit and will return at eight tonight.
Charles O'Brien, who is in charge of the Fernie and Coal Creek rescue workers and apparatus, has organized and thoroughly equipped three teams of five men each who are waiting for a call at any time to go into the mine with their equipment. These teams are to be relayed by three other teams, one from the Michel station and the others from other mines, all of whom are drilled men in the use of the Draeger apparatus and in mine rescue work generally.
Every man who has a duty to perform is doing it without the least hesitation or reluctance, being more than anxious to do his bit in the work that goes on with scarcely a show of nervousness or excitement. Every man is desperately in earnest and the work goes on like clock work, but every one feels that so far as saving life is concerned he is working at desperate odds.
Wuite a crowd of on-lookers is about the workers but is kept out of the way by the police. There is no sign of weeping women or crying children, though there are several of these today in this saddened little town, who, yesterday were wearing faces wreathed in smiles, because their bread winners had gone back to work after what threatened to be a continued strike.
Only a few days ago these bread winners were earning their wages and paying their little bit to sustain the wives and children whose husbands are across the ocean facing the visible foes; but now the ever present but invisible foe to the miner has leaped forth and they are no more.
Coroner A. C. Murray, summoused the following en as jurors this morning, who were sworn in and then viewed the body of THOMAS PHILLIPS and were then adjourned to next Monday morning, pending the result of the search of the remaining eleven men.
James Mercer, Perry Ware, Arthur Newton, D. F. Fleming, ThomasJenkinson, Dan Fowler are the jurors.
The mines in the district are idle today, owing to the disaster here, many fire bosses and other rescue men being here rendering all possible assistance to their comrades in their distress.
The cause of the explosion can not be definitely stated, but the general opinion is that it was a current of electricity following the rails of the haulage way coming into contact with a body of low lying gas, igniting it, and spreading throughout the entire workings as is indicated by the wide spreading of the cavings.
Lethbridge Herald Alberta 1916-08-10