Fernie, BC Coal Mine Explosion, May 1902
OVER HUNDRED MEN ARE SPED TO DEATH BY MINE EXPLOSION.
MOST TERRIBLE DISASTER IN THE INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA.
SOME OF ENTOMBED MEN MAY BE STILL LIVING.
BUT NO HOPE IS ENTERTAINED THAT THEY WILL BE TAKEN FROM THE MINE ALIVE -- THE CAUSE OF THE EXPLOSION IS UNKONWN.
Vancouver, B.C., May 23 -- One of the most terrible mine disasters in the history of the frequent accidents in British Columbia occurred in the Crows Nest Company's mines at Fernie, B.C.
Over one hundred men are either dead or imprisoned in the mine, and little hope is entertained of the rescue of any who may yet be alive. Fernie is 300 miles up country, and the limited telegraph facilities have not enabled complete details of the disaster to be sent out.
The management has a list of 133 men who are known to have been in the mine and there were probably others. Of these only twenty-four are known to be safe.
What caused the explosion has not yet been definitely ascertained. Many of the miners were ignorant foreigners, and one of the mine shafts was always more or less gaseous. It is reported in Fernie this evening that the explosion resulted from the use by a careless Italian of an open or naked lamp. Another theory is that a miner struck a match, exploding the gas, which was always present in No. 2 shaft. The true cause of the disaster will probably not be positively ascertained, for it is doubtful if any man who knows will ever reach the outer air alive or be able to tell the tale. The explosion took place in No. 2 shaft of the mine, being repeated in a few seconds in No. 3, with which it was connected.
The two air shafts in which the explosion occurred are situated on Coal creek, about 6 miles from Fernie. No. 2 has always been considered the more dangerous, being dry, dusty and gaseous. Recently the dangerous conditions which had hitherto prevailed in No. 2 tunnel had been greatly modified and improved. New fans were installed, furnishing an excess of air, with 40 per cent reserve.
From all available sources assistance is being rushed to the scene of the calamity, but there is little hope for the rescue of the entombed men. Already the work of liberation has been begun with such means as are at local command, and eight bodies have been taken from the mine. The presence of coal damp makes the work of rescue very dangerous and is seriously hindering the workers.
In No. 2 tunnel, in which the first explosion occurred, from 100 to 120 men and boys are usually employed, and in No. 3 tunnel, to which the explosion extended, about eighty men generally work. In both mines there are many foreigners and the difficulty of disciplining these men and impressing upon them the use of unprotected lights has always been very great. The main road of No. 2 tunnel is 9 by 5 1/2 feet in area, and would be sufficient for reasonable ventilation were it not that there was a motor working on the road, which almost stopped the current of the intake. When the men were at work the liberation of gas heavily charged the atmosphere and made it dangerous to employ lights which were not absolutely protected.
The explosion was distinctly heard in the village 6 miles away. A few minutes later the alarming intelligence had spread like wild fire from house to house, and quickly the whole population was on the streets and hurrying toward the scene of the disaster. All the available men were at once organized for the work of rescue and the labor of getting at the entombed miners was begun without delay. Great difficulty was experienced in keeping back the women whose husbands, most of them foreigners, were known to have been employed in the tunnels. With the passing hours hope ata Fernie for the safety of the five score men entombed has gradually faded away. The eighteen bodies already recovered were those of men who had been engaged at work not a great distance from the mouth of the tunnel, and the fact that these were overcome would show little hope for those farther in the mine. Ventilation is being gradually restored and it is expected that all the bodies will be reached by tomorrow morning.
Seattle, Wash., May 23. -- Fernie is a town in the eastern part of the province of British Columbia, on the Crows Nest Pass branch of the Canadian Pacific railroad. It lies in the center of a country very rich in coal deposits. The veins extend eastward into the neighboring territory of Alberta. The building of the railway four years ago was followed by the operation of the coal mines, which belonged to a company composed largely of Toronto capitalists. These are the coal fields that J. J. Hill was reported to have gained control of a year or so ago. Fernie's only industry is mining and its population is about 5,000. Most of the miners were foreign born.
Nanaimo, B.C., May 23. -- Immediately upon the receipt of the Fernie mine disaster news, Mayor Manson, of this city, which has a population of about 1,000 coal miners, authorized the taking of subscriptions at the gates loading to the grounds where a celebration is being held today and tomorrow. The amount will be donated to alleviate the suffering at Fernie.
The Atlanta Constitution Georgia 1902-05-24
List of the Casualties:
E. A. BROWN.
A. J. DAVIS.
THOMAS FEARFUL, JR.
THOMAS FEARFUL, SR.
M. J. FLEMING.
S. J. MARSH.
JOHN McINTYRE, JR.