Stewart, BC Avalanche Disaster, Feb 1965
SLIDE BURIES 40 MEN.
Stewart, B.C. (AP) -- A glacial avalanche, described as of "fantastic proportions," roared down Thursday on a remote mining camp near the Alaska-Canada border, burying 40 workmen.
Eighty or 90 others escaped. Many were injured.
Twenty-five of the 40 missing men were reported by British Columbia Mines Minister DONALD BROTHERS in Victoria to be trapped in an 11-mile tunnel being dug by the Granduc Mining Co. toward copper reserves.
Those on the outside able to dig grabbed shovels and any other tools in a desperate attempt to hack through the tons of mud, snow and ice into the tunnel.
Reports from the scene, 30 miles north of this northwest British Columbia port town, said the danger of other slides in the mountain-ringed area was acute.
A massive rescue effort was mounted in British Columbia and Alaska but fog, snow and 50 to 60 mile winds thwarted efforts to reach the mine.
A helicopter carrying a doctor and medical supplies from Ketchikan, Alaska, got within three miles of the camp before it encountered a "white out" in which snow in the air and on the ground blend to obliterate the horizon.
The pilot landed to wait for a break in the weather.
A U.S. Coast Guard cutter was en route here from Ketchikan with another doctor and medical supplies aboard, including morphine needed for the injured men.
The overland route from here to the mine was blocked and bulldozers were trying to clear the road.
Rescue planes were standing by at Vancouver, and Alaska bases ready to fly in paramedics and supplies.
Alaska Gov. WILLIAM A. EGAN offered all assistance his state could give, including use of the Alaska ferry fleet.
BROTHERS was the one who said the slide was of "fantastic proportions."
The slide hit at 10:16 a.m. PST at the mine 30 miles north of here where a $55 million project is under way to take low-grade copper ore from under the Le Duc glacier.
Radio operator INNIS KELLY sent a distress call from a station at the mine airstrip. Before he could finish the transmitter went dead, perhaps toppled by the slide.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. JACK DUGGAN said, "The slide wiped out the portal camp and buried 40 men. It is not known whether any of the survivors were injured."
DUGGAN said an 11-mile tunnel the Granduc Co. was building from the mill site to the ore reserves was sealed "and it is believed there are men inside." He said this did not include the 40 reported buried.
Another report from Alaska State Police in Juneau, after contact with a foreman from the mine, said the 40 men were in the tunnel when the avalanche struck.
The foreman said those who escaped were digging with shovels trying to reach the others.
The U.S. Coast Guard sent a 95-foot patrol boat here from Ketchikan with a doctor and medical supplies aboard.
At Vancouver, B.C., 800 miles south of the mine site, Granduc's general manager, ROBERT BAKER, confirmed 40 men were unaccounted for out of 150 on the job.
Bad weather delayed rescue operations by air.
The distress message from KELLY, monitored at Ketchikan, Alaska, asked for food, medical suppiles and snow removal equipment.
The Granduc mine lies at the bottom edge of the Le Duc glacier, at the head of the Le Duc River.
The development, announced last year, was to employ hundreds of men to take out the low-grade ore for smelting at the Tacoma, Wash., plant of the American Smelting & Refining Co. American's own a majority of Granduc stock.
The construction camp includes four bunkhouses, a dining hall, recreation hall, auditorium and powerhouse. The Le Duc glacier slopes toward the camp but its slope is gradual.
Billings Gazette Montana 1965-02-19
120 SLIDE SURVIVORS RESCUED.
'COPTERS FIGHT BLIZZARD.
Stewart, B.C. (UPI) -- Eleven helicopters flying in relays through a blizzard Friday rescued 120 survivors from a devastated copper mining camp in the wilds of British Columbia where 28 other miners were entombed by an avalanche of snow and ice.
Rescue workers said there was little hope that the 28 miners survived when the tons of ice crashed down on the bunkhouses where they were sleeping Thursday morning.
The helicopters first brought out 17 miners injured in the glacier-spawned avalanche. They were flown to a camp site at the mouth of the Chickaman River on the Alaska Panhandle. They were to be taken from there to a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and transferred either to Ketchikan, Alaska, or Prince Rupert, B.C., depending on the weather conditions, for medical treatment.
After rescuing the injured, the helicopter shuttle then began bringing out the entire work force of the Granduc mine, which totaled between 140 to 150 men before the disaster. Only company workers were staying on the scene to direct a 12-man mountain rescue crew in efforts to dig out the men buried in the four shattered bunkhouses. All of those were believed to be night workers at the three shift a day mine.
Rescue workers said they believed all the miners buried in the tunnel itself had survived.
The first rescue units on the scene were three U.S. helicopters which brought out the six most seriously injured men. Other rescue units were en route to the isolated mining camp situated on the frozen tundra at the edge of the Alaskan border.
Most of an estimated 120 survivors who took refuge in the only buildings still intact at the camp were believed to be out of danger, but the 28 men who were trapped in a bunkhouse when the avalanche poured down on them Thursday were feared dead.
The helicopters were able to get through Friday when the blizzard subsided a little. Previously, all rescue operations were stalled to a near standstill by the gale force winds, swirling snow drifts and below freezing temperatures.
The helicopters immediately began evacuating the miners, flying them to U.S. Coast Guard cutters standing by the Chickaman River, near the mine site on the British Columbian Pacific Coast.
The first six survivors to be flown out of the camp were believed to be the most seriously injured. Four were described by rescue officials as ambulance cases and the other two as stretcher cases. They were to be transported from the Coast Guard vessels to nearby hospitals in British Columbia or Alaska.
The six were identified as:
MALCOLM CAMPBELL of Vancouver, B.C.
ROBERT BELL of Vancouver, B.C.
FRANK SUTHERLAND of New Westminster, B.C.
MARCEL BOUCHARD of Ontario.
PAUL WITT of Merrick, B.C.
GEORGE KADUK of Edmonton, Alberta.
All together, 17 of the surviving miners were reported to be seriously injured in the snow slide which crashed downon the camp and trapped the workers underground.
According to one message from the camp, "four bunkhouses were wiped out" by the cascading snow which reduced the camp to a rubble.
Billings Gazette Montana 1965-02-20