Dowell, IL Coal Miners Asphyxited, Aug 1936





Dowell, Ill., Aug. 3 -- (UP) -- A coroner's jury, presided over by the coroner's of Jackson and Perry Counties, today determined that nine miners, asphyxiated Saturday night while fighting a fire in the Kathleen mine of the Union Collieries here, died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
No recommendations were made in the verdict. Eight witnesses, mostly miners, who aided in rescue work, testified at the hearing.
The prostrate bodies of three men on a motor and that of LOUIS REES of Elkville within arm length of the trap door in the North entry in "Kathleen" mine at Dowell, told graphically how nine miners died there late Saturday.
The three on the motor had gone farthest beyond the point of the trap door to pass materials to help brattice off a fire that had started deep in the workings. The six others that perished had gone after the three to rescue them from an area in which carbon monoxide gas had pocketed following the alleged explosion of a new transformer that had been placed in a cross-cut earlier Saturday.
The dead are:
FORREST DEVOR and STEVE HRIN, district mine managers, Dowell.
CLARENCE CAWVEY, chief electrical engineer, Dowell.
LOUIS REES, Elkville.
JOHN KELLY, Elkville.
Word of the fire tragedy, the first in the safeguarded pit in fifteen years, reached Ed Leming, well known Kathleen mine superintendent at his home. Superintendent Leming had been ordered home at 3:30 p.m. to nurse a sprained ankle.
He proceeded to the mine. Had he been there at the time the emergency first became known men who know him best declare he very probably would have been with the men who perished.
In addition to the nine fatalities, twelve miners were overcome but revived.
The mine is worked on the triple entry system. The main entry extends eastward from the sump, with entries affording air passages used as transport avenues to serve intervening blocks of coal. Seventh North entry extends north into Perry County from the main land entry.
The air circulates through the outside entries. Sufficient air passes through the central entry by the opening and closing of the trap door.
The men on the motor had gone into the Seventh North entry to a spot near the blocked in cross-cut where the new transformer had been placed. When the alleged explosion resulted fumes from the burning coal formed carbon monoxide in the region between the point where the entries were bratticed off against the fire, and the trap door.
The men and their would be rescuers were caught in the death pocket before they knew it. The six would be rescuers were forewarned. They chanced death rather than desert their fallen workmen.
Three deep breaths of carbon monoxide gas are said to be sufficient to prostrate even the strongest of men.
The first three went down almost before they knew of their danger, and their bodies lay on the motor in mute evidence of their helplessness.
LOUIS REES of Elkville and the other five were found strewn out on the back trail toward the trap door. REES had made his way to the door without strength to open it. His body was found within arm's length of the trap.
One of the twelve overcome is said actually to have left the gas pocket through the door to fall unconscious in the clean air beyond it and to be survived there when new oxygen entered his lungs.
Mine Superintendent Leming told graphically how the men's lives were snuffed out and credited the six with heroic efforts to save the first three overcome.
Back in 1921 a similar fire killed seven workers in the same pit.
Superintendent Leming for years has been famed for safety practices at the mine and as the originator of social relations among the pit's hundreds of workers. To Leming there was nothing too good for the coal miners he directed. Safety schools were continuous and meant of course to minimize casualties. The "Kathleen" baseball club sponsored by the company has been kept together for years, and a softball club was organized later for the sons and daughters of the miners.
Two inquests were necessary today. One in Perry and one in Jackson County. The three men on the motor died in Perry County and the six others in Jackson County.
Only thirty-six men were in the pit when the fire started. The examiners had gone down in mid-afternoon and the small cleanup crew had followed.
When the fire started the work of bratticing off the Seventh North entry was done by men wearing oxygen helmets. The others in the crew were passing materials forward to them.
Soon after the emergency was reported and word of men trapped reached the surrounding countryside and Dowell, a crowd of several hundred persons assembled at the mine's mouth.
Mine Superintendent Leming remained at the pit during most of the night.
It is believed work can be resumed at Kathleen within three days.

Daily Independent Murphysboro Illinois 1936-08-03