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Bear Creek, MT Smith Mine Disaster - 72 Miners Trapped

72 Trapped In Mine Blast May Be Safe

Manager Believes They Might Have Found Fresh Air; Two Bodies Found

Bear Creek, Mont., Feb. 27 (AP).-Hopes that seventy-two trapped miners in the Smith Coal Workings here had fled deadly blackdamp fumes and barricaded themselves in a section of the mine where fresh air is obtainable, were expressed Saturday by Bill Romek, mine manager.

Romek said a rescue squad from Butte arrived by plane shortly before 6 p.m. and went immediately into the mine, where an explosion occurred at 10 a.m.

Two men were dead and three others seriously injured. Bodies of the dead were recovered between the blast scene and the mine opening. The three injured were taken to a hospital.

Cave In Not Worst of It.

Reports that a cave-in was the major difficulty were discounted after helmeted rescuers entered the gas-filled mine shaft.

“There us a cave-in all right,” Romek said, “but it is the deadly fumes which are keeping the men in the mine.

“The Butte squad just arrived. Up to that time no one had been able to enter any distance into the shaft.”

He said the men were behind a rock-fall, “but that isn’t the major problem. We are hoping that they were able to get away from the danger area after the explosion and go to a safer place in the mine.”

500 Feet Below Ground.

He explained the men, if alive, had access all through the underground workings, which drop from ground level to a 1,000-foot depth.

Scores of rescue workers, most of them lacking equipment except picks or shovels, streamed into Bear Creek.

Red-eyed, despair-gripped, womenfolk clustered near the mine entrance, hoping for some word, some quick miracle.

Children, not fully aware of the disaster, stood with their mothers, watching the faces of sweat streaked men.

Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 28 Feb 1943

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