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Bear Creek, MT Smith Mine Disaster - Rescue Work

Hope Flickers for 69 Men In Mine Blast

Watching Kinsmen Refuse To Leave Vigil At Entrance.

Bear Creek, Mont., Feb. 28 (AP).-Rescue workers laboriously strove Sunday night to reach sixty-nine miners entombed in the Smith Coal Mine sine Saturday forenoon, but hope for the survival of the imprisoned men ebbed steadily.

Thirty-six hours after an explosion ripped through the Smith’s No. 3 vein, the valiant crews of would be rescuers at night completed installation of a blower to drive air deeper into the workings where the miners may have sought escape from gases.

The blast killed five men, and of chances of the other sixty-nine, Bill Romeck, assistant general manager of the mine, Sunday night said:

“There’s a long possible chance that they may have survived, but it’s almost beyond hope.”

The original blower situated 5,000feet into the mine was wrecked by the explosion. The new blower, or booster, replaced it. Its installation and the blocking off of side tunnels to divert the air deeper into the main tunnel, occupied the rescue workers throughout this Sabbath.

Escaping gases, which slowed the work, already had overcome fifty rescuers. They were treated at an emergency hospital at Red Lodge, five miles away.

The dead included DEWEY HARDY, 48, of Red Lodge, a rope rider, and IGNAC MARTICHECK, 55, of Bear Creek, a track layer, killed in No. 2 vein.

The bodies of the other three were located by rescue squads in the lower No. 3 vein. Miners said the men had been identified, but their names withheld to avert possible panic among relatives.

Three men were injured on the upper seam. They were ALEC HAWTHORNE, 55, of Bear Creek, a hoist engineer; ELI HOUTENEN, 45, Hawthorne’s helper, and WILLARD REID. They were taken to Red Lodge.

Outside the mine and across a deep ravine which separated the offices of the Montana Coal & Iron Company and the tunnel, watchers maintained a silent hope. Many were women who gathered in small knots in the machine shop or on the embankment overlooking the gulley.

Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 1 Mar 1943

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