Commerce, OK Mine Accident, May 1938
SURVIVORS TELL OF MINE CRASH FATAL TO TWO.
DERRICK AT GOUGING OPERATIONS THAT COLLAPSED, CARRYING FRED ROSSON AND BILL SHULTZ TO DEATHS, CRUMPLED
"WITHOUT WARNING," INJURED HOISTERMAN SAYS.
SURVIVOR OF CAN'S PLUNGE HELD CABLE.
DICK KELTON, LEG BROKEN CHEATS DEATH IN LONG DROP DOWN 200-FOOT MINE NEAR COMMERCE; TRIO AT BOTTOM, UNHARMED, RUSHES TO AID.
Two miners who gouge pay dirt from "worked out" lead and zinc deposits lived to tell a graphic story today of the mine tragedy near Commerce yesterday which exacted the lives of two Douthat men.
From their Miami Baptist hospital beds, JOHN KENNEY, 22-year-old Douthat hoisterman, and J. W. (DICK) KELTON, 41, also of Douthat, recounted how FRED ROSSOM, 40 years old, and WILLIAM (BILL) SHULTZ, 28, both of Douthat, cascaded to their death in a mine tub.
The hoisterman, severely injured himself, said he thought he had raised his three associates, KELTON, ROSSON and SHULTZ, about 60 feet from the bottom of the 240-foot shaft when the derrick collapsed, hurtling KENNEY 40 feet away from the cable -- from the wire he wrestled with but could not hold.
As the "can" completed its death-racing plunge to the bottom, three associated workmen, awaiting their turns to go to the top, rushed to the aid of the victims. Below the ground were BOB SCOTT, 47, of Commerce; OLIVER KENNEDY, 45, foreman and father of the hoisterman, and JOHN TAGUE, 32, both of Douthat.
ROSSON, his body horribly crushed, was killed instantly. SHULTZ, his back bleeding from gaping wounds and suffering from internal injuries was rendered unconscious. He died at 5:33 p.m. at the local hospital, more than two hours after the mishap occurred.
KELTON, only survivor of the death plunge, which started about 4:15, was helpless to assist in rescue work. He lay seriously injured with a compound fracture of the left leg, a deep laceration to the right hip and cuts about the face.
Meanwhile, the tragic accident was noted above ground by a carnival man, whose show was located near the shaft. He saw the hoisterman thrown about 40 feet from the derrick, spinning lose from the cable.
KENNEY, rising in a dazed condition, informed the man of the fate of three men below. The latter was told to get rescue workers to the Jim Osborn property, whose shaft on the Old Mizpah is located about 600 feet north of the ill-fated mine.
The rescue once under way, KENNEY went to Commerce for treatment at a physician's office. He returned while 16 rescue workers, wearing hard hats, went down to assist SCOTT, OLIVER and TEAGUE in their laborious fight to save at least two of the victims.
Later, young KENNEY, sitting bravely by the Osborn shaft, refused to leave when spectators noted his serious condition. By constant persuasion, friends finally made the hoisterman relent his vigil, and go to the hospital in an ambulance.
"Without the slightest bit of warning, that derrick went over on its side," KENNEY related today.
"There was no creaking, not even the slightest sound that would give me a chance to do anything."
"I fought with the cable, was jerked from where I was standing. For a while I was waving around, trying to grasp the wire between my legs -- then I was thrown loose and I fell about 40 feet east of the derrick."
KENNEY, refusing to admit he was injured seriously, smoked a cigaret as he told his version of the tragedy. He estimated he had hoisted the trio about 60 feet when the derrick collapsed. Others below said the tub must have been only about 50 feet from the top.
Miami Daily News-Record Oklahoma 1938-05-24