Harwick, PA Methane Gas Explosion, Jan 1938



Harwick, Pa. -- Penetrating a solid wall of methane gas, rescue crews, equipped with gas masks, today reached the bodies of the last two men who were among the 10 killed in an explosion at the mine of the Harwick Coal and Coke Co.
Sorrowing relatives, unmindful, of the snow and cold, waited at the top of the mine as the rescue crews completed their gruesome task of recovering the last two bodies, those of CHARLES CIESILSKI, 44, and TONY WOINOR, 49, both of Harwick.
Those of the 10 not killed instantly when the explosion ripped thru the passage shortly before noon yesterday died anyway. They were unable to escape methane and carbon monoxide gas which poured thru the passage when ventilation was disrupted by the blast. Every "brattice" in a 3,000-foot stretch was believed blown out.
Deadliness of the gases within the passage was shown in the death of MATTHEW H. ANDERSON, 57, Harwick, an assistant foreman, who escaped the explosion but could not make his way thru the passage. Had he been able to crawl 100 feet further, rescue men said, he would have reached fresh air. ANDERSON'S body was found sitting in a natural position against a timber where he must have stopped for a few minutes' rest.
Identification of three of the bodies, discovered at 4:45 a.m., was made when they were brought to the surface. The other five were identified yesterday.
The names of the dead were ANDERSON, THOMAS KEFFER, 41, Harwick; JOSEPH KOPRIVNIKAR, 41, Harwick; FRANK HARPSTER, 32, New Kensington; JOSEPH PRELESNICK, 44, Cheswick; JOSEPH LERCH, 24; JOHN KRUSCEK, 21, and DOSS NICHOLAS, 41.
All but the last three named were fathers of children. Many had large families.
Mine operators said that two things prevented the explosion from being a disaster comparable to a blast at the Harwick mine in 1904 when 179 were blown to death. The first was that the 518 men usually working the coal bed were off yesterday, and the second was that lime had been dusted thru the drifts to settle coal dust.
Relatives and spectators strained against state police lines throughout the night as the masked rescue squads made their way back and forth in the mine tunnels. Although snow powdered down upon the scene and water puddles froze in the cold the families and friends of the dead miners waited without hope while the bodies were brought up.
Only 35 men were working on repairs and general maintenance, yesterday when a gas pocket was ignited in an unknown manner. Eight fought their way to the sinigle shaft and made the surface immediate. Rescue squads soon led out 16 others. One man listed as missing walked out last night. He said he had been working in another part of the coal bed and "didn't even know there had been an explosion."

The Coshocton Tribune Ohio 1938-01-13