North Wilkes-Barre, PA Coal Mine Explosion, Nov 1886
AN AWFUL EXPLOSION IN PENNSYLVANIA.
CAUSED BY ONE LABORER'S CARLESSNESS.
ELEVEN MEN SCREAMING FOR RELIEF BY DEATH.
FOURTEEN OTHERS SEVERELY INJURED -- AGONIZING SCENES IN MANY WILKESBARRE HOMES.
THE COUNTRY SHAKEN FOR SEVERAL MILES AROUND.
Wilkesbarre, Penn., November 26. -- The Conyngham colliery, situated in North Wilkesbarre and owned and operated by the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company, was the scene of a frightful explosion shortly after 7 o'clock this morning. The terrible catastrophe was due to one man's carelessness. Yesterday being Thanksgiving the mine was not worked, and the enforced idleness caused the waste water to accumulate in large quantities at the bottom of the shaft. It was here where the men were gathered when the explosion took place. Owing to the high water the men were in some doubts about going to work, and were waiting for instructions from the inside superintendent.
All hands were chatting merrily and relating their exploits of Thanksgiving day. THOMAS O'BRIEN a laborer, who was among the party, said he wished the boss would hurry up and say work or not work, as he wanted to do one thing or the other. He was getting tired of standing around. His miner told him to have patience. O'BRIEN made no reply, but walked off in the direction of the mule barn, about 200 feet from where the men were standing. No attention was paid to his movements. Ten minutes later a violent flash first and then a terrible explosion was heard. All knew what that meant, but before they had time to put one foot before the other they were hurled about in all directions. Many fell on the bottom of the gangway horribly burned.
There is no injury that a miner so much dreads as to be burned with gas, and the agonizing cry of those who lay prostrated with the flesh hanging to their bones was pitiful in the extreme.
Report of the explosion was heard in other parts of the mine, and, in fact, so great was the concussion as to be heard for miles around. Assistance was at hand as quickly as possible, and the dying miners hoisted to the surface. Upon their arrival on top they were wrapped in cotton sheeting and blankets and then conveyed to their homes or the hospital. Some of them presented a horrible sight, the flesh hanging in threads.
O'BRIEN, who caused the explosion, was unrecognizable.
To add to the scene of terror around the mouth of the shaft the families of the victims had gathered, and as each man was brought to the surface the cry went up: "Oh, that's my poor papa," "Oh my darling husband, is that ?" The confusion became so great that it was found necessary to put a guard around the shaft, and prevent the people from impeding the work of rescue. The physicians of the town have been kept busy all day attending to the injuries of the men. THOMAS O'BRIEN died tonight.
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