Horning, PA Coal Mine Explosion And Fire, Feb 1926





Horning, Pa., Feb. 4. -- (INS) -- Fear was expressed shortly before noon today by rescue workers that the bodies of the seventeen entombed men in the Horning mine No. 4 of the Pittsburgh Terminal Coal Company, would not be recovered for several weeks.
The fire is raging unabated behind the safety wall 2,000 feet from the mine entrance. Mine officials hoped the fire would subside sufficiently to permit rescue crews to pass the wall and reach the bodies of the entombed men by night, but rescue workers said this would be impossible.

Horning, Pa., Feb. 4. -- (INS) -- With hope abandoned for the rescue alive of 17 men entombed following an explosion in Horning Mine No. 4, of the Pittsburgh Terminal Coal Company, all efforts were directed today to extinguishing the blaze raging in the shaft in the hope that the bodies may be recovered.
Three bodies have been recovered from the drift. REESE BRADBURN, night boss; LOUIS CHRISTIAN, and TOM PICCALO.
Two men, Ed Travis, foreman, and Louis Howell, who were in the shaft, at the time of the explosion, escaped unaided.
Rescue crews under the direction of John S. Bell, McKeesport, John I. Pratt, Pittsburgh, and P. J. Callahan, Bridgeville, state mine inspectors, are building a safety wall about 500 feet from the scene of the first explosion in an effort to smother the flames.
This was decided upon at midnight when a second explosion threatened the lives of about thirty rescue workers. WILLIAM IVILL, superintendent of No. 3 mine, and MATTHEW BLAIR, superintendent of No. 8 mine, collapsed after the second explosion and are in a serious condition.
Rescue crews from the Pittsburgh Coal Company, the H. C. Frick Coal and Coke Co., United States Mine Rescue Bureau Safety Appliance Corporation, and crews from mines No. 2,3 and 8 are at work in the shaft.
Fire originally broke out in butt 15, right, about 4,000 feet from the entrance of the mine, presumably caused by a spark from a cutting machine igniting dust and gas. All miners were ordered out of this section and fire crews sent in to fight the blaze, which was not considered serious at the time.
After they had constructed a safety wall in front of the fire, it was believed that the blaze was under control, but a few minutes later the first explosion occurred. Mine officials believe an accumulation of gas behind the wall caused the explosion.
Experienced miners and officials volunteered to fight the fire and it was those who lost their lives. President D. E. Tuttle, of the Pittsburgh Terminal Coal Company, declared this morning that the real heroes were the 21 men who braved the dangers of the burning mine, 19 of whom are believed to have lost their lives.
RALPH HOLTZHOUSER, one of the entombed miners, deserves credit for saving the lives of Ed Travis and Louis Howell, the two miners who escaped after the explosion.
HOLTZHOUSER, was near the shaft when the explosion occurred. He ran back into the entry toward the scene of the disaster, where he found Travis and Howell unconscious on the mine floor. He carried them to a water hole, where he revived them.
When the two men were able to walk unaided, HOLTZHOUSER returned to fight the mine fire. He never came out.
While company officials announced that the 600 other miners at work were ordered off duty when fire first broke out in the mine, the miners declared they knew nothing of the fire until they finished their days work and left the drift about fifteen minutes before the first explosion wrecked the mine.
Two miners also called attention to changes made recently in the method of cutting new entries. The custom formerly was to frill test holes before starting the actual cutting. This safety measure, they said has been discontinued.
Men at work in the section of the mine where fire broke out, declared that JOHN PETROVITCH and ANDY BERLAGE were cutting a new entry without making the precautionary test hole when a spark from their electric cutter ignited the gas and paved the way for the disaster.
The condition of the three bodies recovered was such that identification was next to impossible. It was at first believed that they body of R. I. Bradburn, night boss, was one of the three removed from the mine, but later relatives of PICCALO identified the body.
Despite the fact that a safety wall has been constructed between the entombed men and the shaft, sealing them up in the burning mine, there was little excitement in this community where practically all of the male population is engaged in mining.
Wives, children and friends of the ill-fated miners stood dry-eyed as near the mouth of the mine as they were permitted, but they took the disaster calmly.
Mine officials were of the belief that PETROVICH and ANDY BERLAG, operated the cutting maching which set fire to the mine. Later they were caught in the explosion.
The body of CHRISTIAN was found 2,000 feet from the scene of the explosion. The other two bodies were recovered only 500 feet away, which is the farthest point to which rescue workers have penetrated.
Work of building the last temporary safety wall to prevent the fire from spreading was completed shortly after 9 o'clock. It is approximately 2,000 feet from here the blast occurred and about half way between that point and the mine entrance.
Mine officials do not fear further explosion because of the large space left for expansion of gas behind the wall.
No. 4 mine is composed of seven sections. The fire and explosion were in Section 4, butt 15, right.

The Death List.
Horning, Pa., Feb. 4. -- (INS) -- Following is the list of dead in the mine disaster at the Pittsburgh Terminal Coal Company's No. 4 mine here, issued by C. E. Tuttle, president of the firm:
H. M. ERNST, general superintendent of all the company's mines.
GEORGE TRAVIS, superintendent of No. 4 mines, Broughton, married, no children.
LAWRENCE LOADMAN, foreman, married, several children.
ARTHUR WELLS, assistant foreman.
GEORGE BENARD, assistant foreman.
REISS E. BRADBURN, night boss, single.
ANDY SMITH, fire boss, of Broughton.
WILLIAM HOLTZHOUSER, of Broughton, married, three children.
TONY HREN, Broughton, single.
LOUIS CHRISTIAN, Broughton, married, 1 child.
TOM PICCALO, of Horning, married, four children.
JOHN PETROVITCH, married, six children.

Indiana Evening Gazette Pennsylvania 1926-02-04


Death List

John Geth, SR. Married
John Geth, Jr. Married, 1 month old child