Scranton, PA Coal Mine Gas Explosion, Aug 1886
A MINE DISASTER.
ACCUMULATED GAS CAUSES A TERRIFIC AND FATAL EXPLOSION.
THE FAIRLAWN COLLIEY THE SCENE OF A PAINFUL AND SHOCKING ACCIDENT -- THE MANGLED BODIES OF THE VICTIMS RECOVERED BY BRAVE RESCUERS.
Scranton, Pa., Aug. 31. -- The Fairlawn colliery, situated a short distance from the heart of the city, was the scene of a thrilling disaster yesterday, by which five men were instantly killed and one so badly burned that his death is inevitable.
The disaster was caused by the mine lamp of one of the workmen coming in contact with a large volume of gas that had accumulated in the lowest or third vein, 1,200 feet from the mouth of the slope. The effect of the explosion was terrific. The subterranean shock was felt with great force in the vicinity, it causing the earth to tremble violently, as if convulsed by an earthquake. Many persons seated at their tables were startled by the sudden commotion, which was accompanied by a loud report like a thunder clap, and they hastened from their homes in terror.
The force of the explosion was so great that large pieces of rock and coal were hurled from the mouth of the slope, while the timbers and iron rails leading down to the mine were torn from their fastenings and tossed about as if they were mere toys. The cause of this startling upheaval was at once divined by veteran miners, and in a few minutes hundreds of men, women and children were running in breathless anxiety and with pallid faces to the scene of terror, while the words, "it is an explosion of firedamp" were uttered by trembling lips.
At first it was reported that eighteen lives had been lost, and there was great consternation among fathers, mothers, wives and sisters, as they contemplated the fate of their dear ones, and looked in horror at the black mouth of the fatal pit that had just belched forth death. After an hour or more of heartrending anxiety it was ascertained that only seven men were in the death trap.
The mine had been idle for several days, the August quota of coal having been mined a week ago, and the party went in, under the leadership of Fire Boss PEARCE, to blow out the bottom rock in their chamber for the purpose of putting up props to support the roof.
Shortly after the explosion had occurred Mine Boss GALLAGHER organized a rescuing party of brave men, who volunteered to go down into the depths for the purpose of carrying aid to those who might be so fortunate as to have escaped the worst effects of the disaster. This party consisted of:
Mine Inspector BLEWITT.
GALLAGHER, who accompanied them, had been coming up the slope when the explosion occurred, and was driven some distance by its force before he could prostrate himself on his face. The exploring party was armed with safety lamps, but yet took a great risk of running against a second explosion, and two or three times it was driven back by the noxious "after-damp," which was dense near the bottom of the slope. The men pushed on, however, moving cautiously, and at a short distance from the bottom of the slope came across JOHN KERRIGAN, who at first seemed quite rational, but died in the arms of his rescuers on the way out of the slope.
Entrance and exit to and from the mine were made all the more difficult by a fall of the roof, which had occurred half way down the slope a few days ago, the debris blocking up the space, and leaving but a narrow aperture through which to pass. After taking KERRIGAN out the searchers proceeded in quest of his ill-fated comrades, from whom he had been separated by the force of the explosion, which carried him some distance from the others. The air was intensely hot and oppressive, and, owing to the dismantled condition of the mine, fresh volumes of gas were accumulating from scores of fissures that had been torn in the rocks and coal by the furious commotion. The progress of the searchers was accordingly slow, painful and perilous. Efforts were made to restore an air current with bundles of straw and hay that had been carried down for the purpose of making temporary brattices in the place of those that had been torn into shreds by the explosion. Having done this the rescuers went forward in the search. Their lamps shone dimly, but they were finally guided to where the men lay by a cry of pain, and soon they came upon a scene of death and suffering.
Three blackened bodies were revealed in the dim glimmer of the mine lamps, and two of the workmen were still alive. The fire boss, PEARCE, was missing. Sufficient information was now at hand to show that five of the seven men who entered the mine in the morning were dead.
These were as follows:
EDWARD PEARCE, fire boss, aged 25; single.
HUGH CONNOR, aged 45; leaves a widow and five small children.
EDWARD GAUGHAN, aged 45; leaves a widow and five children.
MICHAEL PYROL, aged about 40; married; no children.
JOHN KERRIGAN, 35 years old; married; no children.
The injured men are PATRICK COMER and JOHN NAPIN. COMER was carried to the hospital and is not expected to recover. NAPIN is not so badly injured, and was taken to his boarding house. COMER, one of the survivors, said that Fire Boss PEARCE went ahead of the party with his safety lamps, which he kept moving up and down, and the first they knew the dreadful explosion occurred. PEARCE'S body was not found until nearly 12:30 o'clock, and then it was some distance from where the others lay.
The scenes at the mouth of the pit, as the bodies of the victims were carried to the top, were pitiful in the extreme. No fewer than 8,000 persons congregated at the slope and the cries of the suddenly bereaved relatives, as the mangled bodies were borne out, were of the most heartrending description. An inquest will be held today, when the cause of the disaster will be thoroughly investigated.
Lebanon Daily News Pennsylvania 1886-08-31