Eccles, WV Terrible Coal Mine Disaster, Apr 1914

Disaster Site Disaster Site Eccles Memorial Site

GAS EXPLODES IN TWIN MINES; NO HOPE FOR 208.

DISASTER AT ECCLES, WEST VA., ASCRIBED TO IGNITION FROM MINER'S LAMP.

203 ARE YET ENTOMBED.

FIVE BODIES HAD BEEN TAKEN OUT AT A LATE HOUR LAST NIGHT.

59 SAVED, BADLY BURNED.

SHAFTS ARE CONNECTED AND FLAMING GAS FROM ONE ENTERS THE OTHER; TIMBERS REPORTED ABLAZE.

SMOKE AND POISONOUS GASES HAMPER RESCUERS -- PASSAGES FILLED WITH WRECKAGE.

Special to The New York Times.
Charleston, West Va., April 28. -- Successive explosions occurred to-day in mine shafts, Nos. 5 and 6, of the New River Collieries Company, belonging to the GUGGENHEIMS, located at Eccles, Raleigh County, eighty-five miles northeast of here.
There were 191 men in mine No. 5, with the exception of one taken out dead, that are entombed, and there is no hope for their rescue, as fire has developed. In No. 6 there were seventy-six, fifty-nine of whom were rescued, while four bodies have been recovered, so that there are thirteen men entombed in that mine.
A rescue car from the National Mine Bureau at Pittsburgh is being rushed to the scene, and is expected to reach there before noon to-morrow.
The known dead taken from Mine No. 6 are CARL WARDEN, A. W. GAUGHMAN, and F. J. LINGERTON, all white natives, with the body of an unidentified white.
NICK JONES, a Hungarian, was found dead near the bottom of the shaft in No. 5, the only body rescued from there.
Both mines are filled with poisonous gas, and the rescue parties are having difficulty in reaching any of the rooms. The passageways are all choked except No. 6, and a survey of the mine has not resulted in the finding of any miners.
Interior Wrecked.
Three successive explosions in No. 5 wrecked the interior in such a way that if gas has not killed the men many of them have been crushed by falling timbers, earth, and coal. Timbers were thrown from the shaft mouth a distance of more than 200 yards, wrecking the buildings at the exit.
Mine No. 5 is burning fiercely, with Government, State, and volunteer rescuers working desperately to-night to subdue the flames, but had to abandon their task through being unable to force their way into the burning shaft.
The depth of the two main shafts is 600 feet, and the mines are connected underground. There are two other shafts into the mines, but the explosion totally wrecked three out of the four. The lone entrance leads into Mine No. 6, and by means of it the rescues were made. No. 5 mine apparently is completely shut off from the surface.
The first explosion occurred in No. 5. The two shafts of this mine were demolished. It is believed the explosion traveled through this mine into No. 6. One shaft of the latter mine was wrecked, but the other remains intact and was the salvation of the workmen, who escaped.
It is believed that the explosions were caused by a pocket of gas being ignited by a miner's lamp, enveloping both mines in flames. Debris was hurled forty feet in the air by the impact. No. 5 was wrecked by explosions which occurred fifteen minutes apart. Only one explosion occurred in No. 6.
Gas Checks Rescuers.
A rescue party was rushed to the scene of the disaster from Beckley, which is only two miles away, but after removing two men from the debris of No. 6 their activities were checked by the deadening fumes of coal gas. Later the deadening fumes of coal gas. Later the party were more successful in bringing forty more men to the surface. Two were P. M. ELLISON and N. JONES, both coal miners. They are seriously injured.
Telephone connections between Charleston and Eccles have been bad since the first message reached the mine department here. Gov. HARFIELD and the State mine chief, EARL HENRY, are rendering all the assistance in their power.
Eccles, which is a little mining community of 1,500 inhabitants, was shaken by the muffled rumbling of the explosions, which brought women from their cottages in a panic and strated the entire population not at work to the tipples of the ill-fated mines. At first there was no smoke, but men on the tipples knew that far aground the toll of death was being taken.
Supt. THOMAS DONALDSON of Mine No. 8, Local Supt. M. E. KENT and Gen. Supt. F. B. BAYLES of the company were on the spot within a short time.
Supt. DONALDSON, an experienced miner, with an expert rescue crew, was lowered down the shaft of No. 6 mine. For a time the steadily growing crowd of frightened women and children waited in suspense, but soon the signal came to hoist away and the cage responded. It bore two men badly hurt, a few of the rescue party, and two bodies.
The other trips were made as rapidly as possible, and each time blackened and burned miners were brought to the surface. The injured were assisted to near-by houses, where physicians waited to care for them.
The rescued men expressed doubt whether the remaining thirteen miners in No. 6 would be taken out alive. Some of the men stated that portions of No. 5 mine were badly wrecked, and they believed that the entrance connecting with No. 3 mine had been completely destroyed. Half the miners employed are Americans, the remainder being negroes and foreigners.
A Government rescue car reached the mines from Bluefield, West Va., at 5 o'clock and another will arrive here from Pittsburgh, Penn., at noon tomorrow.
The rescue parties worked with all their might during the evening directing their efforts to Mine 5, where the 190 men were entombed. Nothwithstanding the feverish haste of the rescuers, they could make little progress because of the intense heat and gases.
Fan And Air Circuit Put In.
Men on the rescue car from Bluefields installed a new fan and an air circuit in No. 5, which will permit the rescue work to be done more safely, and gives rise to the possibility that by early tomorrow morning some of the victims can be reached. To tear away the fallen timbers and make the underground passages safe for the rescuers requires a great deal of time.
Two carloads of coffins have been ordered from Cincinnati, and will arrive at Eccles by the time the bodies of the entombed victims can be moved.
The mines are operated by the Guggenheim interests, and have been considered among the safest in the West Virginia fields.
The disaster is the first of considerable extent in West Virginia for several years. It is probable that it is second only in fatalities to the Monongahela horror in December, 1907, when 366 miners lost their lives.
While the loss of life here will be heavy, there is a relief for the families of the victims that was not in force when former disasters occurred. The new workmen's compensation act provides $20 a month for the widows of the dead, and each of the surviving children, not to exceed three, is entitled to $5 a month.
The four bodies taken from Mine No. 6, although somewhat burned, were examined late to-night. Death in each case was due to suffocation, an indication that the deadly gases did their work before the flames.
A search of Mine No. 6 has failed to disclose the men known to be in that operation. It is believed their bodies will be found under debris.

The New York Times New York 1914-04-29

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DEBRIS IN MINE BLOCKS RESCUERS.

EXPERTS FEAR THE WORST FOR 171 MEN ENTOMBED -- DR. HOLME ALONE SANGUINE.

CHANCE OF SOME SURVIVING.

FEDERAL HEAD WON'T ABANDON HOPE -- MEDICAL SUPPLIES RUSHED -- THREE INVESTIGATIONS STARTED.

Special to The New York Times.
Eccles, W. Va., April 29. -- If death has not already overtaken the 171 miners now known to be entombed in Mine No. 5, of the New River Collieries Company, following explosions yesterday near the bottom of the shaft, 555 feet from the surface, that fate is facing them, in the opinion of mine experts on the scene, who declared to-day that there was absolutely no hope for the men. Only DR. J. A. HOLMES, Chief of the United States Bureau of Mines, who arrived from Washington this afternoon to direct the work of the Government rescue crews from Bluefield and Pittsburgh, is of the contrary opinion.
"I will not believe they are all dead until the last body is brought to the surface," he said. "There remains the faint possibility that some of them at least are imprisoned in the far recess of the mine, where the force of the explosion was but slightly felt, and where the deadly after damp failed to reach. The horror at Cherry, Ill., a few years ago serves as an example. In the Cherry disaster every man in the mine was declared dead, but after eight days rescue parties headed by J. W. PAULL penetrated some of the distant entries, and brought out men alive, all of whom recovered."
MR. PAULL is assisting the work here, arriving at noon to-day in charge of the Pittsburgh mine rescue car.
EARL PETRY, Chief of the West Virginia Mine Department; Gen. Supt. BAYLESS of the New River Collieries Company, and Gov. H. D. HATFIELD, who has had extensive experience in the mining fields, expressed the opinion that every man of the 171 was dead, probably immediately killed by the force of the explosion or suffocated to death by the terrible fumes.
After working all day and all night to clear out the gas fumes in the shaft, Mine Chief HENRY and his assistants were successful in their efforts at noon. In the afternoon, after rigid tests for gas had been made, MR. HENRY led the first rescue party to enter the mine down the shaft, accompanied by Deputy Inspector J. B. HOLLIDAY, Deputy R. Y. MUIR, W. F. MANDLE, Superintendent of the Sunday Creek mine; T. H. HUDDY, General Superintendent of the Boomer mines; JESSE HINSLEY, in charge of the Bluefield rescue car, and General Superintendent BAYLESS of the ill fated mine.
Early in the day the cage had stopped at a depth of 375 feet, or 125 feet from the bottom. The progress of the exploring party was blocked at the same point. A few minutes later they were brought to the surface. They reported the air good, but had been unable to determine the cause of the car's hindered progress. A second party, equipped with electric lights, was sent down and found the trouble due to the shattering of the framework and cage guides.
Further efforts to reach the bottom were postponed pending repairs to the framework by experts. It was nearly 10 o'clock to-night before repairs were completed, and the way was reopened for continuing the search for victims, living or dead. It is in this work that Government rescue crews with their oxygen equipment will aid.
Excitement was caused for a time when members of a rescue party, who had been working in mine No. 6, reported that they had heard sounds coming from mine No. 5 through debris blocking the connecting entry of the operations. A close watch kept at the entry to detect any further sounds was without results late to-night.
The cause of the explosions has not been really established, though it is supposed that there was negligence either on the part of the mine officials or by one of the men, who may have unwittingly failed to observe the regulations regarding precautions against danger in the gaseous chambers.
Three investigations are being instituted, one by Prosecuting Attorney J. I. HUTCHINSON and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney WILL MAXWELL, another by Chief HENRY, of the State Mine bureau, and a third by officials of the United Mine Workers, headed by District President L. C. ROMERS.
The county and State investigations will probably be conducted jointly at an inquest to be held before Juctice L. C. SHREWSBURY of Beckley, immediately upon the recovery of the bodies.
One hundred and eighty-one dead, two injured and sixty-seven rescued are the official figures announced by the Public Service Commission this evening after spending all day checking up the men in both No. 5 and No. 6. The following is a corrected list of the dead:
F. G. LINGERMAN, mine foreman; A. W. BROUGHAM; CARL WARDEN; JOE HARPER; L. GOODMAN, all Americans; JOE FILLER; FRANK FILLER; JOHN BENNETT, Polish, and ROBERT BOSPIC, injured by flying timbers after escape from the shaft, who died at the McKendres Hospital.
The two men injured were foreigners, both hurt in the mad rush for the cage as it started to the surface after the explosion. One had both arms broken and the other both legs.
FREEMAN LINVILLE, Charleston insurance agent, who went into No. 5 mine shortly before the explosion to collect payment from some of the men, is among the missing.
JOHN BENNETT, one of those killed in No. 6, was frightfully burned on the right side of the face and cut about the head by flying timbers, though 800 yards from the actual explosion.
Twenty-five doctors have arrived here and a carload of coffins.

The New York Times New York 1914-04-30

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FIND 50 BODIES IN WRECKED MINE.

ALL BADLY BURNED, AS WELL AS TORN BY EXPLOSION -- ALL HOPE ABANDONED -- SEARCH FOR REMAINING 122.

RETARDED BY TANGLE OF ROCK AND TIMBERS -- MANY VICTIMS PROBABLY UNDER DEBRIS.

Eccles, West Va., April 30. -- Hope that any of the 172 men caught in Mine No. 5 of the New River Collieries Company, wrecked by a gas and dust explosion Tuesday, were alive was abandoned absolutely to-night by Government and State experts.
At 9 o'clock fifty bodies had been located in the mine, and it is expected that all of these will be brought to the surface before daylight. A blacksmith shop near the mine tipple has been turned into a temporary morgue.
A majority of the bodies are said to be badly burned and to have the appearance of having been blown by the explosion from the mine interior to the main passage leading to the shaft.
It is believed that no additional bodies will be found near the mouth of the mine, and that many of the other victims are buried under heavy debris.
A thorough search of the mine is being retarded by falls of rock and mine timbers, while water from broken lines covers the mine at points to a depth of three feet. Electrical pumps are being installed as rapidly as possible to clear away the water.
As rescue parties penetrated the mine today their hopes of taking out any of the men alive dwindled rapidly. The condition of the bodies located, the water in the mine and the wreckage that blocked passages and mine rooms made it evident that all the miners had perished.
When the word spread that rescue parties had succeeded in entering the mine and that many bodies were being found the whole population of Eccles and hundreds of persons from surrounding communities rushed to the scene. Several attempts were made to break through the ropes, and miners, sworn in as Deputy Sheriffs, held back the crowd with difficulty.
Driven Back By Gas.
Two crews from the Government rescue cars equipped with oxygen tanks went into the mine tonight to make a complete search of the operation. It was said that they did not intend to return to the surface until they had explored the entire mine or had been forced by exhaustion to quit.
After spending four and a half hours in the mine the two Government rescue crews were forced to seek the surfact on account of gases. A canary bird which was taken into the mine was killed by gas, and the safety lamps went out.
The crews explored a distance of 2,000 feet. Several additional bodies were located, but the rescuers did not go into the rooms where most of the miners worked.
The shaft was cleared early today, and State Chief Mine Inspector HENRY and his men, after finding that the cages could be operated, withdrew to the top and prepared to explore the mine. They had discovered that little gas had gathered in the entries leading from the foot of the shaft, but the water had risen, making progress beyond that point difficult. Workmen had been repairing the pumps broken by the explosion, and soon the water was lowered enough to allow a party of Government men, headed by Chief Engineer J. S. PAUL of the Pittsburgh station, to enter.
The glimmering light of their safety lamps revealed the presence of half a dozen bodies, frightfully burned, near the bottom and further exploration showed that other miners had died nearby.
The work was hampered throughout the entire day by the water, but sufficient progress was made to prove that the mine was badly wrecked and much work was required to clear even the main galleries of fallen rocks and timber.
Many more bodies were located as the explorers made their way through the mine, but it was decided not to remove them until a temporary morgue had been arranged and preparations made to care for them after they were taken to the surface.

The New York Times New York 1914-05-01

LIST OF THE MEN KILLED IN THE MINE EXPLOSION.
From the Death Records and the Memorial Monument.
A. A. ABBOTT; JOHN ADAMS; BOYD AKERS; W. W. BAILEY; M. B. BAILEY; H. T. BASHAM; JOHN BENNETT; ALFRED BOBBITT; ROBERT BOSTWICK; SIMON BOZATA; JUDGE BROWN; A. W. BROUGHMAN; ANDY BULASH; SAM BOTUSA; JAMES CADLE; ERNEST CADLE; CLARENCE CADLE; TONY CAMPBELL; QUINTILLIO CARLI; STANLEY CICHOW; ERNEST COLBERT; S. M. COMBS; LEE COMBS; PETRO CORAS; JOE COPRAS; LESLIE COTTLE; L. C. CLAYBORNE; J. C. CROOK; JOHN CUCIA; DOMINICK DALDO; WM. DARK; ED DENNIS; WUICH DEVICH; JOE DE ROSE; GREEN DUDLEY; E. EDWARDS; D. C. ENGLISH; MIKE ENOVICH; E. O. ELLISON; JOE FARRIA; CHARLES FELA; JOHN FELA; JOE FILLER; FRANK FILLER; JOHN FORCENTO; JAMES FORTUNA; BRUNO FORTUNA; JOE FORTUNYO; ROLAND FOWLER; JOE FRENCHO; P. C. FRIDLEY; W. J. FROST; WM. GALLIMORE; JOHN GEMUDOR; JACK GERKE; DERIA GIOVANNI; PAT GOLDEN; L. GOODMAN; WM. GUSACH; H. E. GRAY; EMMETT GREEN; JOHN GRONAY; JAKE HALE; JOE HARPER; JESSIE HARRISTON; A. H. HARDNET; JOE HOCKMAN; J. H. HUFF; O. B. HAYSLETT; GEORGE JONES; WILLIAM JOHNSON; ED JOHNSON; EDGAR JOHNSON; MIKE JOSEPH; JAMES JORDAN; MARSHALL JORDAN; GEORGE KING; ALEX KORUM; CHAS. KOALOFSKI; JOE KASUP; ROBERT KRAMER; JOHN KRESHAK; FRANK KREPTOFSKI; ANDREW KULMORE; J. A. LESTER; WAYMAN LESTER; JOE LEVIKA; F. J. LINGERMAN; FREEMAN LINVILLE; ALEX LOPP; PETER MAJAMADO; TONY MAUKE; CHAS MEADOWS; WM. METLOCH; JOHN MICK; CASUA MICHALE; BERNARD MILLER; FRED MISHUK; SAVORA MOLLINOCI; STANLEY MONESKY; MIKE MONASKY; CHAS. D. MORAN; C. B. MURPHY; FRANK MUSUAL; THOMAS McCLOUGH; W. H. McMILLION; LEE McMILLION; LACY McMILLION; ELIE NICHERI; EPSIE NINCHERI; PETE NORMAN; MIKE NOVITSKY; JOHN OLAH; TONY ORSO; HY. OSODCH; PETE OSODCH; JOHN PALMER; JOHN PAUP; RICHARD PERKINS; GARLAND PHILLIPS; JAMES PICOLA; DALDO PIETRO; JOHN POLENAY; STEVE POLLUNAY; JOE PORT; ROBERT POTEET; MIKE PREDNO; J. T. PRICE; W. J. QUESENBERRY; WM. RANDALL; HOBART REACH; S. F. ROARK; ED RICHMOND; ED ROBINSON; PAOLI ROSE; WM. ROSS; GATNO ROSSI; PETE RUSHACK; EARINA SALVATOR; JOHN SEMIC; J. T. SELLARDS; JOHN SCOTT; NATHANIEL SHELTON; JOHN SHIPURUK; ANTHONY SHUBONAS; CHAS. SIMS; WM. SMITH; J. T. SMITH; WILEY SMITH; TONY STANLOS; HARVEY STANLEY; BARNEY STEPP; JOE STONKOVICH; C. J. TAYLOR; FRANK TEDYS; ROBERT THOMPSON; WES THRASHER; STEVE THRASHER; CHAS. TIBBS; NORMAN TOLER; A. H. TURNER; SEBASTIAN TUSCA; JOE TUSCA; CARL WARDEN; GEORGE WASHINGTON; W. G. WEATHERFORD; CLARENCE WEBB; DONA WEBB; SAM WHITE; PHILLIP WHITE; WALTER WILLIAMS; A. WISEMAN; E. A. WISEMAN; WALTER WISEMAN; NEWT. WOODS; WES WOODS; EUGENE WRIGHT; DOSSIE YOUNGER; UNKNOWN.