Kimberly, WI Mill Collapse, Oct 1927 - 6 Dead, 18 Hurt, 3 Missing

6 Dead, 18 Hurt, 3 Missing in Mill

Three Men Buried Under Tons of Debris for 14 Hours Tell Story of Rescue

A tale of miraculous escape after spending nearly 14 hours buried beneath tons and tons of brick, steel, wood and pulp is told by three Kimberly men taken from the ruins of the collapsed beater room of the Kimberly mill, which collapsed Friday morning carying [sic] six men to their deaths and injuring 19 more. The men taken from the pit at 12 o’clock Friday night were Chester Mauthe, 20, married six weeks ago; George Pocan, 18, single; and Albert Jansen, 21.

The three men, with Arthur Brockman, 40, Kimberly, who died of injuries after being taken from the pit, were working together unloading pulp from trucks and storing it on the top floor. A truck had just been unloaded and Mauthe, Jansen and Pocan were sitting atop the pulp pile while Brockman had pulled the truck to the elevator to bring back another load.

Without warning there was a crash and the three men sitting on top of the pile were precipitated into a roaring inferno of flying bricks, steel, machinery, wires, pipes, masonry, pulp and lumber.

Thought of Earthquake

“I didn’t know what happened but thought of an earthquake,” said Mauthe. He talked in a low even tone, despite the hours of suspense in a small dark hole beneath tons of debris with the threat of death constantly staring him in the care.

“I looked above me and saw a huge black form coming down. I think it was a beater. There was a sudden flash, like lightning, as I passed a switch box which was caught in the collapse. I burned my arm against a hot pipe as I fell. The air was filled with steam, and dust and flying bricks and stones and I thought I was a goner, sure.

“I landed on top of Pocan in a hole not more than four feet long and a foot and a half wide and the tons of pulp above us stopped about a foot above our heads. After the noise had died down Pocan told me Jansen was beneath us and couldn’t breath. I had landed in a sitting position. My two legs were doubled up to my chin under the pile of pulp and more pulp was pressing on the back of my neck. I was doubled up and couldn’t move. Pocan managed to squeeze to one side enough to allow Jansen to turn his nose from the floor, so he could breath.