About 6:45 a.m. on Thursday morning, June 5, 1919, ninety-two (92) men lost their lives in Baltimore Tunnel No. 2. Mine, due to an explosion of black blasting powder. Forty-four were more or less injured and 7 escaped uninjured. The accident occurred only a short distance inside the mouth of Tunnel No. 2 Mine.
The Weekly Courier, Connellsville, PA
June 12, 1919
Wilkes-Barre, Pa., June 5 — Eighty-three men lost their lives this morning as a result of an explosion blasting powder in a car attached to a train load of miners being transported to their work in Baltimore No. 2 mine of the Delaware & Hudson Coal company, while at least 31 were injured, according to a list given out by the company officials at noon.
More than 100 mineworkers were riding to their work, crowded into what is known as a trip of mine cars drawn by a motor. The rear car carried 12 kegs of black powder used for blasting loose the coal in the chambers. The mine is modern and equipped electrically. The trolley wire snapped when the train had gone about 200 feet from the entrance. The wire sputtered and sizzled and the sparks emitted touched off the powder.
The terrified men on the cars instantly were aware of the danger that confronted them, but they stood powerless to avert it.
There was a roar and in an instant every man and boy on the train was either dead or dying. Terribly mangled bodies were found everywhere by the rescue crews which instantly rushed into the mine. Fire fighters working frantically succeeded in an incredibly short time in subduing the flames which followed the blast.
Flames caused the greater loss of life. Many of the bodies were burned to a crisp. Other men who were burned and were trying to reach safety died of suffocation. When rescuers reached the tunnel there were dead and dying scattered everywhere. The injured were rapidly removed and sent to hospitals as quick as ambulances could be provided and the dead were brought out and placed in tiers on the green.
Doctors and nurses were somewhat late in arriving on the scene. This was because many of them were abed when the accident happened. Hospitals quickly filled and morgues were filled to overflowing.
Then came the gruesome work of taking out the dead and injured. Those who had not already succumbed were so badly burned that in nearly every case death is a matter of a short time.
Carelessness and violation of the mine laws of the state caused the great loss of life. One of the most drastic provisions of the anthracite mine code is the section forbidding the transportation of men on a car or train which carries explosives. Yet the train of little cars conveying its freight of miners had attached to its rear a dozen kegs of powder. Investigation will disclose whether the men or the company is responsible for the violation of the law.
Some of the first bodies brought from the tunnel were burning when they reached the surface. Clothes had been burned away and the flesh was roasting form the intense heat. Water was poured on these to put out the fire. It was such sights as this that made brave hearts turn sick.
Company employees state that there is a "pull" of 186,000 cubic feet of air per minute in the tunnel and that the air pulled in the flames from the powder directly over the men. Alongside of the tunnel there is a creek and after the flash of the flames some men who were walking along the side of the cars dropped into the water and saved their lives. Several employees state that it was not the force of the explosion that killed the men. Flames and the lack of air caused all the fatalities. All admit that the accident was the result of the violation of the law but they state that miners are accustomed to these violations.
Thomas Dougherty, a miner, one of the survivors who was thrown out of the car by the blast and saved himself by jumping into a ditch. He said:
"We were riding along about 50 feet in the tunnel. There was a blinding flash. I was thrown from the car. I saw the water and I huried myself into it. Bodies were all about. Some I know were dead, others were dying. The flames were terrific. They were all about. We were in a veritable hell. No man could possibly hope to escape with his life unless he got into the water, buried his face and rolled over and over as I did. There was powder in the car. There were about 10 kegs and besides there were kegs carried by the men. Of course I do not know what set them off but I believe that the trolley were broke and the sparks ignited the powder."
East End last night was the scene of great gayety. That section of the city welcomed home boys of the 311th Field Artillery Flags were flying, red fire burned, people laughed and shouted. Within 12 hours all was changed, many homes being made sad. Some of the soldiers had their joy turned into grief. Their fathers were among the dead.
The death list was made large by the flames and sulphur fumes which filled the tunnel. The fire did not last long but it was long enough to make a heavy death toll. Many were killed outright. Parts of bodies were found in the wreckage of life and property. Rescuers got into the mine with hose and played streams of water on the flames. While they were doing this the cries of dying and the injured were heard above the roar of the flames.
83 Killed and Fifty Burned and Mangled
Titusville Herald, Pennsylvania
By Associated Press
June 6, 1919
Wilkes-Barre, PA, June 5 -- Eighty-three men dead and fifty others burned and maimed, many of whom will die, is the toll of a terrible disaster in the Baltimore tunnel of the Delaware and Hudson Coal Company in the East End section of this city early today.
The disaster was caused by the explosion of 300 pounds of black powder and the dead and maimed were literally roasted by the superheated gas flames following the explosion. The tragedy occurred while the men were on their way to work this morning.
Owing to their working places being two miles from the mouth of the tunnel, the men were making the trip in a train of fourteen mine cars drawn by an electric motor, the powder being carried in two cars in the middle of the train. The train had penetrated the tunnel about 200 feet when August Ruddica, one of the survivors, declared the overhead trolley, which sagged, touched a steel powder keg head and formed a short circuit.
In an instant there was a shower of sparks and then the powder exploded with a blast and a great sheet of flames drawn by the air current enveloped the helpless men, who were huddled closely together in the cars with no possible chance to escape. Owing to the ventilating system the flame was drawn inward and the first intimation of the disaster in those on the surface was the shrieks of anguish of the injured.
Rescue corps were at once formed and the dead and injured were rapidly brought to the surface, where the living were given first aid treatment by physicians and then rushed to hospitals in ambulances and vehicles of all sorts. Even the first aid apparatus was used in the emergency.
Dead Piled In Heaps
When the rescuers first entered the tunnel they found the dead and dying piled up in heaps in the cars and along the tunnel. Bodies of the dead were burned to a crisp and cooked flesh came off in strips from the limb of the living. Of the dead, sixty-nine were found dead in the tunnel and fourteen others succumbed to their injuries at hospitals. But forty-nine of the dead have so far been identified.
Among the killed outright was James G. MacCloskey, a former baseball pitcher, at one time a member of the Philadelphia National League club.
Assistant General Manager Buchanan of the Delaware and Hudson Coal company after an investigation gave it as his opinion that the explosion was not caused by the sagging of the overhead wire. He is of the opinion that a steel bar or drill carried by one of the men came in contact with the wire, forming the short circuit, which caused the powder to give way. According to the company's figures, 143 men and boys were being carried on the train and but seventeen escaped injury.
Seward Button, chief of the state bureau of mines, informed the Associated Press tonight that the state code, contained regulations governing the storage of explosives in magazines and working places, but was silent on its transportation. Mr. Button declared this was a grievous omission in the law and that acting on his own responsibility he would issue regulations tomorrow morning which would present the careless methods and insist that they be obeyed until they can be enacted into law.
Listing of the Casualties
JOHN B. JONES
JAMES J. McCLOSKY
JOHN J. MICHLOSKY
JOHN J. VAN NORT