Blast in a Mine Takes the Lives of Twenty Men
Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, Nebraska
July 16, 1937
Sullivan, Ind. (AP) -- A terrific explosion turned the Glendora Coal Company's Baker mine into an inferno, hurling 20 miners, "like football," one survivor said, to sudden death against the rough walls of the shaft in which they were working.
Nine others were injured, three of them so critically they may die. One hundred and seventy-four miners escaped injury.
Only 3 of the 20 bodies had been brought from the mine. The other 17 bodies had to be left in a corner of the shaft until carbon monoxide gas cleared sufficiently for rescue workers to re-enter, Jack Ogilvie, safety engineer of the Indiana Coal Operators' association, said:
"I got out alive, but I don't know how," said Wesley Bond, one of those working in the area of the explosion. "There was one big blast that mashed me against the wall. It was followed by a big wind. How it blew. It beat against my ears until it felt like railroad spikes were being driven into my head."
Hoping against hope, tears in their faces, wives and children of the trapped men milled forlornly near the mine entrance. They wouldn't believe what officials told them -- that all 17 miners life in the shaft were dead. Earlier there had been scenes of hysterical joy as the 174 miners who were unscathed rushed from the mine into the arms of waiting relatives.
Rolled Up Like Footballs
"The explosion picked me and my buddies up and rolled us like footballs," said Jerry Cox, who suffered head injuries. "Some of my buddies were thrown against the wall and they didn't have a chance." Cox, his head bandaged, refused to leave the scene. He said, he would remain until the bodies of all his "buddies" had been brought out.
The mine, 18 years old, is five miles mortheast of Sullivan. Its shafts extend two and one-half miles toward Sullivan. Harry Keenan, superintendent, said the explosion occurred about one and three-fourths miles from the entrance. Cause of the explosion had not been determined. Keenan said only 25 or 30 men were working in the area of the blast. Two or three slight explosions followed the big blast, he said, and there was a flash of fire.
The list of dead, as given out by Keenan and Ogilvie:
Rollie Sair, 55, Sullivan, a fire boss
Curt Miller, 40, Dugger
James James, 60, Dugger
Parl Hughes, 50, Sullivan
Walter Goodman, 55, Scottown
Oscar Ritchie, 35, Sullivan, motor boss
Allen Zoyers, 65, of near Sullivan
Clayton Settles, 50, of near Sullivan
James Burch, 40, Cass
Hallie Neighammer, 65, of Sullivan
George Gallagher, 60, Dugger
Harry Mannels, 55, Coalmont
John Walters, 40, of near Sullivan
Charles Kennedy, 50, of near Sullivan
Claude Reynolds, 65, Cass
Warren Hildebrand, 60, Sullivan
Earl McDaniels, 52, Sullivan
Lester Allenbaugh, 40, Cass
Harry Cutts, 40, Glendora
Paul Burch, 33, Cass
Dr. Harvey Crowder, mine surgeon, said he had little hope for recovery of Charles Secreace, 42, Arch Anderson, 35, and Arnold Roberts, 53, all of Sullivan, who were injured critically.
At Indianapolis Gov. M. Clifford Townsend said "all resources of the state will be used to assist the people in this terrible mine disaster."
Cannot Explain Escape
The explosion occurred shortly after the day shift had gone to work, Bond said his watch stopped at 7:06 a.m., indicating the time of the blast.
"My lamp was blown out. Then I smelled gas. I tipped off my shirt, dampened it in some water from the mine floor and put it over my face. My buddy, Curt Miller, about 20 feet away from me, lay dead. I had just been talking to him. I can't understand it. I was closer to the explosion that he was. That wind was terrific. After the first big blast there were two or three slight blasts. When it was all over, I got up and ran 200 yards. Some of them said I did in in three seconds but it couldn't have been that fast. I still don't see how I got out and my buddy was killed."
The day's disaster brought the death list for Indiana mine accidents to 1,794, according to records of the state bureau of mines.
Bodies of 20 victims were removed from the gas filled mine to local mortuaries late Friday. There the relatives, friends and company officials joined in identifying the dead.