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Mine Disasters in
the United States


Carthage Fuel Company
Mine Exploration Fatality

Carthage, New Mexico
February 26, 1918
No. Killed - 1



Rescuer Death

On February 26, 1918, David Murphy, an experienced mine rescue volunteer from Dawson, New Mexico, lost his life while wearing a Fleuss mouthpiece-type oxygen breathing apparatus during an exploration trip in the Government mine of the Carthage Fuel Company, Carthage, New Mexico.

The crew of five men that made the exploration trip, during which Murphy lost his life was under the charge of a representative of the Bureau of Mines, who later lost his own life while wearing oxygen breathing apparatus, in a gasoline tank, the following year.

All members of the crew were given careful physical examinations by the surgeon attached to the Bureau of Mines Rescue Car, but Murphy was not familiar with the operation of the Fleuss apparatus, having been previously trained in using the Draeger apparatus.

Before entering the slope, the portal of which was the fresh-air base, the team captain inspected all apparatus in the party and saw that each machine was working properly.  He also stopped at intervals on the way down the slope to ask if each man were all right.

After reaching their objective, about 600 feet from the portal, it was decided to return to the surface.  About 300 feet from the portal, Murphy indicated that he was in distress.  The team captain adjusted his mouthpiece and nose clip, gave him more oxygen with the bypass, and placed him on a stretcher.

At this time another member of the team exhibited signs of distress and sat down on the floor.  Two of the team members carried him some distance up the slope, but were unable to carry him out because of exhaustion, and they decided to go to the surface for help.

Meanwhile, the team captain remained with Murphy, adjusted his mouthpiece, tied it firmly in place, adjusted his nose Clip, and turned him over on his face.  He then attempted to carry him but was unable to do so.  The attempt to carry Murphy exhausted the team captain to the extent that he was able to reach the surface only with extreme difficulty.

When the team captain reached the surface, and it was determined that there were still two men in the slope, it was decided to remove the seal from the mouth of the slope and drop a trip to where the men were lying on the roadway.

After reconditioning the apparatus, the trip, containing the team captain and three others, was lowered down the slope to where the first man was down.  It was noticed that his apparatus was still functioning and that he had 30 minutes of oxygen remaining.  He was put in the car and taken to the surface immediately.  The trip was then lowered to where Murphy was lying.  It was observed that he had turned over on his back, the mouthpiece was partly out of his mouth, and his nose clip was off.  Fifteen minutes oxygen supply was still in the oxygen cylinder.

Murphy was placed in the trip and brought out at once.  Stimulants, artificial respiration, and oxygen inhalations were given, but he failed to revive.  Breathing was restored to his companion in about 15 minutes, and he regained consciousness in about an hour.

A lifeline was used by this crew in making the exploration, but a reserve crew was not maintained at the fresh-air base.  The apparatus worn by Murphy and his companion was worn again 2 days later under actual working conditions, and no difficulty was experienced.

It was reported that the team captain had some difficulty in controlling Murphy and his companion while they were on the exploration trip, and that they talked to each other incessantly before the accident.  It is surmised that each of them inhaled carbon monoxide around their mouthpieces while talking.

Source: Loss of Life Among Wearers of Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (April 1944) PDF Format



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