On that morning 171 men were in the mine, including the foreman and safety inspector. The three firebosses had reported no gas and had gone back in after the shift went on at 7:30 a.m. At 8:20 a.m. there were the sound and shock of a heavy explosion, followed a minute or so later by a second weaker puff.
About 20 minutes later a third and more violent explosion occurred. The first and third explosions blew debris and smoke from the mine portal and the explosion doors at the fan opening. The explosions inside the mine were extremely violent and reached all parts of the mine. The explosion was the most widespread as well as the most violent in the experience of the investigators.
The bodies of many victims were dismembered. Cars, concrete stoppings and overcasts were totally wrecked and destroyed, and all loose material was torn from the ribs, although track and pipelines on the floor were hardly disturbed.
The explosion started as a methane ignition in a room where a fireboss had started to more a body of gas in a pothole in the roof, left from shooting down top coal the previous night. He placed his cap and carbide light on the floor between the face and the pile of coal. He was using the water hose to brush the gas from the hole. His small, keylocked flame safety lamp was extinguished, and since the igniter had been plugged he disassembled it and took it to his cap lamp to relight. In doing so the gas was ignited, which communicated to stirred-up coal dust, and gas from other pot holes and standing in marked-out rooms.
Fires were set, and the following explosions occurred when air movements or roof falls pushed gas and dust over them. The fan was restarted soon after the explosion, and rescue efforts were organized and underway by afternoon. Before experienced apparatus men arrived a member of a crew from a neighboring mine was killed by inhaling carbon monoxide due to removing his nose clip in some way.
Later 3 shifts of 8 crews worked 8 days exploring the mine, extinguishing fires, and recovering bodies. The firebosses ignored gas in "potholes" in reporting the mine clear. Sprinkling, although carefully and thoroughly done, did not halt the propagation of the explosion.
Magnetic locked safety lamps and rock dusting were recommended and to some extent adopted, together with more careful gas examinations. The use of rock dust followed a long period of study.
||Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I
Dust Explosion Traps 173 Miners
The Billings Gazette, Montana
March 9, 1924
Castle Gate, Utah, March 8. -- Rescue crews have penetrated the workings of Utah Fuel Company mine No. 2 a distance of 2,500 feet or more in the main haulage way and have found pure air, according to a bulletin issued by the company at 12:05 Sunday morning. There was no indication of fire and no bodies were found, the bulletin said. The rescue crews hope to reach the men before morning.
Castle Gate, Utah, March 8. -- (AP) -- GEORGE WILSON of Standardville, Utah, head of a mine rescue crew was asphyxiated early Saturday night when attempting to reach the 173 men entombed in the Utah Fuel Company's No. 2 mine here. Other members of his rescue party had to be carried out. There were three explosions apparently caused by accumulation of dust in the mine shortly after 8 o'clock Saturday morning. The first one was followed in about a minute by another and a third occurred 20 minutes still later.
Wreckage was thrown across Castle Gate canyon nearly half a mile. The mine entrance, the air shaft and the escape shaft are filled with gas and rescue work is impossible. The next step will be to brattice up the mine entrances and pump in fresh air. At present rescue crews can make little headway.
It is estimated one rescue crew went into the mine about 2,500 feet, or within 800 feet of where some of the men were known to be at work when the explosion occurred. At this distance, however, the rescue workers were forced back by the gas.
The mine is about two miles from Castle Gate and the canyon road was crowded with relatives of entombed men, and automobiles which brought people from surrounding towns of this coal mining district made progress slow. The exact fate of the men in the mine is undetermined. While the gas in the main shaft, the airway and the escape tunnel is strong enough to knock out helmeted rescue men, it is believed possible that some of the miners have been able to brattice up the way and thus save their lives.
The check board of the mine was blown down by the explosion and for this reason there is no accurate list of those in the mine. On the check board are hooks and little brass number plates.
Identification Tags Lost
Upon going into the mine each man takes with him a number. The explosion scattered those checks not taken, and therefore nothing in the way of a list has been given out. Some people here are of the opinion that it will be Sunday or perhaps Monday before any of the entombed men are found.
To add to the tragedy, most of the men entombed are married and have families. Only two weeks ago, with times slack and orders scarce, the company cut down the working force by laying off single men or men who had no dependents.
George Wilson, superintendent of the coal company, is the first known victim. He was asphyxiated Saturday afternoon while leading a rescue crew into the mine. Five of his comrades were overcome by the powerful gases, but were revived by the first-aid workers. Wilson was picked up about 500 feet from the main entrance.
No official list of the men entombed can be obtained because the rack upon which the brass identification checks are placed by the miners as they enter the mine was wrecked by the explosion.
Destruction of the fan has hindered materially, but this will be in operation Sunday, it is thought, and rescuers hope that the blasts from the fan will be sufficient to clear the mine of a large part of its gases. Rescue work is still being attempted, however, but no progress can be made until the fan has been placed in operation.
The first explosion occurred between 8:15 and 8:30 o'clock. It was violent, according to people who were on the outside, and it was immediately followed by another destructive blast. Twenty minutes later a third followed.
Rescue Trains Arrive
Nurses and doctors arrived from Salt Lake City by a special train at 3 o'clock. Mine rescue cars are en route from Dawson and Butte. The rescue force at the mine is made up of volunteers from various other mines in the district. The Red Cross is rushing aid to the families of the entombed miners and other organizations and lodges are preparing to care for the sufferers. The rescuers are working frantically to remove the debris at the main entrance as hundreds of onlookers peer with sorrow from the surrounding hills. Mothers, wives, sisters, brothers and relatives of the entombed miners look on with anxiety.
Wives Stand Silent and Sad
In the town of Castle Gate, old women and wives, who are generally at the gate to meet their husbands and sons coming home from work, stand silent and sad. Telephones and electric light poles, and timber that were near the mouth were blown across the valley, which in nearly a mile wide. The second explosion devastated the fan house and added to the damage of the first. The third, 20 minutes later, completed the destruction, by causing a cave-in. The office building, a hundred feet from the shaft, was partially destroyed.
No Evidence of Life
Rescue teams have been able to penetrate the main drift of the Utah fuel mine No. 2 for a distance of 500 feet, it was announced at 10 o'clock Saturday night. No bodies were found. Neither was there any evidence that any one remained alive in the mine.
Another crew penetrated the escapeway for something over a thousand feet without discovering any bodies.
Fire Delays Mine Rescuers
The Billings Gazette, Montana
March 10, 1924
Salt Lake City, March 9. -- Fire broke out, Sunday afternoon, in an emergency exit of the Utah Fuel Company mine at Castle Gate, Utah, and rescue work was held up several hours before it was extinguished.
A further cave-in in the main tunnel, which necessitates the removal of a large quantity of timbers and debris, occurred and also delayed rescue work through that passage.
A glimmer of hope for some of the miners was expressed when a pile of tools was found by searchers and no bodies in the vicinity. It is thought that some may have barricaded themselves from the gases.
Additional rescue workers were gassed, Sunday morning, but none were fatally injured.
Castle Gate, Utah, March 9. -- (AP) -- Ten charred and mutilated bodies had been removed, Sunday, from mine No. 2 of the Utah Fuel Company, in which 175 miners were entombed, Saturday, as the result of an explosion. About 20 other bodies had been located, but had not been removed from the mine. Gas in the inner recesses of the mine is hampering the work of rescuers, it is understood. It is generally believed all of the miners perished.
There are approximately 20 bodies on one of the slopes in the mine, but it is impossible to reach them because of obstructions, according to two helmetmen who came out of the workings at 6 o'clock in the evening.
Brave Deadly Gases
Five of the removed bodies were identified as George Harrison, William Pollock, W. A. Berg, George Fillstead and Jack Thorpe. Two bodies, headless and badly charred, have not been identified.
The interior recesses of the mine are filled with poisonous gas, according to helmetmen, and they have to proceed cautiously. There is no shortage of men willing to risk getting to comrades within the mine.
Two helmetmen were overcome, and late Saturday, George Wilson, head of a crew from Standardville, died from asphyxiation when the nose piece of his helmet became detached several hundred feet inside the main portal.
Work in Bitter Wind
Rescue crews are getting better organized, but just how long it will be before all of the mine can be explored is uncertain. A United States Bureau of Mines car arrived Sunday from Wyoming and government officials are lending all possible aid.
The Knights of Phythias hall here is being used as a morgue and the bodies recovered from the mine have been taken there.
The mine in which the disaster occurred is located in Castle Gate creek canyon and Saturday, Saturday night and Sunday a bitter cold wind swept down it from the north, causing great inconvenience to those laboring at the portals.
Hardly a Family Escaped
According to mine officials, there is hardly a family or person in Castle Gate who has not a relative or a close friend in the mine. Rescue work at the mine is in charge of mine officials and the Red Cross is extending its efforts among the families of the men entombed.
Only rescue workers, mine officials and newspaper men are allowed to go up the canyon to the workings. Deputy Sheriffs are on guard at the mouth and only those who are known to them or have credentials are allowed to pass. This step was taken to exclude the curious. As is customary, United States bureau of mine officials are using canary birds to test out the gas in the mine proper. The men at work in the inner recesses have on helmets, and when they find bodies, they take them to others working without gas protection equipment who are working nearer the entrance.
Canteens Serve Coffee
At each of the two mine portals, canteens where hot coffee and food is served to those doing rescue work have been established. The morale of the rescue workers is excellent. As soon as word of the disaster became known throughout this section, Saturday, picked rescue crews from other mines were hurried to the scene and they have worked like Trojans ever since.
Occasionally mine officials have pleaded with some of the rescue men to stop and take a rest, but their plea is that the men are still in the mine and they must continue. Two officials of the National Guard reached here, Sunday morning, and conferred with mine company officials as to what or anything they could do to help. They brought with them a large supply of blankets, but these are not necessary.
Mourners Huddle by Fires
As the bodies are brought from the mine, they are put on stretchers and carried to the Knights of Pythias hall, which has been turned into a temporary morgue. Undertakers from surrounding towns are here to help take care of the dead and prepare their bodies for burial.
Great excitement prevailed in this section, Saturday night, and the roads leading to Castle Gate were crowded with automobiles and other vehicles carrying people to the scene. Huge fires were built at many places and around these huddled men and, in some cases, women and children, anxious for news of dear ones missing. Up to late Sunday, there had not been enough of the bodies taken from the mine to warrant a decision on funeral plans, but, this step will be taken as soon as practicable.
Listing Of Miners Killed in the Castle Gate Mine Disaster:
|S. V. ACORD
LEVI T. BECK
JOSEPH I. BODILY
EDWARD B. COX
JOHN R. DAVIS
DAVID R. EVANS
FRANKLYN R. EVANS
GEORGE W. FULLMER
GEORGE L. FULLMER
WILLIAM GARROCH, SR.
BRINDLEY A. GITTINS
JOHN HILTON, SR.
JOSEPH A. INGRAM
T. L. INGRAM
SAMUEL RUSH JACOBY
EDWIN L. JONES
GEORGE E. LEE
KONSTANTINOS GUST LOGIOS
GEORGE K. MARKAKIS
WILLIAM MORRISON, SR.
OSCAR F. NEIL
Y. S. PARK
THOMAS PELLY, SR.
THOMAS PELLY, JR.
JOHN G. PSAROUDAKIS
CHARLES H. QUILTER
THOMAS L. REESE
ALFRED RICE, JR.
ORSON H. ROLLINS
K. W. RYU
ORVILLE E. SANDERS
JOHN SLOVENSKI, JR.
HENRY EUGENE SMITH
OREN CLIFFORD SMITH
TONY MIA SMITH
LELAND C. STAPLEY
MIKE P. STEFFANOS
BENJAMIN F. THOMAS, JR.
JONATHAN M. THOMAS
RAYMOND A. WILLIAMS
K. W. YOU
JAMES M. YOUNG, JR.
S. C. YUM