On February 9, 1911, E. A. Sutton, assistant superintendent of the Cokedale mine of the Carbon Coal & Coke Company, Carbondale, Colorado, lost his life while wearing a Draeger helmet-type oxygen breathing apparatus after an explosion in this mine in which 17 men were killed. It is believed that this was the first instance in the United States, wherein a person died while wearing oxygen breathing apparatus.
This company was one of the first in Colorado to install oxygen breathing apparatus, but only three apparatus were purchased and available at the time of the explosion. Sutton had worn the apparatus on only two previous occasions, for periods of one-half hour each, and therefore was not thoroughly familiar with its operation.
Sutton and a superintendent from a neighboring mine each put on an apparatus and left the third at the fresh-air base in reserve. When they had traveled a considerable distance from the fresh-air base, his companion, who was traveling about 150 feet behind Mr. Sutton, saw him struggle with his apparatus and suddenly fall. The companion immediately returned to fresh air for help.
After considerable delay, two workmen volunteered to go after Sutton without the aid of respiratory protection. When they reached a point within about 100 yards of where he was lying, one collapsed and the other returned to fresh air.
Thirty minutes thereafter additional apparatus crews arrived and recovered the bodies of Sutton and the workman. They were treated with a pulmotor for more than an hour, but neither could be revived.
Examination of Sutton's apparatus revealed that one of the potash cartridges had not been connected at the bottom. This permitted the injector to pull in outside air, which presumably contained carbon monoxide.