On December 31, 1921, Albert Gilmore, a section foreman, lost his life in the No. 1 mine of the Ellsworth Collieries Company, Ellsworth, Pennsylvania, while wearing a Gibbs 2-hour oxygen breathing apparatus following a local mine explosion.
The apparatus crew of which Gilmore was the leader, had been exploring two crosscuts ahead of the ventilation as the air was being advanced in the recovery of the mine. One of the five oxygen breathing apparatus belonging to the crew had been damaged in transportation, and another developed a leak while in service, leaving only three sets of apparatus available for use.
The work was being conducted by sending the three available apparatus men ahead in such a formation that one man would stay far enough in the rear to be out of danger with the thought that he could render assistance if the two men ahead encountered any trouble. A lifeline was not used, and there was no reserve crew at the fresh-air base.
After four advance examinations had been made in this way, the crew started on a trip, but this time all three went together. Instead of advancing about 200 feet the crew had traveled about 600 feet ahead of the fresh-air base when Gilmore collapsed. About 10 minutes after the crew left the fresh-air base one of the members ran back and collapsed upon his arrival at fresh air. His apparatus was taken off and recharged, but it was found that the apparatus was damaged so that it could not be used.
The other member of the crew ran down the return airway and reached fresh air by coming through one of the canvas stoppings. His apparatus was also in such condition that it could not be used. The atmosphere ahead was so filled with afterdamp that it was found impossible to reach Gilmore without respiratory protection. Therefore, it was decided to advance the air to where Gilmore had fallen without further exploration.
Owing to the distance supplies had to be carried, 2 hours were consumed in reaching the body of Gilmore. He was given artificial respiration and oxygen inhalations for 2½ hours in the presence of a physician but failed to respond.
When he started the trip there were about 95 atmospheres of oxygen in his apparatus, and there was still oxygen in the apparatus when his body was recovered.
It was reported that in addition to the exploration work done by Gilmore, while wearing apparatus, he had, at various times during the night, gone ahead of the fresh air without protection, endeavoring to expedite the recovery work, and he may have been near the point of exhaustion when he started on the trip in which he collapsed. Moreover, in traveling about 600 feet ahead of the air he disregarded the instructions which he had received at the fresh-air base.
The apparatus Gilmore wore was examined by a Bureau of Mines employee several days later and was found to be in good condition with the following exception: A large amount of leakage was found in the mouthpiece at the point where the metal flange is inserted in the rubber part.
The rubber part had been placed upside down in the metal flange, and full dependence was placed on shellac to hold the metal and rubber pieces together to form an airtight connection. The shellac had broken so that the connection was not airtight. The recommended procedure for attaching the rubber mouthpiece to the metal flange is to apply shellac to the metal flange, insert it in the rubber mouthpiece, wrap the connection with wire, and apply adhesive tape over the wire.
The atmosphere in which Gilmore died was deficient in oxygen and contained a high percentage of carbon monoxide. It is reported that immediately before he collapsed he turned his head and motioned to the other two crew members to come ahead. When he turned his head without his body either the inhalation or exhalation tube would tend to draw on the side of the metal part of the mouthpiece and cause the loose rubber part to slip in such a way as to leave an opening through which the wearer could take a full inhalation of the deadly outside atmosphere.
It is thought that the inhalation, which Gilmore took as he turned his head, contaminated to a large extent with the deadly outside atmosphere was (in his presumably weakened condition) sufficient to cause his immediate collapse.