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Mine Disasters in
the United States


Dunbar Furnace Company
Ferguson Mine Explosion

Dunbar, Pennsylvania
November 21, 1903
No. Killed - 17



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Successful Rescue

After an hour of frantic search, nine miners were picked up by the rescuing party in different positions of exhaustion.  As they reached the open air they fell prostrate in the arms of their wives and children, who had spent that long, weary hour at the pit's mouth fearing that they would never see their loved ones again.  Their faces were blackened, their hair scorched and clothing burned almost to shreds from the flames that followed the explosion


12 Dead in Mine Horror
Tyrone Daily Herald, Pennsylvania
November 23, 1903

Connellsville, Pa., Nov. 23. -- Just as the day shift had about completed its labors and were about to leave the Ferguson mine, a terrific explosion wrecked the interior of the mine, and 24 miners, who were working in the vicinity were thrown in all directions, the roof came tumbling down, and the close air of the mine became stupefying.

The men rushed in every direction seeking means of escape, but only nine succeeded in reaching the pit's mouth alive.  These were picked up by the rescuing party in different positions of exhaustion after an hour of frantic search.  As they reached the open air they fell prostrate in the arms of their wives and children, who had spent that long, weary hour at the pit's mouth fearing that they would never see their loved ones again.

As these nine emerged from the mine pit one by one, their faces were blackened, their hair scorched and clothing burned almost to shreds from the flames that followed the explosion.  The other 10, perhaps never regained consciousness after the disaster.  Their bodies were found lying in all shapes horribly burned when the rescuing party reached them.

The explosion occurred in the Ferguson mine of the Dunbar Furnace Company, which adjoins the "Hill Farm Mine." It is believed by mining experts that the fire which has been raging in the "Hill Farm Mine" since the disaster of 1890 broke through the walls which had been erected between the Hill Farm Mine and Ferguson Mine and caused an explosion of gas.

As soon as the news of the explosion was known to the officials of the company a rescuing party was organized and 50 men descended in the deep pit to rescue the injured and dying.  Great volumes of smoke rolled out of the mouth of the mine and the rescue work was dangerous.

Almost blinded by the dense smoke, the men pushed on for nearly two miles until the first of the dying miners was found.  The injured were carried out and taken to the company house, where half a dozen physicians were already in waiting.  The miners who were found dead are so terribly burned that it is impossible to identify them.

The explosion was a most terrifying one, and for two miles timbers were completely blown out.  The flames shot through almost every room in the mine, setting fire to the timbers and burning the pit cars that were in the section of the mine where the explosion took place.

The dead:
  • James McGurk, 22 years old, son of Fire Boss John McGurk
  • Wheatley Foster, 24, years old and single
  • Mike Samandre, married wife and family in the old country
  • Joseph Ocklan, 27 years old and single
  • Peter Sekora, 32 years old and married, wife and three children
  • John Sedravia, 39 years old, has wife and family in the old country
  • Charles Vera, 42 years old, has wife and family in the old country
  • Mike Sekora, 22 years old and single
  • Andy Kootsar, 48 years old and married, leaves wife and three children
  • Mike Haversjack, 24 years old, leaves wife and family in the old country
  • Hijack Baleslaf, 28 years old and single, died at the Cottage State Hospital Sunday afternoon
  • William Foster, aged 40 years, died at the Cottage State Hospital this morning.  Remains will be sent to his home near Dunbar.
The missing:
  • Michael Bene, a Slav
The injured:
  • John McGurk, 39 years old, wife and five children, thought to have been fatally burned; cannot recover
  • John Foster, 49 years old, serious burns about the body and face; in a dangerous condition; will not recover
  • Adam Linka, fatal burns, cannot recover
  • Joseph Doviac, seriously burned about the body and face; condition considered serious
  • John Patrick, badly burned; will recover
  • John Marchich, driver, burned about body and face
  • John Korchusch, seriously burned
  • Fred Longden, slightly burned



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