Your Amazon purchases made using this link will benefit the United States Mine Rescue Association


united states mine rescue association
Mine Disasters in
the United States


Kemmerer Coal Company
Frontier No. 1 Mine Explosion

Kemmerer, Wyoming
August 14, 1923
No. Killed - 99



Successful Rescue

At 5 o'clock rescuers found a man lying in the main slope who was nearing death from inhalation of smoke and gas fumes.  He was revived and taken to a hospital.  A short time later, two men who had hidden in a remote corner of a room off the main slope were taken to the surface, apparently not suffering greatly.  Another man, found further in along the main slope, showed signs of life when rescuers reached him, but when doctors attempted to revive him, it was found that he had died.


(From Bureau of Mines report, by D. Harrington and H. E. Munn)

The coal bed pitching 15-20 is opened by a slope 6,000 feet long; staggered cross entries are 400 feet apart.

The explosion, about 8:20 a.m., covered a large part of the active workings but produced comparatively little violence, although the original gas explosion was propagated by dust.

Of the 135 men underground, 99 were killed.  At least 70 of these men lost their lives by attempting to travel through the smoke and gases and might have been saved if they had remained at the working faces.  One group of men under the leadership of a shot firer and a driver barricaded themselves at the face of No. 29 entry, and 21 or 22 of these men came out about 3:00 p.m. after ventilation was restored.

Several others who tried to escape before the bulkhead was built were found dead near the slope.  Three others remained at their their room face on the 28th level and came out at 6:00 a.m.

The other survirors escaped during the rescue operations.  Apparatus was used in exploring the mine, recovering the dead, and to a certain extent assisting the living.

The explosion originated at the face of room 7 of the 30th level, when a firelboss who was restoring a wing brattice that had been disarranged went behind the brattice about 10 feet from the face and attempted to relight his flame safety lamp with a match.

Evidently much more gas had accumulated than he expected.  Electric cap lamps were used, but coal was shot with black powder, off the solid.  Dust was sprinkled but not regularly or thoroughly.


Wyoming Coal Mine Loss Placed at 100 Men
Independent, Helena Montana
August 15, 1923

Kemmerer, Wyo., Aug. 14 -- (By The Associated Press). -- All hope of finding more miners alive after the entombment of approximately 138 workers on the 1700 foot level of the Frontier mine No. 1, of the Kemmerer Coal Company, was adandoned, and the work of bringing up the dead was begun.  Twenty-three of the bodies were brought to the surface on the first trip of the mine cars.  They were taken to a temporary morgue here, where relatives gathered to identify their dead and claim the bodies.  It was estimated that the final death toll would be approximately 100.

The explosion occurred in the vicinity of the 1700 foot level of the mine.  Tonight rescue workers had penetrated to nearly every quarter of the underground workings, and it was indicated that they had now brought out all the men remaining alive.

Smoke-blackened embers of mine cars, buried in a cave-in on the 1700 foot level of the workings in entry 16, gave rise to the belief that fire had followed the blast which tore down sections of the roof, ripped up tracks on which "trip" cars are operated, and dismantled the electric wiring of the mine, plunging the smoke-filled depths into darkness.

The cause of the explosion is presumed to have been a blowout shot, according to a statement issued at a late hour today by the Kemmerer Coal Company.  The company declared in the statement that no fire had followed the explosion.  At the same time the company announced that rescue work was continuing and that the final figures on the number of victims in the disaster would not be know for a few hours.

Some Rescues

At 5 o'clock rescuers found a man lying in the main slope who was nearing death from inhalation of smoke and gas fumes.  He was revived by a pulmotor and brought to the surface, where he was taken to a hospital.  He is expected to recover.

A short time later, two men who had hidden in a remote corner of a room off the main slope were taken to the surface, apparently not suffering greatly from their entombment.  They had lain on the floor of the room, which is one of many hewn out of coal, in which the miners were working, to escape the gas after hearing the concussion of the blast, and had waited until fresh air had returned into the passageways.

Another man, found further in along the main slope, showed signs of life when rescuers reached him, but when doctors attempted to revive him, it was found that he had died.

In Main Slope

Rescue workers reported tonight that the dead were lying in the main slope, where they had fallen, suffocated.

A check of the rescued shows that 26 were taken from entry No. 29, six from entry No. 28, three from entry No. 30 and two from entry No. 9.

John Pavlizin is being heralded as a hero of the disaster here tonight.  Unaided, he is credited with saving the lives of 26 fellow miners who were working with him in one of the rooms off the main slope.  He had been through two such explosions and is a veteran miner.

Keeps Head

When the workers heard the blast, Pavlizin is said to have commanded the men to halt as they rushed for the door of the room toward the main passageway.  Hurriedly, Pavlizin explained the danger of after-damp in the main passageway and cautioned the men to remain in the room.  Twenty-six heeded his advice and the others rushed out of the room to meet the death-laden gases which swept through the slope.

The 26, under Pavlizin's instructions, are said to have barricaded themselves in the room in which they had been working, erecting brattices of bits of canvas and their clothes, to keep out foul gases.  And there the rescue workers found them alive hours later, lying on the floor, none apparently showing any signs of suffering.  As they walked down the main slope to the outdoors they passed the bodies of their comrades who had rushed unheeding to their death.

Little Damage

Reports of rescue workers indicated tonight that there had been little damage to the inside of the mine.  With the exception of one cave-in the interior is said to show little effects of the blast.  Rapid extension of the "trip" tracks indicates that progress was fast inside the mine, and that the workers were not greatly hampered by debris.

The work of bringing the bodies to the surface, which began this evening, is expected to be completed by tomorrow.

Mine rescue car No. 2 of the United States Bureau of Mines arrived here this afternoon from Rock Springs, where it was intercepted after leaving here early this morning, and members of the crew immediately entered the mine to assist in rescue work.

Suffer By Fumes

Nearly all of the men rescued were blackened by smoke and suffering from the effects of the inhalation of fumes, although there apparently had been little gas in the workings after the blast.

The greatest damage to the interior of the mine was done on the fifteenth entry, where six mine cars had been hurled by a cave-in which apparently followed the explosion.  Rescue workers, who rushed into the mine as soon as the first indicaton of the disaster was given, found debris blocking their way.

They hurriedly called for reinforcements and began the task of clearing the main slope.  The work required several hours and when the way at last had been cleared, it was found impossible to proceed further with the "trip cars."  Stretcher bearers equipped with oxygen helmets and pulmotors, then made their way through the dismantled section and further into the interior.

The first intimation the workers on the outside of the mine had that there had been a disaster was shortly after 8 o'clock this morning when long streams of black smoke began to issue from the ventilating fans, used to keep fresh air in circulation in the workings.  An effort was made immediately to shunt the electric danger alarm system with which the mine is equipped but the explosion had torn down the wires.

Hurried calls were sent immediately to Kemmerer at once, and volunteer workers rushed to the mine from other properties of the company and from the downtown section.

Held Back By Smoke

Within a few minutes the first rescue workers went into the mine.  It was filled with smoke, and their efforts were hampered.  The first evidence that they obtained of the extent of the disaster was on the fifteenth entry where they found the body of a pumpman.  A short time later they encountered the wrecked "trip" cars.

Meantime, company officials had begun mobilization of rescue and first aid forces on the outside of the mine.  A temporary hospital was established in the blacksmith shop at the mouth of the mine, doctors were summoned and nurses were rushed to the first aid station.

Tonight, at least six physicians were working at the mine, four undertakers were on the scene and a dozen trained nurses were giving first aid to the survivors, and in some cases to bereaved women who thronged about the mouth of the shaft.

Although rescue workers declare they saw many bodies in the mine when they entered, they did not stop except to ascertain if the men were living.  In some cases they resuscitated miners who were suffering keenly and carried them from the mine.  In other cases they were able to help the victims walk out by guiding their footsteps.

Not Gas

One of the first men to come out of the mine declared that the smoke had been suffocating, although apparently not gaseous.

Most of the victims of the disaster lost their lives through suffocation on the main slope, it was indicated.  Those who sought isolated rooms or passageways, after the blast, survived in most instances.

P. J. Quealy, vice president and general manager of the Kemmerer Coal Company took charge of the situation and directed rescue work from the surfact throughout the day.

T. C. Russell, superintendent of the Diamond Coal and Coke company, who rushed to the rescue as soon as word of the blast spread this morning, was one of the first of the rescuers to enter the workings.  He remained under ground throughout the day, directing the work of bringing out the survivors and locating the bodies of the dead.

Shortly after the explosion it was feared that rising water in the mine which is normally a wet shaft, would cause the death of any survivors trapped below.

The pumps, however, which had been put out of commission, were again put into working order this afternoon and the level was being pumped out tonight.



See more about these products


  Rescue Contests     Pop Quizzes     Mine Disasters   •  USMRA Membership     Links Library     Training Repository     Contact