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Victor-American Fuel Company
Hastings Mine Explosion

Hastings, Colorado
April 27, 1917
No. Killed - 121

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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See also:   Hastings Mine Explosion, June 18, 1912

(From Bureau of Mines report, by D. Harrington)

The workings are reached by a rock slope.  The coal is undercut by hand, except that an electric cutting machine is used in slope entries.  All workings are gaseous, and firebosses are employed.  Prior to the explosion all places were reported "clear" unless tests with a flame safety lamp gave a cap greater than 5/8-inch in height.

A continuous current is used for ventilating the mine.  Non-permissible electric cap lamps are used by all miners, inspectors carry key-locked flame safety lamps, and firebosses carry magnetic locked Wolfe lamps. The mine is generally quite damp.

Two firebosses made their rounds preparatory for the day shift on that morning and made written reports that the mine was clear of gas.  A trip of cars on the rope going in after 9 o'clock had reached a point 1,300 feet inby the mouth when the explosion occurred.  The trip rider neither heard or felt anything unusual, but the explosion caused the signal wires to cross and rang the bell to stop the trip.  He then saw smoke coming up the slope and ran out to give the alarm of fire.  He was the only man in the mine who escaped.

Smoke issued from the main slope and the south manway, and an investigating party of officials followed fresh air until the affected area was reached.  Oxygen-breathing-apparatus crews were then required, as practically all stoppings in the "B" seam were totally wrecked and heavy falls had occurred.

Gas and dust had spread the explosion to every section of the mine.  One apparatus man died under the severe strain, and another collapsed from overexertion but recovered.  The explosion was caused by a mine inspector striking a match to relight his safety lamp about 120 feet from the face of 7 South entry.

Recommendations were made for adequate ventilation, competent inspection, permissible electric equipment, cap lamps and safety lamps, exclusion of matches and smoking materials, and regular sprinkling or rock dusting.

Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I

Rescuer Death

On May 6, 1917, Walter Kerr, a member of a mine rescue team of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, died wearing a Draeger 2-hour oxygen breathing apparatus, while helping to recover bodies, after an explosion in the Hastings mine of the Victor-American Fuel Company, Hastings, Colorado, in which 121 men were killed.

Kerr, while assisting other members of an apparatus crew in carrying a body, suddenly left his crew and was later found dead in a crosscut at the face of a pair of entries.

Detailed information concerning this occurrence is not available; however, while there apparently was some idea that the apparatus worn by Kerr might have been defective, an autopsy disclosed that he had a defective heart, that overexertion caused heart failure under the strain of wearing apparatus, and that a defective heart condition existed previous to his death.

This case again emphasizes the need for a careful physical examination before a man wears an apparatus under actual mine conditions.

Source: Loss of Life Among Wearers of Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (April 1944) PDF Format

Hundred Twenty Men Perish in Mine Explosion
The Ogden Examiner, Utah
April 28, 1917

Trinidad, Colo., April 27 -- There is no escape for the 120 or more men caught behind the fire in the Hastings mine of the Victor-American Fuel company near Ludlow and it is feared that all have perished.  Rescue crews reported tonight that they cannot reach the entombed men because of the wreckage, the explosion having torn down ceilings and walls of the main slope.

Superintendent Cameron tonight said he had little hope of saving any of the men who were in the mine when the explosion occurred.  If the men are alive behind the fire, it is a miracle, he said.

The exact number of men caught in the mine still is undetermined.  The company has compiled a list of the names of men known to be in the mine but it is asserted that the list is not complete.

Late tonight only meager reports of the progress of the rescue work had been received here.  The only means of communication between Trinidad and Hastings is a single telephone wire which has been crowded with official messages relating to the organization of the rescue work.

Hundred and Nineteen Missing

A list containing 119 names of missing was given out by company officials tonight.  It included David Reese, mine inspector; David Williams, pit boss; H. J. Millard, fire boss; twenty-five company men and 91 miners.

The company men follow:
and three unknown men.

Virtually all of the miners listed are foreigners.

The disaster is one of the greatest in the history of the southern Colorado mining district, and although the rescue work was unabated tonight, company officials hold out little or no hope that any of the men will be taken out alive.  The few, if any, who escaped the flames that swept the interior of the mine, are believed to have been suffocated.

Helmet Parties Working Ahead

The helmet parties are working 400 feet ahead of the rescue crew and tonight had penetrated to the "fifth north," one of the main partings, where the cars are gathered for the long drive to the surface.

One body, that of Jim Lochhart, a negro, has been discovered half buried under fallen rock.

The rescue parties are working constantly to reach the innermost recesses of the pit, but are hampered by lack of air and by falls that have torn down the brattices in important places and make ventilation almost impossible until the breaks have been repaired.  All lumber and canvas for this repair work has been carried by the men on their backs for more than three-quarters of a mile.

At 11:30 o'clock tonight it was reported that five bodies had been found.

Rescuing crews, working continuously in short shifts, expect to reach the remaining men before daylight tomorrow.  No hope is held out that any of them will be rescued alive.

Spontaneous Combustion

The explosion which caused the disaster is said to have been caused by a sudden change of temperature this morning, resulting in spontaneous combustion of coal dust.

All of the bodies found were badly burned, it was said, indicating that a sheet of flame swept through the mine after the explosion, probably killing all of the men in the mine instantly.

The Hastings mine is situated three miles up Hastings canyon from Ludlow, which stands at the entrance to the Hastings and Berwind canyons, 20 miles from Trinidad.  The main slope of the Hastings Mine is driven straight into the mountain, with only a slight pitch, to the present workings which are back some 3,600 feet from the entrance.  The mine normally employs about 100 men to a shift and has a capacity of 1,000 tons a day.

In holding out hope that the men caught in the mine might have escaped instant death, company officials asserted that the explosion apparently was slight.  It apparently was not sufficient in force to be heard on the surface, they said.

The first indication of trouble was a cloud of black smoke which billowed from the mouth of the slope.  Superintendent Cameron hastily organized a rescue force of five men and entered the slope but the smoke and heat from fire within was so intense that they soon were forced to retreat.  Another rescue force was organized and equipped with oxygen helmets.  These men, eight in number, again led by Mr. Cameron, reentered the mine determined to reach the imprisoned men.  Whether debris from the explosion was blocking the slope farther back had not been determined at last reports.

Listing of the Fatalities:

STEVE ANTONUCCI, Slopeman, 53, married, one child
JIM ANUSIS, Miner, 40, single
E. H. ATWOOD, Timberman, 42, married, one child
STEVE BADEL, Miner, 38, married, two children
JOE BANNER, Miner, 45, single
M. BARBER, Electrician, 30, married
HARIS BASAKAS, Miner, 36, married, one child
PIETRO BERTOLINA, Miner, 34, single
A. T. BROWN, Miner, 25, single
GEORGE F. BROWN, Miner, 35, single
JESUS CADERIA, Miner, 27, married
GEORGE CAPACO, Miner, 44, married, three children
MIKE CHIEK, Miner, 36, single
FRANK CHURCICH, Miner, 36, single
VINCENZO CIRCO, Miner, 39, married, five children
TOM CONKAS, Miner, 36, single
JOE CORRETICH, Miner, 23, married, one child
MIKE CORTESE, Miner, 31, married, three children
JIM COSTAS, Miner, 30, single
JOHN CRESEVIK, Miner, 38, single
GUST CRISTULAKIS, Miner, 23, single
R. L. DAVIS, Driver, 38, single
TONY DeKLEVA, Miner, 27, single
ALEX DELY, Miner, 30, married, one child
JOHN DIAKAS, Miner, 23, single
PEDRO DIAZ, Miner, 26, married
SAVERIANO DIAZ, Miner, 35, married, one child
FRANK DOLAN, Miner, 25, single
ISADORE DORADO, Miner, 39, married, two children
ANTON EVANCICH, Miner, 40, married, one child
SAM FABIAN, Miner, 29, single
A. B. FELIX, Miner, 29, single
FRIENTAFOLAS FLEITIS, Miner, 26, married, one child
FLORES GONZALES, Driver, 22, married
LIBOR GARDELKIE, Miner, 38, married, three children
FRANC GERL, Miner, 20, single
TONY GLAVICH, Miner, 27, single
JOE HERNANDEZ, Driver, 27, married, one child
FELIPO HERRERA, Trapper, 16, single
JAMES HOWARD, Driver, 31, married, six children
TRATOR JOE, Parting Tender, 29, single
JESSE JOHNSON, Miner, 45, married, one child
MIKE JONAS, Miner, 23, single
JEFF JONES, Trackman, 46, married
JOHN JUNOS, Miner, 20, single
JOHN KATRES, Miner, 30, single
WALTER KERR, Miner, 27, married, three children
SAM KIKOS, Miner, 37, married
JOHN KLOBAS, Miner, 30, married, two children
G. KONIGERES, Miner, 36, married, one child
JOHN KOPELAS, Miner, 31, married, three children
FRANK KOSICH, Miner, 36, single
JOE KOSICH, Miner, 25, single
MARTIN KRESOVICH, Miner, 29, married, two children
TONY KRESOVICH, Miner, 23, single
MIKE KUNELIS, Miner, 24, single
JAMES LEGAS, Miner, 35, single
JOE LEYVA, Trapper, 16, single
JAMES LOCKHARD, Driver, 31, married, two children
PEDRO LOPEZ, Miner, 30, single
TOM MANVILLE, Miner, 33, single
SALVATORE MARIANA, Miner, 25, single
ANTON MARINCICH, Miner, 37, single
GEORGE MARKES, Driver, 23, single
FRANK MAURO, Roadman, 40, married, eight children
MIGUEL MAYORGA, Miner, 29, married
WILLIAM MEREDITH, Miner, 28, married
GEORGE MERIDAKIS, Miner, 52, married, one child
GEORGE METAXAS, Miner, 37, married, four children
JAMES METAXAS, Miner, 27, single
H. J. MILLARD, Fire Boss, 26, married, one child
ARTHUR MITCHELL, Miner, 34, married
B. B. MYERS, Miner, 27, single
PETE NENICH, Driver, 22, single
BRUNO NICCOLI, Driver Boss, 34, married, five children
CHARLES NICCOLI, Driver, 34, married, five children
JOHN NOWATHER, Miner, 33, married, six children
MIKE OBRADOVICHI, Miner, 45, married, three children
SERAFINO ODOROZZI, Miner, 35, single
FRANK PAPES, Driver, 23, single
ATHAN PAPPAS, Miner, 27, single
GEORGE PAPPAS, Miner, 35, married
JOHN PAPPAS, Miner, 40, married, five children
THEROS PAPPAS, Miner, 43, married, six children
APIROS PAPPAULIS, Miner, 26, single
DIMITRIUS PAPPAULIS, Miner, 33, married, four children
VALENTINE PAVELIK, Miner, 31, single
KERIAKAS PIETRAKAS, Miner, 26, married, two children
ANTON POSLEP, Miner, 38, married, three children
E. O. PRATT, Miner, 45, married, three children
D. H. REESE, Mine Inspector, married, two children
STEVE ROKICH, Miner, 27, single
WILLIAM SHORT, Trackman, 41, single
MARI SIMONELLI, Miner, 25, single
MIKE SKAULAS, Miner, 29, single
GEORGE SKRAKES, Miner, 30, single
JOHN SLOK, Miner, 21, single
ARCHIE SMITH, Miner, 39, single
CHARLES E. SMITH, Miner, 42, married
JOE SMOLICK, Miner, 31, married, four children
ANTONIO SPANODDA, Miner, 32, single
ANTON STEROS, Miner, 32, single
MATT STIMOC, Driver, 28, single
STEVE STUHLAS, Driver, 24, single
ANDY TAKOVIC, Miner, 29, married, three children
JACK TOMSICK, Miner, 23, single
JOE TORCHIO, Mason, 58, married, five children
JOHN TURKOVICH, Miner, 30, married, two children
JOSE VALADAZ, Miner, 25, married, one child
BEN VALDEZ, Pumpman, 27, married, three children
MATT VALENCICH, Miner, 21, married, one child
ALEJANDRO VIGIL, Driver, 35, married, five children
THEROS VIHOS, Miner, 31, single
PAUL VINCENZI, Trackman, 20, single
TOM VLAHOS, Miner, 37, married, two children
FRANK VURNICK, Miner, 48, single
DAVE WILLIAMS, Pit Boss, 34, married, four children
LUDVIK YEDNIK, Miner, 34, married, four children
FRANK ZARNADA, Miner, 25, single
TONY ZATKOVICH, Miner, 42, married, four children
JACK ZELE, Miner, 29, married, one child

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