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On October 20, 1916, Lewis M. Jones, a mining engineer of the Bureau of Mines and in charge of rescue and recovery work for the Bureau, lost his life while wearing a Fleuss oxygen breathing apparatus on an exploration trip following an explosion in the No. 7 mine of the Jamison Coal & Coke Company, Barrackville, West Virginia, in which 10 men were killed.
The exploration party, consisting of Jones, as the rear man, three other Bureau of Mines apparatus men, and one local apparatus man, left the fresh-air base pulling a lifeline and carrying six 100-foot coils of clothesline to be attached to the end of the lifeline when it was extended to its full 1,000 feet.
Another Bureau of Mines man and a local man, both equipped with oxygen breathing apparatus, and a third man not so equipped were left as a reserve crew at the fresh-air base. When the full length of the lifeline was paid out, the coils of clothesline were attached, one after another, until all were fastened together.
The party then proceeded 1,000 feet or more beyond the end of the lifeline, a total distance of about 3,000 feet, and had almost reached their objective when they stopped for a short rest and to read their apparatus gages.
The trip up to this point had been made at a moderate pace, under good conditions of travel, with ample height and few falls. When travel was resumed and after traveling a short distance, the man next to Jones noticed that he was not following the crew. This man immediately returned to Jones and found him leaning against the rib, As he reached him Jones' knees gave way and he started to fall. The crew member placed his hand on Jones' chest, pushed him against the rib to prevent him from falling and examined his apparatus. Finding the main oxygen valve of Jones' apparatus closed the crew member opened it and the bypass valve. On receiving the fresh oxygen, Jones seemed to rally for a short time but soon collapsed.
He was then placed on a stretcher by the rest of the crew, they having joined Jones and his companion, and it was determined that his mouthpiece and nose clip were in place. He was breathing heavily, but the apparatus was apparently working properly. The party then started out.
After carrying Jones about 1,300 feet outby, one of the men became exhausted and they had to stop. When they stopped, they gave Jones extra oxygen through the bypass. Two of the party then started for the fresh-air base for help, leaving the two others with Jones.
Fifteen or twenty minutes thereafter the two men who were with Jones decided that they too would be forced to leave him because their oxygen was getting low, and it was feared that the other two men might not have reached the fresh-air base. When these men left Jones, it was observed that he was still breathing heavily.
Both parties reached the fresh-air base safely, but considerable time was consumed in organizing a relief crew to go in and get Jones. Finally, a party of three men wearing breathing apparatus, who were met on the way out by a fourth man wearing apparatus, went in and brought Jones out.
In their haste to get Jones to fresh air, they did not take the time to determine whether or not he was still breathing. Arriving at the fresh-air base, artificial respiration was started immediately, and oxygen was administered by means of a resuscitator.
Meanwhile, a doctor arrived and upon examining Jones failed to detect any heart action. When the oxygen supply of the resuscitator became exhausted a lung motor was used for a while without results. The doctor finally decided that Jones was dead and discouraged further efforts at resuscitation.
A period of 2 hours and 20 minutes had elapsed between the time the original crew left the fresh-air base and the time Jones' body was brought back to the fresh-air base.
Subsequent examination and wearing of the apparatus worn by Jones disclosed no defects, with the exception of a small crack or break in the base of the rubber mouthpiece where it joined the outer flap; however, this may have been caused after the apparatus was removed from Jones, as according to some of the crew members, little attention was paid to it, and possibly several men walked on the mouthpiece during the efforts to revive him.
The reason why the main oxygen valve on Jones' apparatus should be found closed by the man who first reached him can readily be understood when it is considered that the gage valve on a Fleuss apparatus could and often was placed directly over the main closing valve when the reducing valve was being attached to the oxygen bottle.
Because the wearers of the apparatus were instructed to keep the gage valve closed except when actually reading the gage, this sometimes resulted in the wearer closing the main oxygen-supply valve instead of the gage valve. When this occurred the oxygen in the apparatus would be consumed in a short time; and the wearer, in his efforts to obtain air, might draw outside air containing carbon monoxide into the apparatus. This may have been what happened to Jones, and the carbon monoxide drawn into the apparatus resulted in his death.
On November 13, 1917, Samuel T. McMahon and Bryce Warren lost their lives while wearing Fleuss oxygen breathing apparatus in a sealed fire area in the No. 7 mine of the Jamison Coal & Coke Company, Barrackville, West Virginia.
An explosion occurred in this mine on October 10, 1916. The explosion resulted in a serious fire that required sealing of the north section of the mine. (Lewis M. Jones, an employee of the Bureau of Mines, lost his life during an exploration trip after the explosion.)
About a month after the fire was sealed in the north section of the mine, where an apparatus crew was making an exploration in the fire area, a local gas explosion occurred. The apparatus crew and about 35 other men, who were cleaning up the south section, immediately went to the surface. A few minutes after the men had reached the surface, a terrific explosion occurred, following which the mine was again sealed.
The services of McMahon, who at the time of the initial explosion was employed as district mine inspector by the West Virginia Department of Mines, was obtained to direct recovery operations. The work was begun about January 27, 1917, and to guard against the entrance of air into the sealed area, air locks were being used in conducting the recovery work.
The air locks were being erected about 900 feet apart, and on the day of the accident McMahon, Warren, and two other men wearing apparatus had been building stoppings to seal off openings in a 900-foot section. A lifeline was not being used, and no reserve crew was at the fresh-air base.
About 3:00 p.m., one of the crew stated that he was feeling bad, and McMahon sent him and another man to the fresh-air base outside the airlock, stating that he and Warren would follow soon. At this time all of the apparatus contained about a 40-minute oxygen supply.
After waiting about 45 minutes and hearing nothing from McMahon and Warren, the two men at the fresh-air base became alarmed. They entered the air lock and on opening the door of the second stopping of the air lock a light was seen on the floor about 200 feet inby. The two men, under oxygen, proceeded to the light and found McMahon unconscious, nose clip removed, hand on bypass valve, and oxygen supply exhausted. The two men then, instead of attempting to rescue McMahon, proceeded to the surface to obtain assistance. As a result, McMahon's body was not recovered until about 5:00 p.m., or about 1 hour and 20 minutes after being discovered. Artificial respiration was used for some time, but McMahon could not be revived.
Warren's body was located and recovered about 9:45 p.m., or approximately 6 hours after McMahon's body was discovered. It was found a few feet inby the stopping at the extreme end of the 900-foot section of the main air lock; the nose clip was off and the bypass valve of the apparatus was open. This stopping was equipped with a slide door, and there were indications that McMahon had endeavored to assist Warren through this door.
Evidently McMahon and Warren had explored some distance inby the stopping at the end of the air lock, and ran out of oxygen before they could reach fresh air. The apparatus worn by McMahon and Warren had, so far as known, operated perfectly for about 1 hour and 20 minutes before the accident or up to the time the two other men left them.
Both sets of apparatus were tested after the accident, and no defects were found. It is believed that Warren's oxygen supply became prematurely exhausted owing to excessive use of the bypass valve and that McMahon, in attempting to assist Warren, also used oxygen faster than he expected, and thereby depleting his supply. However, in view of the limited oxygen supply at the time that the two other men left them, they should not have attempted an exploration and should have returned to fresh air while they still had an ample supply of oxygen.
Source: Loss of Life Among Wearers of Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (April 1944)
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