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Mine Disasters in
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Smoke Bars Attempts at Mine Rescue
Ogden Standard Examiner, Utah
July 17, 1950
Lark, Utah, July 17 (AP) -- Thick clouds of smoke were termed the number one hazard today as rescue workers tried to reach five men lost underground since yesterday in a lead mine. Huge blowers were set up in main shafts to clear the smoke which rescue crews said prevented them from exploring depths of the mine where the men might be huddled.
A 120-horsepower blower was hauled to the mine at mid-morning. It will augment the two 15 H.P. units now in use.
Mine Official Oscar Glaeser said it was believed that the men might be in a shaft below the main tunnels. He entered the mine with other officials to determine if smoke would allow the penetration downward through a main vertical shaft. Glaeser is industrial relations manager for the American Mining, Smelting and Refining Company, owner of the mine.
"Buck" Grant, one of the supervisors of the rescue operation, said it might be hours, or days before the five miners are found. The hope was held that the men had found there were sections of the mine where fresh oxygen is being pumped in.
The rescue workers can spend only about an hour in the shafts. Their oxygen helmets contain only that much supply. They say that they cannot even see their hands in front of their faces because of the smoke.
The mine has been penetrated along the Mascot Tunnel, a main shaft, to the 6,200 foot level. The men are hanging canvas over the drifts (side tunnels), to block off the main passages. In this manner they hope to clear the main routes of smoke to permit excursions into the drifts.
Air is being pumped into the Mascot Tunnel in an attempt to blow the smoke through a U-shaped tunnel arrangement and out of the Utah Construction Company Tunnel. This route extends between three and four miles. It is believed that timber inside the mine is burning. The mine is composed of a labyrinth of some 400 miles of tunnels. This includes the main passages as well as the numerous drifts which cut off at intervals. And the men may be at any point in this maze of tunnels.
Above the mine entrance, on a little ledge, a small crowd silently watches the operation. Among these are wives and children of the missing men. Four are married. Some of the women are seated on orange crates, still dressed in their house coats.
Only seven or eight men are in the mine at a time. Between 25 and 30 wait outside, eager to join the rescue efforts.
The men have been missing since early yesterday when fire broke out in the Lark mine of the U.S. Smelting, Refining & Mining Company.
They are identified as Horace Martin Seal, 59, a hoist operator; Leland Neilsen, 38, pump operator; Robert Gordon Meterhoffer, 36, electrician foreman; Byron G. Thomas, 46, surface foreman, and Clyde Auguston, 41, an assistant mine superintendent.
The men were engaged in maintenance operations at the mine, which has been shut down since July 1 by a strike of United Steelworkers.
Some 50 rescue workers, including a number of crews from nearby mines, made repeated attempts yesterday to locate the missing men but were driven back to the entrances by heavy smoke.
Water was shut off to prevent flooding and possibly drowning the trapped workers.
W. C. Page, vice president and general manager of the company's western operations, said Seal and Neilsen are believed to be near the 1,000 foot level of the Lark shaft and the other three somewhere between the 5,000 and 7,100 foot levels in the Mascot shaft.
Neilsen and Seal were on maintenance shift Saturday night. Seal let Neilsen down to open a water door at the 1,000 foot level. Neither worker reported by telephone. Meyerhoffer, Thomas and Auguston entered the mine at 4 a.m. yesterday shortly after the fire was discovered. They did not report.
Lark, Utah, July 17 (AP) -- Between 25 and 30 men silently wait outside a lead mine in this tiny mining community until the time they can join the search for five miners lost underground. They pass the time quietly talking -- and drinking coffee.
The five men have been in the American Mining, Smelting and Refining Company mine since early yesterday.
A fire which has filled the tunnels with smoke prevented their return to the surface. And the smoke has kept the bulk of rescue crews from entering.
The lost men are all maintenance workers. The mine has been closed by a strike since July 1.
And on a bulletin board on the shack where the miners standby is this lone notice: "Strike vote: Yes - 700. No - 238."
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