The mine was reported in good condition and free from fire-damp on the day before the explosion.
The fireboss made an examination of the mine before anyone was permitted to enter January 27 and found the mine perfectly safe.
The primary cause was fire-damp, mostly, if not all, generated by the fall of No. 3 flat, intensified by coal dust.
Fully 75% of the persons killed were smothered by after-damp. The quantity of the gas fired was not large.
The rescuing parties discovered fires smoldering in several places, but with tubs of water were soon extinguished.
Another account by T. T. O'Malley, 1891, states that only active workings were inspected by the fireboss and that the mine was considered nongassy, being worked with open lights.
The same State Inspector in 1892 instituted legal proceedings against a fireboss of a nearby mine for failure to examine half of the working places before sending the men in. The miners at that mine protested this action against the fireboss.
||Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I
Miners Suffocated in the Mammoth Shaft of the Frick Coke Company
The New York Times, New York, NY
January 28, 1891
Pittsburg, Penn. Jan. 27 -- A special from Scottdale, Pennsylvania says: By an explosion of firedamp in the Mammoth shaft of the H. C. Frick Coke Company, 110 sturdy miners were hurled into eternity and a number seriously injured.
The explosion occurred this morning shortly after 9 o’clock and it is supposed was the result of the ignition of a miner’s oil lamp. The after damp which followed the firedamp explosion suffocated nearly every workman. A few men realizing the awful situation fell to the ground thereby preventing the gas from striking them. The persons not killed are in such a critical condition that their deaths are momentarily expected. Up to this writing sixty bodies have been recovered, all without a sign of life. The mine is on fire and it is feared that the rest of the bodies will be cremated.
The fire which broke out after the explosion was soon extinguished by the immense fans which were put in operation. The gas was about all driven from the pit, and the work of rescuing the entombed miners was commenced.
General Manager Lynch of the H. C. Frick Coke Company is on the scene helping to devise means to recover the dead workmen. His assistance is invaluable, as he has had many years’ experience in mining operation. After sixty of the bodies had been taken out a new fire started, and this is still burning.
The Mammoth plant embraces 509 ovens, and is one of the largest plants in the coke region. It is situated near the United Works, where an explosion recently destroyed the entire shaft. The affair has cast a gloom over the entire coke region, and tonight hundreds of miners are flocking to the scene of the disaster offering assistance.
The appalling loss of life in the Dunbar disaster is more than overshadowed by the destruction of life in this calamity. The news spread throughout the entire coke region with great rapidity, and everybody was awestricken. The coffins have already been ordered for eighty persons from Mount Pleasant undertakers, and it is understood that the Frick Company, the owners of the plant, will bear the expenses of the same. The only man who escaped from the fatal mine was Mine Boss Eaton.
Among those killed are John Beverage and James Boles, formerly of this place. The former resided here for many years and was held in high esteem by everybody. He was a road man in the shaft.
Ex-Mine Inspector Keighly, the Superintendent of the fatal shaft, is nearly distracted. It is a singular fact that misfortune seems to have followed him, his experience in the Hill Farm disaster resulting in the tendering of his resignation as Mine Inspector.
Master Workman Peter Wise, ex-Master Workman R. D. Kerfoot, James McBride, Mike Disman, John R. Byrne, Secretary Parker, and James Keegan, all prominent labor leaders, left tonight for Mammoth to render any assistance in their power, financially or otherwise, to the stricken and bereaved families.
It has been estimated that there are sixty wives and families left wholly dependent on the charity of the world by this disaster. In fact, they are almost penniless, as the plant has not been running full for some time, and work has been exceedingly scarce since the dullness in the demand for coke.
Every means possible will be resorted to supply the widowed mothers and their children with the necessaries of life. The Frick Company will be liberal in this direction, and it is understood that a subscription paper will shortly be circulated to obtain money to support the unfortunate families.
Scottdale, Pennsylvania, Jan 27, 1891
Master Workman Peter Wise addressed the following letter to the miners and cokers of the region tonight:
To the Members of the Knights of Labor and Workingmen of the Coke Region
The sad news of a disastrous explosion at Mammoth Mines has just reached me and I fear many families have been left destitute. I therefore appeal to you to promptly render what aid you can to assist the families of your brethren who have been killed.
The Master Workman and committees at each works will kindly take the matter in hand and act as a relief committee. Let the committee select a “check member,”¯ and each miner run as many wagons as he can under the circumstances contribute, and arrangements will be made with the companies to pay the amount, and thus prompt aid can be given.
Drawers can adopt the same plan, and day men can contribute from their day’s work and have the same deducted in the office. This aid will be separate and apart from any public contributions, and will be forwarded to district officers, who will apply it to the relief of those for whom it is contributed.