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Mine Disasters in
the United States


Federal Mining and Smelting Company
North Star Gold/Silver Mine Snowslide

Hailey, Idaho
February 25, 1917
No. Killed 16



From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Idaho Snowslide Killed 15 Miners
The Genesee News, Genesee, Idaho
March 2, 1917

Boise, Idaho.-Fifteen men were killed and 15 injured when a giant snowslide destroyed the bunkhouse, compressor houses and warehouse of the North Star mine, 12 miles northeast of Hailey, Idaho, at 3:30 o'clock Sunday morning.

The Dead

Bodies of these men have been taken from the debris:
  • John Fleming
  • Elton G. Cooley
  • Jack Vaughn
  • James Peterline
  • Phil Welch
  • John Purnell
  • Frank P. Mangingo
  • Roy Judd
  • Sam LaBarge
The following six men are missing and all are believed to be buried beneath the slide:
  • John Kistle
  • John Hearn
  • Jack McKelvey
  • Emmett P. Russell
  • W. R. Motley
  • W.S. Schmidt
Injured:

On the list of those injured is Tom Jay, mine superintendent; A. E. Wood is in a precarious condition, with his back broken and hip fractured.  Otherwise on the injured list are:
  • George Lee
  • Jack Lindsey
  • L. O. Beeson
  • Bert Judd
  • E. C. Jones
  • J. R. Carter
  • Pete Peterson
Immediately upon receiving news of the disaster a special train conveying physicians and rescue workers was run from Hailey to Gimlet, from where the party was obliged to travel six miles to the mine in sleighs.

It is reported that three of this number are dangerously injured.  The bodies of the dead were left at the mine temporarily.

The disaster is the worst in the history of Wood River mining.  Of the men killed Fleming, LaBarge and Russell leave families living at Hailey.  Vaughn, Kistle, McKelvey, Welch and Echmidt are Hailey men.  Mangingo was timekeeper at the mine.

Slides Numerous

A fall of two and one-half feet of snow during the previous three days, followed by rain, has resulted in numerous slides in the North Star district, many in places where they never were known to occur before.

At the time of the accident the Federal Mining and Smelting company had 60 men employed at the mine and 115 at work at the mill two miles below.  The officials have announced that because of dangerous conditions prevailing they will close the mine for the remainder of the winter.


A Tragedy in the Snow

An appalling calamity occurred at the North Star mine on the East Fork of Wood River about 3:30 o'clock on the morning of February 25, 1917.  Three slides formed an avalanche, one from the east, one from the north and one from the northwest, which killed 15 men and injured 17.

Following is a list of the dead:
  • Emmett P. Russell
  • Philip Welch
  • John Fleming
  • Samuel La Barge
  • John Vaughn
  • John Kistle
  • John McKelvy, all of Hailey
  • Israel Peterlin of Broadford
  • John Hearn of Fairfield
  • William C. Schmidt of Rock Creek
  • E. P. Manjino, timekeeper, of Mexico
  • Joseph H. Purnell of Boise
  • E. G. Cooley
  • W. R. Motley
  • Roy Judd
Following is a list of the injured:
  • Andy Smith of Lost River
  • H. B. Richardson of Boise Basin
  • George Lee of Boise
  • John Lillquist of Rossland, Canada
  • M. S. Legault
  • O. E. Beeson
  • O. D. St. Amand
  • Bert Judd
  • M. S. Lesault
  • John Peterson
  • Pete Colombtta
  • K. D. Lindsay
  • H. F. Manard
  • A. E. Wood
  • E. C. Jones
  • Thomas Jay
  • J. R. Carter
Over 20 men escaped uninjured.  Of the 85 men employed only 65 were at the mine and they are all accounted for.  The avalanche destroyed the office, storeroom, changing room, two-story bunkhouse and compressor room of the Federal Mining & Smelting company, smashing them into kindling wood.

The Bell telephone line being out of commission the Hailey Electric Light works was called over the Federal Company's private line and Superintendent Rising was urged to send all the physicians and able bodied men available to the scene of the tragedy.

Mr. Rising thereupon aroused Doctor Wright by telephone and he called doctors Kleinman and Plumer of Halley and Doctors Byrd and Dutton of Bellevue, all of whom responded immediately.  After consultation doctor Plumer was left in Halley to look after the relatives of the victims of the tragedy, many of whom resided in Hailey, and the other physicians left for the North Star mine which they reached about 8 o'clock.  They immediately turned the mill office into a temporary hospital.

A veterinary surgeon had begun to give first aid in the company's office at the mill and had bandaged some of the rescued when the Halley and Bellevue physicians arrived.  In the meantime the mill hands and the mill employees who were unhurt had been rescuing those whom they could reach.

By 9 o'clock about 100 men were engaged in rescue work.  Some of the men were buried under 20 to 30 feet of snow.  Several of the dead showed no marks of injuries and are supposed to have suffocated.  Others showed cuts and bruises.

The company did all it could to locate the relatives of the dead or injured.  The train was held at the siding near Gimlet for the purpose of taking the injured, accompanied by doctors, volunteer assistants and miners, to Hailey and Bellevue.

Of the injured two died a short time later, making 17 deaths all told.

This awful calamity has a parallel in Idaho, the number of deaths being the same as in the Coeur d'Alenes a few years prior when, an avalanche crashed through a part of the city of Wallace.  It brought sorrow to many homes in Hailey where so many people were closely related by blood or marriage.

Source: History of Alturas and Blaine Counties, Idaho
Hailey, Idaho: Hailey Times, 1930, pages 95-96

The official number killed in this disaster, as declared by NIOSH, is 16.



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