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Mine Disasters in
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Old Ben Coal Company
Old Ben No. 8 Mine Explosion

West Frantfort, Illinois
December 1, 1929
No. Killed - 7



See also:   Old Ben No. 11 Mine Explosion, Nov. 29, 1917
Old Ben No. 8 Mine Explosion, July 24, 1947

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Seven Miners Die in Gas Explosion
Alton Evening Telegraph, Illinois
December 2, 1929

West Frankfort, Ill., Dec. 2. -- (AP) -- Seven coal miners are dead as a result of an explosion which rocked a section of Old Ben Mine No. 8, one-half mile south of here early Sunday morning.  All but one of the bodies, that of James Tabor, have been found and removed to undertaking establishments here.

Fifteen other miners working in another part of the mine at the time of the explosion escaped without injury.  The cause of the blast was not determined, but it is believed to have been due to an accumulation of coal dust gas.

The dead are:
  • James Tabor
  • Thomas McDermott
  • Veto Geridini
  • Jewell Baker
  • Dewey Baker, brother of Jewell
  • Earl Bearden
  • Henry Isaac
All of the men killed resided in West Frankfort except Isaac, who was said to have lived in Johnson City near here.  McDermott was about 40 while the other victims were younger men.

According to James Dunn, mine superintendent of the Old Ben Coal Corporation, the explosion occurred about 2:30 a.m. yesterday.  More than a mile back from the shaft and about 300 feet below the surface.

The men had been removing track and other material in the section where the explosion occurred, as it had been worked out.

Thomas Smith, mine boss on the early morning shift, felt a gust of hot air at the time of the blast and immediately turned in the alarm.  Many of the other workers in the mine however, were not aware that anything had happened until the power was turned off.

Large quantities of gas hindered the work of rescue patrols and it was not until 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon that five of the bodies were discovered close together in the sixth passage east, off the main south passage.  The body of McDermott was not found until 5:45 p.m. in room No. 3 off the sixth passage east.  He was found under fallen top coal and rescue workers believe that James Tabor also will be found buried under debris and coal.

The six bodies were brought to the surface in the midst of one of the most severe blizzards experienced in southern Illinois in recent years.  Mine workers and relatives of the dead men stood motionless with heads bare and snow beating down upon their heads and faces as the bodies were taken from the shaft to waiting ambulances.

All of the bodies were badly charred and the only means of positive identification was through numeral numbers on their "bug lights."

An investigation is being conducted by A. D. Lewis of Springfield, Director of Mines and Minerals.  He has been down in the mine since yesterday afternoon and could not be reached early this morning for a statement concerning the cause of the blast.

It was stated that safety devices which automatically released shale dust to localize the explosion prevented the mine from being totally destroyed.

Officials said the damage was small.  Quick work on the part of rescue teams from Benton, Johnson City and Valier, also aided in keeping damage confined to a small area.

The only other accident at Mine No. 8 which resulted in the loss of lives, occurred about eight years ago when two miners were killed by an explosion.



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