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Mine Disasters in
the United States


Shafer Mine Explosion

Moweaqua, Illinois
December 23, 1932
No. Killed – 54



From the Google News Archives:
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On December 24, 1932 at 8:15 AM, the whistle from the mine blew.  People from the town began to gather outside the mine because they knew that the whistle meant that something went wrong at the work site.  There was a methane gas explosion in the mine shaft a few minutes before they got there.

It was later discovered in a state investigation published February 1, 1933 by the Moweaqua News that the disaster was caused by the open flame of a miner’s carbide lamp which ignited the methane gas and prompted the explosion.

Only about half of the miners were working that day as it was Christmas Eve and many chose to stay home with their families or were out of the town.

54 miners were trapped 625 feet below the ground in the shaft.  However, two miners named Frank Floski and Ibra Adams did survive the accident because they were in a cage deeper in the mine.

Specially trained rescue miners from Pana, Springfield arrived to help control the situation and retrieve bodies from the mine.  When the other miners who had taken the day off arrived at the mine, they were not allowed in.

The Illinois Central Railroad brought in cars to give the rescue miners a place to sleep and food to eat.  The American Red Cross, the Moweaqua Hospital and people in the town also helped provide meals for the workers.

Although the disaster was tragic and 54 lives were lost, it brought the community together and everyone helped each other through their grief.  The rescue miners worked for six days to find all of the bodies in the mine.

The owner of the mine, Mr. Shafer said:
If the mine is reopened, every safety precaution would be taken of course.  Upon the recommendation of the state mine inspector, nothing but electric safety lamps would be used in the future.
The mine then reopened on December 28, 1933 after a service was held four days earlier to remember and honor the men who died in the disaster exactly one year before and to commemorate the rescue mine workers who helped uncover the bodies of the men trapped in the mine.

The mine started up with success and by March 7, 1934, 65 men were back working in the mine again.  In that year, a new company owned by Glen Shafer from Pana, Springfield called the Erie Sootless Coal Company of Moweaqua opened the mine after the summer.

No coal was brought up after March 1935 and the shafts were officially closed in 1936, but were never sold.  The mine faced lots of destruction from different people who would vandalize the site.  The tipple was mostly torn down by June 1940 and the remaining pieces of the structure blew over due to harsh winds and ruined the engine room five months later.

The mine was finally destroyed in October 1941 due to rotting wood in the timbers holding up the mine walls and ceiling and the shaft collapsed on itself creating a sink hole eighty feet wide.

Source: Wikipedia  External Link




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