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Mine Disasters in
the United States


U. S. Steel Corporation
Somerset Mine Roof Fall

Somerset, Colorado
September 19, 1968
No. Killed – 4



Successful Rescue

John W. Southerland was rescued following a roof fall in the United States Steel Corporation’s Somerset Mine.  Southerland said he was trapped among the rocks for about 45 minutes before two fellow workers, Chuck Woodburn and Jim Pavisik, dug him out.  Four others were killed in the accident.


Four Men Die in Colorado Mine Cave-In
Idaho State Journal, Pocatello
September 20, 1968

Somerset, Colo. (AP) -- Four men, including two former Utahns, died under tons of rock, Thursday when the roof of a U.S. Steel Coal Mine caved in about 3˝ miles inside a western Colorado mountain.

Another miner, who had been working nearby, was partially buried by slabs of rock, but was rescued by other employes.

"They just dug me out, that's all," said John W. Southerland, 33, a father of five.  He was treated for back and knee injuries and went home.

U. S. Steel said it called in mine experts from Utah, Colorado and Pennsylvania to begin an investigation to determine the cause of the accident.  State mine inspectors also will investigate.

The company identified the dead as:
  • Archie M. Morrison, 42, the mine superintendent
  • Veloy K. Piccioni, 37, the general mine foreman
  • Joe F. Burum, 54, the mine foreman, all of Paonia
  • Eugene Lee Bailey, 46, a mine operator, of Somerset
Morrison, a native of Castle Gate, Utah, and Piccioni, born at Helper, Utah, were both graduates of the University of Utah in mining engineering.
Southerland, a miner helper, said he fell into a small space between some heavy machinery and was shielded.  "God gave me about 18 inches of room and it saved my life," he said.

Southerland said he was trapped among the rocks for about 45 minutes before two fellow workers, Chuck Woodburn and Jim Pavisik, dug him out.  "But I was able to give them directions," Southerland said.
The company spokesman said the cave-in occurred about 1 p.m., as the five men were on the gently inclined tunnel with a continuous mining machine and a shuttle car.



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