united states mine rescue association Mine Disasters in the United States
Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company South Wilkes-Barre No. 5 Colliery Explosion
South Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
March 12, 1910
No. Killed – 7
Seven Killed by Explosion
Tyrone Daily Herald, Pennsylvania
March 14, 1910
Wilkes-Barre, Pa., March 14. -- An explosion in No. 5 colliery of the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company ended the lives of seven mine workers. There were no injured, every man in the zone of the explosion meeting death. Only two men of the gang of nine escaped. They were James Hayes and Martin Williams, who a few minutes before the explosion had gone for supplies. A few minutes afterward they heard the roar of the explosion and felt the concussion. They rushed to try to give aid to their comrades, but were driven back weak and faint by the firedamp.
They then gave the alarm. The explosion was terrific and caused the roof for some distance to fall in.
Superintendent J. C. Joseph and Mine Foremen Evans and Edwards took charge of the first rescue gang and made a gallant effort to reach the victims, but they, too, were driven back by the firedamp. It was then realized that this would have to be driven out of the workings in order to get to the men.
General Manager Charles Huber, Superintendent Morgan and Mine Inspector Thomas R. Price soon reached the scene and took charge of the rescue work. Air passages were built and hose taken down as a means of carry a stream of fresh air into the explosion zone at the head of No. 12 plane. So great was the quantity of firedamp, however, that it was six hours after the explosion before it could be dissipated sufficiently to permit the rescuers to reach the top of the plane.
The bodies of the seven men were found lying along the plane. They had been suffocated by the firedamp. The explosion had been confined to a small area, but the air conditions made it possible for the suffocating afterdamp to gather so quickly that the men had no time to run far before they were overcome. Most of the men were lying on their faces as if to shut out the firedamp.
Six widows and twenty-four children are mourning the victims. All but one of the seven were married. The men were Owen Griffith, who leaves a wife and old child; Hugh Price, a wife and six children; Condy Gaffney, a wife and three children; William Jenkins, a wife and two children; Evan Williams, a wife and seven children; William Jones, a wife and five children; and John Owen Jones, single.
General Manager Charles Huber is unable to account for the accident. The fire boss reported the place safe a few hours before the accident. It may be that someone meddled with a door and diverted the air current, allowing a body of gas to accumulate.