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Mine Disasters in
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St. Clair Coal Company
St. Clair No. 1 Slope Explosion

Pottsville, Pennsylvania
April 27, 1938
No. Killed - 8



From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Seven Men Die in Mine Blast at Pottsville
Morning Herald, Uniontown, Pennsylvania
April 28, 1938

Pottsville, Pa., April 27. -- (AP) -- Seven men died today and ten were seriously burned in the nation's second major mine disaster in less than a week.

An explosion shook the St. Clair Coal Company's anthracite workings only a few days after nearly half a hundred died in a blast in a bituminous mine at Grundy, Va.

The explosion, attributed to gas, occurred in a slope four miles from this Eastern Pennsylvania hard coal center an hour after 600 men had begun the day's work.

Nineteen were working on the level, 500 feet or more underground, where the blast let go.  Two were uninjured.

The day that began normally for families throughout the great mining regions ended in a night of mourning.  Funeral crepe hung from the doors of six homes.  One wreath on a single home signaled the ending of two lives -- the Terris brothers, Michael and John, who came over from Port Carbon each day.

The other dead -- all lifeless when rescuers toiled through "black damp," a death-dealing gas that often follows a mine explosion, to reach the scene -- were:
  • Frank Montgomery, 30
  • Paul Sikra, 40
  • Wasil Holovak, 45
  • Luke Chuckran, 40
  • Richard Barney, 42
Seventeen children, ranging from a baby less than a week old to those in their teens, were left orphans and four wives became widows.

Holovak was the father of 13 children, Sikra, one and Chuckran three.  Barney was married but childless.  The others were unmarried.

Peter Homa, a motor operator, and Joseph Stepanoski, a miner, working at the entrance to the disaster slope, heard the explosion and gave the alarm.

It was four hours before the first victim -- Montgomery -- was brought down the single gauge railroad to the main shaft from the "release slope" where the rescuers entered the mine a mile away from the crowd of anxious relatives and friends.

Then the others were brought down -- some dead, others with clothing burned off by flames that enveloped them after the explosion.

Harvey Harrison, assistant superintendent, said Andrew Potts, the mine fire boss, had inspected the scene and had pronounced it safe for the men to enter -- a regular routine job.



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