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Mine Disasters in
the United States


Cascade Coal and Coke Company
Sykesville Mine Explosion

Sykesville, Pennsylvania
July 15, 1911
No. Killed - 21



From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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21 Miners Killed In Explosion In Mine At Dubois
The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA
July 17, 1911

Dubois, Pa., July 16.-Twenty-one miners were killed last night in the greatest mining calamity that has ever taken place in this section of the country.  The explosion occurred at the shaft of the Cascade Coal and Coke Company, Sykesville.  The men were killed at once or died from the effects of afterdamp, as not a man survived.

The dead are:
  • George Heek, aged 24, single
  • John Heek, 20, single
  • S. Grassi, 18, single
  • Ralph Marian, 23, single
  • Con Chickel, 32, married
  • Marietta Gillia, 24, married
  • Frank Pavelick, 32, single
  • Nick Paleck, 45, married
  • Andy Pavelick, 15, son of Nick
  • Mike Sluff, Motorman, 23, single
  • John Missisock, 35, single
  • Plena Handy, 30, married
  • George Sheesley, 20, single
  • Grover Kunrod, 24, single
  • Nick Gasper, 21, single
  • Rock Gasper, 23, married
  • Joe Kufta, 40, married
  • William Spencer, 25, single
  • John Mesla, married
  • Andrew Krinak, married, and an unidentified Slav
Rescue Party Formed

The explosion occurred shortly after 9 o’clock, and the first intimation had by those on the surface was when the safety door of the fanhouse blew open , reversing the fan.  It was immediately known that something had happened and a rescue party was formed.

After going back over one mile and a half into the ground, the rescuers found the bodies of six miners piled up in a heading.  It was known that about twenty-one men were at work in the headings, and the rescuers doubled their efforts, slowly working their way back.  They later gathered up eleven bodies and finally reached a heading, where it is believed four other bodies are buried.  This heading is the only one that is caved in to any extent.

From the stories of the men of the rescue party the explosion was light, most of the deaths resulting from the afterdamp following the explosion.  Many of the men had their lunch pails with them and were headed towards the shaft bottom.

It is impossible at this time to advance any theory relative to the cause of the explosion, every man in that part of the mine being dead.  From a cursory inspection, officials are of the opinion that some of the dead miners struck a small pocket of gas.  Cascade shaft is a non-gaseous mine and is looked upon by inspectors as being absolutely free from contamination in this respect, open lamps being used.

For a few hours following the explosion the mouth of the shaft was a scene of the widest disorder, half crazed women seeking to go down in the cage to look after their husbands, but they were restrained.  At 6 o’clock a detachment of State Police reached Sykesville and immediately established lines.  Thousands of persons from all over the country went to the shaft, but there was little to see, as only six of the bodies of the victims were brought to the surface during the day.

Three sets of brothers and a father and son are numbered among the dead.  George and John Heek, and Nick Pavelick and his 15-year-old son were found by the rescuers locked in each other’s arms as though they embraced each other in their dying moments.  None of the bodies was mutilated and but few showed any burns.

Six men working in another heading of the mine at the time of the accident knew nothing of the explosion until the compressed air stopped their drills and one man was knocked from his rock drill.  They realized something had happened, but did not know the nature of it until they met a party of rescuers coming for them.

The Coroner’s inquest will not be held until all of the bodies have been recovered.

The United States Government rescue car from Pittsburg arrived in Sykesville at 5 o’clock, but it was not needed, as all of those in the mine were killed and the air following the explosion was pure, permitting rescue work to go on without the use of any special devices such as are carried by the rescue car.


Twenty-One Killed in Mine Explosion
The New York Times, New York
July 17, 1911

Dubois, Penn., July 16. -- Twenty-one miners were killed in an explosion in the shaft of the Cascade Coal and Coke Company's mine at Sykesville, nine miles from here, last night.  The explosion occurred at 9:30, but it was after midnight before the extent of the disaster was known.  All of the dead except three are foreigners.  The explosion was slight and little damage was done in the mine, but the deadly afterdamp caused the loss of life.

Three sets of brothers and a father and son are numbered among the dead.  George and John Heek and Nick Pavelick and his 15-year-old son were found by the rescuers locked in each other's arms.  None of the bodies were mutilated and only a few showed any burns.

Eleven of the men in one heading had apparently made ready to escape, for they carried their dinner pails and were headed for the opening.

The first intimation of the explosion at the surface was when the safety door on the fan blew open and the machinery began to run wild.  It was surmised there was trouble below, but it was hours before rescuers could enter the mine.  It took some time to get to the place of the accident, a mile and a half from the opening, because the rescuers were obliged to carry oxygen with them.

All but four of the bodies were brought to the foot of the shaft today, and were kept there until the others were recovered.  Four bodies were buried beneath a cave-in at a heading, and were not recovered until late today.  The State Police from Punxsutawney were called to police the vicinity of the shaft.

Neither mine officials nor Mine Inspectors are able to assign a cause for the explosion, as there are no survivors from which to gain an explanation, but it is the general belief that some of the men drilled into a pocket of gas.  The shaft is known as a non-gaseous one, and Fire Boss John Brown reports he was through the heading where the explosion occurred an hour before and found no trace of gas.

Six men working in another heading of the mine at the time of the accident knew nothing of the explosion until the compressed air stopped their drills.  They realized something had happened, but did not know the nature of it until they met a party of rescuers coming for them.

When the rescue car of the Bureau of Mines arrived here it was not needed, as all the men were dead and the air in the mine had been cleared.



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