One of the worst coal mine disasters that has ever happened in Colorado occurred at New Castle last Tuesday morning at 10:20 o'clock. Coal dust and gas in the west tunnel of the mine was in some manner ignited and exploded with a detonation that shook the earth like an earthquake for miles around.
Of the forty men working in the mine only two escaped, and they chanced to be in an upper gallery away from the main workings. The men who were in the lower levels were terribly burned and mangled, and though most of the bodies have been recovered, identification proceeds very slowly.
The following is a list of the dead: L. L. Crawford, foreman, L. Walters, fire boss, Wallace Baxter, M. McLain, C. Rayford, Ben Davis, D. Z. Nolan, D. Pecorelli, R. Filso, A. Oaepke, J. Kalonowsky, L. Fuschino, Dave Talmage, F. Cook, A. Johnson, Ralph Wendall, William Sherer, Joe Farrer, George Smith, M. Murphy, R. Norton, J. Reed, Frank McCann, H. Wood, Ira Starbuck, Gale Asbesta, Leo Banta, E. Strong, F. Obeater, Bert Bartle, John Allen, William Neese, Gabe Monacelli, Joe Monacelli, Tony Monacelli, Joe LaBranch.
It is almost certain that two, at least, of the unfortunate men were formerly of Plateau Valley – Ralph Wendall and Wallace Baxter. Mr. Wendall had been living at New Castle and last summer ran an auto stage from New Castle to Raven. The description of the Wendall who lost his life states that he had been driving stage, which leaves little doubt as to his being the former Collbran boy. There seems to be no doubt that the Baxter was the same Wallace Baxter who was well known here. One or two other victims may have lived here, as names are similar.
Most of the men killed were married and the greater number of miners were Americans. Some weeks ago the regular force of the mine went out on a strike, and the mine was being worked by strike breakers.
The old Vulcan mine blew up in a similar manner 17 years ago and killed 47 men. The mine caught fire and could never be extinguished. The smoldering portion of the mine was walled off from the main entrance by a mass of concrete, and new tunnels opened about a year ago. Some attribute Tuesday's explosion to gases that crept in from the burning shaft, but that is not necessarily true, as the character of the coal dust rendered it very dangerous.
The mine was inspected recently by the state inspector and thought to be safe - which proves how little inspectors know about it. Now that the damage is done, another useless investigation will probably be ordered. The mine was known by many as the Coryell mine, and its former operator was known to many local citizens.
Since the above was set, the fact has been fully verified that Baxter and Wendall were our former valley citizens. It is also learned that not a man in the mine escaped, the two who were not killed being outside the works.