An Awful Explosion in a Colorado Coal Mine
Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado
February 19, 1896
New Castle, Colo., Feb. 18. -- An explosion occurred in the Vulcan coal mine and all the workmen in the mine were instantly killed. About 50 men, including foremen and coal operators, were in the several rooms along the slope when the explosion occurred and so great was the explosion that not a single man could have survived the shock or the fire which immediately ensued.
The old Vulcan mine was abandoned some years ago because of fire, and this new mine will doubtless share a similar fate. With the exception of a few bosses, the killed are Italians, but in the confusion and excitement of the day, it has been impossible at this time to make a complete roster of the names of the unfortunates.
The town of New Castle was shaken as if by an earthquake by the explosion, and a dense black cloud obscuring the site of the Vulcan mine and workings indicated only too plainly what had occurred. The entire population rushed to the scene to behold the surface workmen in the midst of a thick cloud of dust trying in vain to start the work of rescuing their unfortunate fellow laborers within.
The earth had settled perceptibly about the hillside, and the dense mass of black smoke issuing from the crevices in the up heaved mass gave evidence that the coal vein has surely been set on fire by the explosion. Woman and children rushed shrieking and screaming to the scene, adding to the confusion.
The mine owned by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, two and a half miles away, was promptly closed down and all hands, hastened to assist Superintendent Herricke of the Vulcan in the work of rescue, but it was quickly seen that little could be done. Herricke with several men had torn away the broken timbering at the landing and had rushed into the slope soon after the explosion occurred with wet sponges on their nostrils only to be driven back by the deadly fumes.
A special train was sent to the mine by the Colorado Midland Railway company with medical assistance prepared to care for the wounded, if any were rescued, but the sun went down behind the mountains before any progress could be made. The force of the explosion may be imagined when it is known that the buildings and trestle at the mouth of the slope were completely wrecked, a hole 100 feet square carved out of the hillside at the mouth of the incline, while timbers two feet square were blown into the Grand River, 400 feet away.
One miner was on his way down the slope when the explosion occurred, and his mangled remains were subsequently found several hundred feet away from the mouth of the slope.
There were 140 men employed in and about the mine at the time and about 50 were at work underground this morning.
The present Vulcan mine has been opened only about two years. State Coal Mine Inspector Griffith was here Feb. 8 and pronounced the mine in better condition than it had ever been before. An immense fan in the slope which was about 500 feet in depth seemed to afford complete ventilation, and every possible precaution was taken to prevent an explosion of the gas known to exist in the mines of this district. It is believed that a half lighted fuse ignited the gas in one of the new rooms while the men were blasting down coal.
The old Vulcan mine has been abandoned for several years, and was in no way connected with the present property, a new slope having been driven into the hillside.
The Vulcan Fuel Company operates the property which is owned by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company, with headquarters at Topeka, Kan. Just at the time the mine was being worked to its full capacity, the output being from 17 to 20 cars per day.
The entire slope is filled with debris and it is now plainly evident that many days must pass before the bodies of the entombed miners can be rescued. Since darkness fell, the smoke seems to have perceptibly diminished and it may be that the fire will not destroy the property as was feared earlier in the day, but the force of the explosion was sufficient in itself to practically destroy the mine and new workings will have to be started.
In the horrors of the day it has been impossible to obtain anything like accurate information from the panic stricken families as to the names of the miners. The latest estimate places the number of men in the mine at 60 or more, and not one escaped.
List of Vulcan Mine Explosion Victims:
RAIMOND AYIEZ (ALLIER)
ROBERT COTTLE, JR., 17
L. L. CRAWFORD
DAVID P. DAVIS
ABLE DORE, JR.
WILLIE DORE, 14
EMIL FUNKE, 14
ROBERT M. ICE
JOHN H. JENKINS
NICK ROSS (PALUM)
Note: The list above includes 62 names, however, the total killed in this disaster as declared by the USBM is 49. It is not known which of these were only injured.