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Anthracite "Bootleg" Mine Accident
Mine Rescuer Fatality

Eastern Pennsylvania
May 16, 1940
No. Killed - 1



Rescuer Death

On May 16, 1940, Andrew Wolfgang, a foreman of the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Company, and captain of a mine rescue team, lost his life while wearing a McCaa 2-hour oxygen breathing apparatus, in an attempt to rescue a miner at the bottom of a 50-foot, almost vertical, shaft at a "bootleg" mining operation.

The first victim, a miner, lost his life, according to a press report, when he attempted to return to the bottom of the shaft, soon after firing a shot.  When he had gone only about 15 feet down the shaft ladder he was overcome and fell to the bottom.

After putting on the apparatus, Wolfgang tied a rope around his body, climbed down the 50-foot ladder to the bottom of the shaft; and attached another rope to the body of the miner.  After the miner had been hoisted to the surface, Wolfgang started to climb out and when about 20 feet up stopped for several minutes as if to rest and then started up again.  He collapsed about 17 feet from the shaft collar, let go of the ladder, and would have fallen to the bottom had it not been for the rope around his body.

When the men on the surface tried to pull him up it was found that the rope had fouled in the ladder, resulting in a delay of about 10 minutes in getting him to the surface.  Artificial respiration failed to revive him.

When the body of Wolfgang reached the surface, it was found that the apparatus was intact, with both mouthpiece and nose clip in place, and with 15 minutes of oxygen remaining in the bottle.  Subsequent tests disclosed that it was in good working condition.

Based on the facts that Wolfgang was considerably overweight, that he had just eaten his supper when called to the scene of the accident, and that he hurried to get the apparatus up the hill to the shaft, the conclusion was reached that he died of heart failure due to overexertion and lack of physical fitness.

Source: Loss of Life Among Wearers of Oxygen Breathing Apparatus (April 1944)
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