Braznell Mine Explosion, Bentleyville


The Washington Penna, Reporter
November 16, 1905

TERRIBLE DEATH
IN MINE SHAFT
Seven Lives Lost in Explosion in
the Braznell Workings.

PUMP AT WORK AT NOON
     BENTLEYVILLE, Nov. 16,—At noon today workman employed by Louis, 
Buxzo and Crawford, succeeded in installing the first pump in the 
ill-fated shaft where eight men lost their lives by an explosion yesterday 
afternoon. The entire force of laborers worked all night and this morning 
to get the pump to working, as nothing could be done to rescue the bodies 
until the water receded. A sounding taken at noon indicated that 35 feet 
of water prevailed and it would require several hours to pump this out.
     What caused the disaster yesterday afternoon in the shaft of the 
Braznell Coal company is hard to tell. An open torch is believed to have 
ignited natural gas and blown all the men to eternity. Besides the eight 
killed, three were injured. The dead and injured are:
The Dead:
EDWARD FARRAGHER, day boss, aged 26, single, resided at Bentleyville. EDWARD HASTLE, shaft boss, aged 35, single, lived at Bentleyville. G.B. WAGONER, machine runner, aged 28, single, liver at Bentleyville. F.H. NEWMAN, machine runner, aged 27, married, lived at Bentleyville. JOHN M’CATEY, mucker, aged 28, married and lived at Bentleyville. Killed outside by falling tipple. J. SHICULE, mucker, aged 29. J. HASKINS, mucker, aged 27, single, lived at Bentleyville. JOE STOKES, colored mucker, aged 36, single, lived at Bentleyville.
The Injured.
CHARLES PADOCK, aged 28, working outside mine. Head badly cut but not serious, will live. WILLIAM APPLEGATE, hurt on outside of mine by falling tipple. Not serious. STEVE SKEVIS, aged 30, injured internally by falling tipple. Not serious. The accident which snuffed out the lives of the workmen occurred at 3:20 o’clock yesterday afternoon in an uncompleted shaft of the Braznell Coal company, of Pittsburg, located on the outskirts of Bentleyville, north. The shaft had been sunk, to a depth of 195 feet to the coal vein and the explosion was not due to the letting go of mine vapor. It was a peculiar disaster for several reasons. The seven men killed were at the time working on a scaffold 50 feet from the surface, constructing what is know as a “water ring.” The other man who met death was working at the top of the shaft and was killed by falling timbers, his neck being broken. The “water ring” in the shaft was being constructed by several shifts of men who entered the workings at 7, 11 and 3 o’clock respectively. No one was engaged at the bottom of the shaft at the time. Shortly after 3 o’clock the afternoon shift yesterday was lowered into the opening. Hardly had they reached the fifty-foot depth where the scaffold was stationed, when the explosion came. Two weeks ago natural gas was noticed coming through the sides of the shaft, and the workmen were instructed to use safety lamps in their excavation labor. This, however, was at the bottom, and when the men were started working on the scaffold fifty feet from the mouth of the perpendicular tunnel, they discarded these and to facilitate matters had open torches, the danger from gas here being minimized. When the cage carrying the men yesterday reached the scaffold, what happened is not certainly known. The squad did not have time to lift a tool, and it is believed by many that one of the workmen knocked a lighted torch off the platform in some manner, and the gas farther down is thought to have been ignited in this way. The explosion, which followed was terrific. Pieces of timber, rocks and all manner of debris were thrown high above the shaft mouth, while the tipple, which was partially completed, was tumbled about the heads of the four men employed at the surface. McCatey was caught was caught by a heavy timber, which falling on his neck, broke it. The others were struck by falling timbers. The fate of the seven men working below could not be imagined, but from the force of the explosion it seemed improbable that any of them could be alive. Nothing could be determined as to their condition, however, until some means of entering the shaft could be devised. The tipple was destroyed and workmen from the two other shafts of the company who hurried to the scene began to construct a temporary apparatus for lowering a bucket. This was accomplished about 10:30 o’clock last night. The first men to enter the shaft were confronted with the mangled remains of a man’s torso, portions of the body having caught on projections along the walls. The other men could not be reached, however, as water to a depth of several feet prevailed, and the debris from the top completely covered the bodies or mangled remains of the seven men. Had they not been killed by the explosion, they would doubtless have met death in the water or been crushed by the falling timbers and earth. The injured men were attended to by Drs. French and Booth, of this place, while McCatey’s remains were conveyed to Monongahela and placed in the hands of an undertaker. Mine Inspector Louttit was early on the scene and with Arthur Buzzo, of the contracting firm, directed to work of establishing the pump and other work preparatory to rescuing the bodies. When the pump was established at noon today work was begun with vigor to get out the water and it is hoped to be able to reach the unfortunate victims by evening. The exact amount of debris at the bottom of the shaft cannot be ascertained until the water is drawn off, and the task of getting the bodies may prove a more arduous one than anticipated. The relief party is working in shifts of (blackened out in copy, replace) the manner the work is progressing rapidly. Coroner Sipe is on the ground today and will hold his investigation just as soon as he can gather enough evidence to warrant his starting the investigation. Whether any one was to blame for the explosion remains to be seen, and the coroner’s inquest is expected to bring out the facts. The true cause of the calamity may never be known, however, as no one who knew anything about it is alive.

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