Hazel Kirk Mine Second Explosion
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The Washington Penna, Reporter
Monday, October 30, 1905
FIVE MET DEATH
IN AN EXPLOSION
Officials Hurled to Doom by
A Terrible Accident in
Hazel Kirk Mine.
MONONGAHELA, Pa. Oct. 30,—Because the output of coal was not large
enough From Hazelkirk mine No. 2, near the village of Van Voohis,
six miles from Monongahela, six experienced men went into the pit Saturday
night to open up a bricked entry. An explosion of fire damp killed five
of them instantly and injured one so severely that he may not recover.
This is the second explosion within three weeks, the other on October
10, causing the death of two miners.
John Hornickel, aged 45, superintendent of the Hazelkirk mines, married and
had two children; lived on Chess street, Monongahela, and owned property there.
Daniel Griffith, aged 32, pit boss leaves a widow and three children; moved
a week ago from Monongahela to Van Voorhis.
Joseph Hunter, aged 40, fire boss, leaves a wife and two babies, aged 10 days
and 18 months, respectively, lives in Van Voorhis.
John Lavery, fire boss, aged 60, widower, leaves 11 children, living in
Fayette City and Monongahela.
Henry Claybourne, a negro fire boss; aged 40, leaves a widow and children;
lived on Geary street, Monongahela.
Andrew Roader, aged 38, machine boss, wife and three children; burned and
one arm broken; has some chances of recovery; is at his home in Van Voorhis.
Hazelkirk mine No. 2 belonged to the Hazelkirk Coal company,
and six weeks ago was taken into the Westmoreland coal combine. Two Slavish
miners, brothers, John and “Mike” Kusko, while firing a shot in one of the
entries on No. 2, were killed and the entry took fire on the night of
October 10, nearly, three weeks ago.
To confine the fire to this portion of the mine, bulkheads or brattices
were erected in the entries, six in number. Believing that the fire had
burned itself out back of the bulkheads Superintendent Hornickel summoned
his foremen and they volunteered to enter the mine and tear down the bulkheads.
In building the brattices a pipe with a valve had been placed in the wall.
Each day the valve has been opened, permitting the air to pass through.
As no fire or hot air escaped through the outlet, it was decided the fire
had burned itself out and although Mine Inspector Henry Louttit had warned
the men not to enter, they decided it would be safe.
The party decided to make the investigation Saturday at midnight
as all work for the week had been completed. Superintendent of Mines
Hornickel ordered every man withdrawn from the mine when the investigation
was being made as only the officials who were killed and wounded were in the
mine at the time. All the mine machinery with the exception of the fan was
stopped and the cage drawn to the top of the shaft. The party entered the
mine by the fan or airshaft, by means of a stairway, taking nothing but
their tools and electric lights with storage batteries with them. The
men had been at work some time and had succeeded in opening one of the
brattices. The first one had been opened and it was when the second was
broken, that the gas confined behind the brattices exploded with such
Only two men were left above ground in charge of the engine houses,
both foreigners. The first knowledge they had of the explosion was when
the signal whistle in the engine emitted tow or three meaningless
toots. The surface men were fearful that something was wrong in the bowels
of the mine and ran to the fan house and their fears were intensified
as the doors of the fan house were blown open. After midnight with no one
within a quarter of a mile the two men above ground were at a loss what
to do, as they feared the mine was filled with deadly gases. It was while
they were debating the question that Machine Boss Andrew Roeder staggered
from the airshaft entrance, blackened, ragged, covered with blood and
with the flesh of his hands torn to shreds. Although frightfully burned and
otherwise injured he was able to warn the men not to enter the mine as
his comrades were dead and the mine filled with deadly gasses.
Monongahela was at once communicated with and through Chief of Police
Logan, Mine Inspector Louttit was notified. A party was organized
which started at once to the scene of the disaster. Inspector Louttit gave
orders that no one should enter the mine until he made an investigation
and with one or two others entered the mine, but found the entries
filled with sulphurous gasses. They returned knowing that it was impossible
to then rescue the men, although Mr. Louttit had been able to see the
body of Superintendent Hornickel. Mr. Louttit returned and after an intermission
of several hours called for volunteers and again entered the mine. Although
there was imminent danger, as another explosion might occur at any minute,
the rescuers entered the death trap in search of the bodies of their comrades.
The rescue party was composed of John McVicker, John Hitchcock, John Wright,
Patrick Meehan, and was led by Inspector Louttit.
The body of Hornickel was some distance from the others and it was removed
on a stretcher. Knowing the distance from the entrance to be considerable,
and that it would be impossible to bring the men one at a time. Inspector
Louttit had the machinery put in operation and a car and mute taken down
into the mine. These were taken back to where the bodies were located and
they were all placed in the car and brought to the surface as quickly as
Apparently all six of the officials had been caught in the explosion
and hurled a distance of many yards against the sides of the entry. So
great was the force of the explosion that all were more or less mangled.
Several had their arms and legs broken in many places. Mine Superintendent
Hornickel’s body was terrible force, having received the full force of
the explosion. His face was crushed almost to a pulp, every bone in his face
being broken. The bodies of several were found just in the positions
they had fallen and were yet rigid, several covering their faces with their
hands and others in a position that indicated they were running away from
The bodies were brought to the surface early in the forenoon.
As no trains were operated on the Monongahela & Washington branch, on
which the mine is located, on Sunday, a train was made up at Monongahela
and the bodies were brought to this place and taken to the Bebout and
Scurfield, undertaking establishments. A peculiar fact in connection
with the explosion was that no excitement attended the removal of the
bodies. As the mine is some distance from Hazelkirk village it was not
generally known that five of the most prominent men in local circles had
their lives snuffed out by the deadly gas and the bodies had been brought
to this place before the news was generally known and before several of
the families were notified. Yesterday the death of the officials became known
and it seemed to cast a pall over the community as each of the dead men
had a large acquaintance. The disaster was the only topic of conversation
and the undertaking establishments were besieged by crowds of people during
the afternoon, but all were refused admittance.
Many people visited the mouth of the mine today and the home of Rodney at
Hazelkirk was besieged during the afternoon by those attracted by morbid
curiosity. Although suffering intense pain, with the flesh in many places
in great blisters, the Frenchman was able to coherently tell of his harrowing
experience in making his awful journey over the bodies of his comrades
and through 1,500 feet of inky darkness on his hands and feet and up
dozens of steps, each move cutting through the flesh to the bone.
John Hornickel, the dear superintendent has been a resident of Monongahela
for eight years, coming there from Youngstown, O. He was superintendent
of the Monga mines before taking charge of the Hazelkirk mines. He was a
brother of Lute Hornickel, now general manager for the M.A. Hanna Coal
company and formerly general manager of the 10 mines of the Monongahela
River Consolidated Coal & Coal company in the third pool.
Supt. Hornickel belonged to the Monongahela lodge of Elks and the
Youngstown Knights of Pythists? funeral services will be held tomorrow
at his former home in Monongahela, after which the body will be removed to
Youngstown, where the interment will take place Wednesday. In response to
a telephone message telling of his brother’s death, Lute Hornickel
arrived in Monongahela yesterday afternoon.
The Washington Penna, Reporter
Tuesday, October 31, 1905
WILL BE REOPENED
Damage Has Been Largely Repaired
and Mine is Pronounced Safe.
MONONGAHELA, Oct. 31,—This community is yet overcast with gloom as
the result of the explosion in mine No. 2, at Hazelkirk, early Sunday
morning, when five men met instant death. President Kuhn, of the Westmoreland
coal combine, which owns the Hazelkirk mines, was in this city and went
out to the mines to look over the situation. Thursday at 1 o’clock
has been set for the time of the inquest, which will be an investigation
on the part of the mine officials as well as on the part of Coroner W.H.
Men were at work all Monday in the mine replacing the brattices
and endeavoring to confine the fire to one section of the mine. Yesterday
morning, after a consultation on the part of the mine officials of this
district a party entered the workings to replace the stoppages. The party
consisted of John McVicker, James Kennedy, Joseph Kennedy, Lowry Kennedy,
Charles Clee, Isaac Cooper and “Dr.” Daugherty. These men are all experienced
mine workers, connected with the Black Diamond workings. They entered
the mine long before daylight and after ascertaining the atmosphere
was free from any dangerous gases they went to the point where the bulkheads
had been blown out.
Wooden brattices were hastily erected as far back as No. 6 entry, thus
confining the fire to the section beyond that entry, the boundary of
the original fire. Upon the completion of these temporary brattices a
force of men was then put to work erecting the brick bulkheads and all
have been replaced. Although this work was attended by considerable
danger no accident occurred. Mine officials of this district have
pronounced the mine safe and operations can be resumed at any time. President
Kuhn, while at the workings, expressed himself as being opposed to reopening
the mine until all was safe and is authority for the statement that he
would rather flood or abandon the workings that have another life
sacrificed in an attempt to place the mine in operation before it had been
declared free from gas by the inspectors.
The body of John Laverty was taken to Fayette City Monday to the home
of relatives of the deceased, from which the funeral will take place.
Superintendent John Hornickel’s body will be taken to Youngstown tomorrow,
where the interment will be made.
The funeral of John Hunter, one of the firebosses, will be held from
his home at Hazelkirk, Wednesday, at 2 o’clock. The interment will be
made at Monongahela. The last rites over the remains of Pitboss Daniel
Griffith will be held at the home of his wife, Hazelkirk, tomorrow
at 2 o’clock. The interment will also be in the Monongahela cemetery.
The funeral of Henry Clayborne, the colored fireboss, will be held
Wednesday at 2 p.m. from the A.M.E. church. After the services the remains
will be taken in charge by the Coal City lodge I.O.O.F., of which the
deceased was a member.
The inquest will be held in city hall at 1 o’clock Thursday,
and it is said that some fact concerning the death of the men which have
not yet been divulged will be brought out by the coroner and the mine officials,
as those who have knowledge of the affair will undergo a rigid examination.
The most important witness, it is said, will be Mine Inspector Henry Louttit,
who will give some testimony which will indicate why the ill-fated party
entered the mine and tore out the bulkheads at such imminent risk.
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