Monongah Mine Disaster

Report Of Hearings Before The Joint Select Committee Of The Legislature Of West Virginia To Investigate The Cause Of Mine ExplosionsWithin the State and to Recommend Remedial Legislation Relating Thereto

Testimony of Crazic Depetris.

Examination by Prosecuting Attorney Lowe :

Q. Where do you live?
A. Monongah.
Q. How long have you lived there?
A. Two years.
Q. When did you first come there?
A. In 1889.
Q. Have you been away from there since you first came there?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Where did you go?
A. To the old country. My wife was sick and I went back to the old country and staid four years.
Q. Then you came back to Monongah?
A. Yes. sir.
Q. When?
A. Last year - last June; two years next June.
Q. Did you ever work at the mines at Monongah?
A. Yes, sir, pick work.
Q. What mine?
A. No. 8.
Q. Were you there on the morning of December 6th, when the explosion occurred.
A. Yes, I was in the mines when the explosion came.
Q. Who was with you?
A. My brother Dan and his son Felix.
Q. Where did you go in the mines?
A. I went in the morning, at half past five. Nobody could get in before. I waited for the fire boss. I waited for him to come and open the door; then everybody goes to work. I waited for my son - the motorman; I was waiting for my boy.
Q. You waited for Felix-
A. Yes, sir.

Here Joe Berardelli was sworn in as interpreter and the following questions were asked through him:

Q. What time did you go to work that morning?
A. About halt past five.
Q. What part of the mine did you work in?
A. Second right south.
Q. Did you get in before the explosion occurred?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What room did you work in?
A. I was working in 15, but they stopped me and I went on toward left south.
Q. Did you work over there any?
A. No, sir; It was this morning that I took my tools to work there.
Q. Had you worked there before the explosion occurred?
A. Yes, I had just made a cut and shoot and loaded a car.
Q. What room?
A. Face head.
Q. Face off the South?
A. I tell the pit boss I want to work 100 feet long start the room.
Q. How long had you been working there before this explosion occurred?
A. From half past five. Made a cut and shoot and loaded a car until the explosion.
Q. How did you know an explosion occurred?
A. I saw the smoke, and all, and heard it, and the lamps went out.
Q. What did you do when the explosion came?
A. I went walking on ahead and went out about twenty yards.
Q. Where did you come out of the mines?
A. We couldn't walk any more on ahead and came back and went out of a hole about fifty or sixty yards.
Q. How many came out?
A. My brother Dan and Dan's son and Felix - four men.
Q. Were all four of the persons you name - yourself and the three others - at the same place when the explosion occurred?
A. Me and my brother was right in the room, and the others were about from here to the wall, but all in one room.
Q. Was the room you were working in when the explosion came, cumbered?
A. No, sir; Just one cut to the machine.
By Mine Inspector Paul: Q. Was the ventilation good in your working place?
A. I didn't notice any change.
Q. I mean prior to the explosion?
A. I didn't notice any change, because it was the same as the other places.
By Coroner Amos: Q. Was there any fire and smoke and noise after you got out of the mines?
A. Yes, we had the smoke on ourselves when we came out. We had to walk on the ground to get out.
Q. Was there any smoke coming out after you got out?
A. Yes; if the smoke was not coming out, I would have come back and got my son out.
Q. Was the smoke hot?
A. Yes, it was hot - coming out from the fire.
Q. How long after the explosion until you got out?
A. About fifteen minutes, more or less.
By Mine Inspector Paul: Q. Did you know the fire boss working at that time in the mines?
A. Yes.
Q. Do you know his name?
A. I don't remember; he came in and left us about ten minutes before the explosion.
Q. Did you ever encounter any explosive gas in the mines in which you worked in lighting a lamp?
A. No, sir; never saw any gas in the mines.
Q. What were you doing in there the fifteen minutes after the explosion occurred and before you came out?
A. The lights went out and we tried to get out and started to walk on ahead and went on until we couldn't get any further, and we came back to where the hole was and got out.
Q. Did you see any other men while walking around there?
A. No, sir didn't see any more, only we would call each other; only us four.
Q. Did you light your lamps to come out?
A. No, sir; the lamps fell down and went out. We came out in the dark. Lamps and coats all left there.
Q. Did you try to light any matches?
A. I had the matches in my coat pocket and we couldn't find the coat and there was smoke all around and we didn't have any matches.
Q. Do you know of any other explosion or accident in that mine while you worked there?
A. No, sir; never saw no explosion before.
By a Juryman: Q. Where did you come to the surface?
A. At the side that looked toward Pennois.
By Mr. Alexander: Q. Can you show on the map where this room was you were working in? This is first South; this is second left. Is this the hole you came out of?
[Here witness is shown map.]
A. We worked right here and I finished here. We were over here. Came out direct to the hole at the face of the first South. We were working on a room along a reservation.
Q. Was the hole close to the street car line?
A. Yes; right above the street car line.
By Mine Inspector Paul: Q. Before going in the mine that morning did you notice the fire boss's marking up on the blackboard?
A. I didn't see it.
Q. Did you see the blackboard?
A. No, sir.
By Mr. Alexander: Q. Can you read English?
A. No, sir.
Q. I will ask if the gate at the mouth of the mine was closed when you first went there that morning?
A. It was open.
Q. Was it open when you first went there?
A. Yes; if we went before half past five it was closed, but at half past five it was open.
By Mine Inspector Paul: Q. Was it open when the fire boss went there?
A. No; the fire boss went out at half past five and opened it.
Q. Did the fire boss open it?
A. I found it open. I don't know.

Testimony of J. H. Leonard.

Examination by Mine Inspector Paul:

Q. You live at Monongah?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. How long have you lived there?
A. Seventeen years.
Q. What is your occupation?
A. For the last six or seven years I have been running the fan at No. 6 mine.
Q. That is your present duty?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Have you any other duty other than to attend to the fan?
A. Along in the spring there was a switch put in there called the derailing switch. When the switch was put in, there was nothing said about who was to attend to it, and a day or two afterwards Mr. Dean came over and I asked him, I says, "Dean, who is to look after the switch?" He says, "It is up to you, I reckon." I says, "Charlie, you know I can't attend to that switch right and do my other work." He did not make any answer - just left it that way. I also told others that I could not look after it like it ought to be. I think Mr. Victor will remember I have told him, and I believe that - I can't think of his name - the mine inspector - I told him, or he heard me say something about it. I have the engine to look after and I have to oil the fan every few hours - slow the fan down and oil it - and then there is right smart trouble with the belt slipping.
Q. Were you at the mine on December 5th, the day before the explosion?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Was the fan running all day that day?
A. Yes, sir. That fan had not stopped since the Sunday a week before. I stopped it in the evening for about two and a half hours.
Q. Were you on duty on the 6th of December - the day of the explosion?
A. Yes, sir.
Q: Where were you when the explosion occurred - when you first had knowledge of the explosion.
A. There was a trip of cars went out and I was out when they went to the switch. They stopped up on the knuckle for some cause. They stop there frequently, and especially when unloading box cars. They stopped this time and I waited a good bit for them to come back and they did not come back. Sometimes I call Mr. Morton to watch it for me if I have to oil the fan. If I have to run to the engine to see if it is running, I just run in and right back; but this time when I run in, Just as I got one step in the engine room I heard the trip. I run out and the two last cars were going by. I stood there looking down the slope a little bit and the explosion came.
Q. What effect did it have on you?
A. It knocked me down and bruised my arm and ankle. I crawled around above to a pile of old stuff there and there was a hole there and I let myself through down under the trestle.
Q. Was the smoke coming out of the slope?
A. Yes, sir. Well, it looked like steam, as near as I recollect. It might be more like a big steam pipe.
Q. You were on your way to oil the fan?
A. Not then. I had been in a few minutes before that to oil the fan. The oil sometimes stops in the cups on the wrist pin and it only takes a couple of minutes to get it hot. I run in to see if the oil was running.
Q. How long previous to the trip's running away had you oiled the fan?
A. Not more than fifteen or twenty minutes.
Q. You spoke of having called to some man at times. For what purpose did you usually call him?
A. To watch the switch until I could go and oil the fan. I did that, and if they had time they came, generally, and if they did not have time I did not call on them, or they would tell me they were busy. I would call on the blacksmith some. times if he was not sharpening tools or shoeing horses, and he would come.
Q. Does the fan at No. 6 have a recording pressure guage [sic] to indicate the pressure?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Who puts in these indicator cards?
A. The night man; but on the night of the 4th I was on duty; I put the one on that night - the first I ever put on.
By District Inspector LaRue: Q. What length of time was it after you heard the trip running away until you were knocked down?
A. I could not tell; a very short time.
Q. Give us your opinion?
A. I could not have any idea. I was standing looking at the trip.
Q, From the point when you first discovered it until you were knocked down what length of time elapsed?
A. Indeed I do not.know; I hardly think it was a minute; it didn't seem no time. Mr. Shroyer come up while I was there. He was working out about the fan house and he come out there and I spoke to him. I says, "I am afraid there might be some one caught in the slope".
Q. What did you have reference to?
A. I was afraid some one might be coming up.
Q. Did you see any signs of flame at that point?
A. No, sir; I do not think so. If I had I should have felt it, I think.
Q. Was the smoke hot?
A. No, sir.
Q. Was there not a warm undercurrent that struck your head and deposited something that you could not wash off?
A. Yes, there was soot and gravel and stuff, but as I recollect it it was cold. Q. Was not there a deposit on your scalp that you could not wash off?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. It is there yet?
A, Yes, sir.
Q. Do you think you could wash it off?
A. I used oil and soap.
Q. It is pretty tight yet?
A. Yes, sir,
Q. In your opinion how long did this exhaust continue - blowing out the smoke?
A. Not so very long: I crawled around there when it struck me and I was not long about it; I dropped down under the trestle and I don't think I was there more than a minute until I came up and it was still blowing some.
Q. Did you notice any signs of a quick, rapid, backward motion?
A. No, sir; it seemed to be a continuous blow like a steam pipe.
Q. Did you put anything over you?
A. As I crawled around there I pulled a piece of car door down on me; I thought it would protect me.
Q. When you got down through this hole did you find anyone else there?
A. Mr. Graves.
Q. Had he gone out of the way of the storm?
A. He was under there as soon as the explosion came.
Q. You have not gotten this glue out of your head yet?
A. No, sir.
By Coroner Amos: Q. Did you see any of the firemen that morning?
A. I won't say I did. Two fire bosses go in at about 1 o'clock and I got there at 5:30. The other fire boss comes at 5:30, but sometimes he has gone when I get there. I will not be positive.
Q. You did not see one of them ten or fifteen minutes before the explosion occurred?
A. No, sir.
By District Inspector LaRue: Q. Did you see one of the motormen come out while the trip was standing there?
A. No, sir.
Q, He did not come out that you know of?
A. No, sir.
Q. Do you remember of my visit about that time - of my talking the matter over with you - the matter of the throw-off switch?
A. Yes; I think I told you you could see I could not attend to it right.
Q. Did you have orders from your superior officers in case you had to leave the switch to call a man to that place?
A. No, sir; I never heard any such orders; I never heard of any one having orders to help me.
Q. That switch was left unattended at times?
A. As I say, I left it at times to go to the engine.
Q. You did not call anyone that morning to attend to it?
A. No, sir; I thought I would be there as quick as anyone.
Q. What was the reason of your not calling anyone?
A. The blacksmith was shoeing horses and I did not know there were two men there. There was only two carpenters there and they were both busy back of the fan house.
By Mine Inspector Paul: Q. Did you have any occasion to speed the fan a short time previous to the explosion?
A. No. sir; the fan was run by a governor and it was set at a certain speed - a regular speed.
By District Inspector LaRue: Q. Did anyone come out of the mine before the explosion and speak to you about speeding the fan?
A. No, sir; I never had any orders to speed the fan. The night man did, though, after the explosion.
Q. What speed does the engine usually run?
A, The engine is set at 112.
Q. Do you know the speed of the fan?
A. If the belt is not slipping the fan would make 224 revolutions. I try to hold it at that as near as possible. Sometimes I notice it will begin to start down when the belt slips and I rosin the belt to bring it back.
Q. What was the speed of the engine at the time of the explosion?
A. I could not say; it was the same all morning before that.
Q. Did you remain at the mine after the explosion, in charge of the fan?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. How long was it out of service?
A. It did not stop at all but the belt was slipping so it was not doing much good. It was getting its air at the end of the building that was torn off, and it made it pull heavy. Mr. Dean called to me to shut it down - that it was not doing any good. They could not repair the fan while running. It was not very long until it was started; maybe a half hour.
By Mr. Alexander: Q. What do you mean, that the speed of the engine was 112?
A. One hundred and twelve revolutions a minute.
Q. And the fan 224 revolutions a minute?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. The fan was not shut down at the time of the explosion, but you shut it down afterwards?
A. It had not been shut down since the Sunday a week before, until some one ordered me to shut it down to make that repair.
Q. How far is this derailing switch from the mouth of No. 6?
A. About twenty-five or thirty feet.
Q. How far is it from the engine house that runs the fan?
A. I never measured that either; I suppose seventy-five or one hundred feet.
Q. From the switch?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You say no one told you, when you could not attend to the switch, to call some one else?
A. No, sir.
Q. Mr. Ruckman may have told you and you forgot it?
A. I don't know. Mr. Ruckman came over there the day those four cars went down and asked if the switch was thrown and I told him it was not. If there was anything said I do not remember.
Q. What was the reason you did not call anyone on the day of the explosion?
A. There were only two men close and one was shoeing a horse and the other was working back of the fan house. I did not see him at that time but he was working there, I know.
Q. You thought you could get back in time to throw the switch?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. All the cars had gone by the switch except the two rear ones?
A. Yes, sir; they were passing.
Q. How many cars were there on that trip?
A. I do not know; the usual trip runs from eight to atteen.
Q. Do you remember whether there was a water car on the rear end?
A. I did not notice.
Q. What is done with these fan records - these speed guage [sic] records?
A. They are taken to the office, I think.
Q. Who turns these records in?
A. The fire boss.
Q. Who turns them over to the fire boss - the night man?
A. Yes, sir; he puts it in a drawer and the fire boss gets it.
Q, Who is the engineer that ran opposite to you?
A. Michael McDonald; he was sick at that time.
Q. Who ran the engine the night of the 5th - before the explosion?
A. Mr. Lambert.
By Mine Inspector Paul: Q. You spoke of having been cautioned about your work at the time another trip had run into the mine. How long previous to the 6th of December was it that that trip went down in the mine?
A. With the four empty cars?
Q. Yes.
A. I would not say exactly; a week or two before.
Q. Was any damage done by that?
A. I do not know anything about that.
Q. Did you see the trip run into the mine?
A. I saw the cars going.
Q. What did it consist of?
A. Four empty cars. They had been shoved over the knuckle.
Q. Was the derailing switch set for the main track at that time?
A. Yes, sir; I used to throw the switch when the trip went up and there was a heap of steam that came right after it and you could not tell whether the rope was to them or not. The pit boss was there one morning and I told him I wished he would watch the switch while I went to see about the engine. The trip went by while I was gone and he wrecked them. I had wrecked several myself, with the rope to them. He let it run through - thought it was loose. He forbid me to throw the switch until I knew they were loose. He said he would sooner have them at the bottom than to have the timbers knocked out of the mouth of the pit. He said he had a good place for them at the bottom for he could run them on to the side track and hurt nothing.
Q. What pit boss?
A. Mr. Donlin.
By District Inspector Mr. LaRue: Q. Are you subject to the mine foreman's instructions?
A. He is the man that gives me more instructions than anyone else, and about the fan, too. He always cautioned me to be very careful and keep it at a proper speed and see that nothing went wrong, regardless of anything else.
Q. You obeyed his orders in regard to that switch - considered that a part of your duty.
A. Yes, sir, and also the fan.
By Mine Inspector Paul: Q. Do you know anyone who was at the bottom of the slope the time the four empty cars went into the mine?
A. No, sir; I know who was the coupler.
Q. Is he still living?
A. I do not know who was coupling that day, but Mr. Sloan was the regular coupler.
Q. Is he still living?
A. Yes; he was not working the day of the explosion.
Q. What is his first name?
A. William, I think.
By District Inspector LaRue: Q. Have you any knowledge of any man being sent into No. 6 to water that heading the night before the explosion, or do you know of any man coming out who had been in for that purpose?
A. On the night of the 4th I was on duty, and there is a signal to let the men out of the pit, and a man came out. He was an Italian. He had a horse, and said he had been watering the track. Motorman Cooper came out in the morning.
Q. You do not know what part of the mine they watered?
A. No, sir.
Q. What time did that man come out with the horses?
A. I think fifteen minutes to 2 o'clock. I looked - on account of Mr. Donnelly - as he wanted to know the time the men came out. Mr. Cooper came out after daylight.
Q. Did the men frequently go in to water the track?
A. There are men who go in, but I worked in the day time and they water at night and on Sundays. Very frequently they water on Sunday. I think Saturday night and Sunday is the general time for watering.
Q. Is it not a fact that shortly before the explosion two men went to the bottom of the slope to water it and did not do it? Didn't one lay down in the shanty and go to sleep and the other took the horse to the stable?
A. I could not say. I saw the man, who took the horse, come out at fifteen minutes to 2; the other did not come out until after daylight.
Q. Didn't he tell you that the other man was asleep in the shanty?
A. I do not think so; he came in and set his bucket down and he went over to town, I believe.
Q. You have not stated that these men did work that night?
A. No.
By Mr. Alexander: Q. Do you know whether Fred Cooper had been watering on the night of the 4th?
A. Yes, sir.
By Mine Inspector Paul: Q. Had you ever seen any men or animals brought out of this mine previous to this that had been burned by gas?
A. Not for a good while.
Q. Since the Fairmont Coal Company has had charge of the mines?
A. I saw a mule that had gotten its ears singed and they said it was by gas.
Q. How long ago.
A. A year or so.
By Prosecuting Attorney Lowe: Q. Do you know of any other explosion having occurred at No. 6 prior to this time?
A. No, sir.
Q. Do you know anything about a small explosion a week before?
A. No, sir.


West Virginia Archives and History