Monongah Mine Disaster

Fairmont Times
December 7, 1907

Scenes Around Mines Just After Disaster

Bodies Had Been Located Yesterday Afternoon and Positions Marked

Relief Party Overcome By the Terrible Fire Damp Which Was in Evidence in the Mine Yesterday

(By Turk Linn.)

Scenes around the openings of the two mines all day yesterday and last night were indescribable. Women and children with near relatives penned in the ill fated mines swarmed in the openings soon after the explosion and all day long waited for the bodies of their loved ones to be brought to the surface. Foreign women, on in particular, attracted the attention of those who arrived early on the scene of tearing their hair and beating and scratching their faces.

Small children around the opening made it almost impossible for the rescuers to carry on their work. When the first bodies were taken from the mine, those of two foreign miners, their countrymen made an attempt to take them from the hands of the rescuing party, and it was with great difficulty that the bodies were carried to the morgue. The only living man taken from either mine was removed by a rescuing party sitting on the dead body of one of his countrymen. He was seriously injured and was brought to this city and taken to the Miners' Hospital. It is thought that he will recover. He could talk but little, but made it understood that several others were still alive in the mine. A heroic effort was made to go further into the mine, but in this they were unsuccessful, and it is not likely that the men will be reached while alive.

It is the opinion of many of the officials at the mines that all of the entombed men are dead. John Shurtleff, who led the first rescuing party into mine No. 6, stated late yesterday evening that there was a bare possibility that some of the men were still living, but it is not thought that they can be reached until today.

The force of the explosion was felt for miles around, being distinctly felt in this city. At Monongah several windows were broken by the shock and at the company store goods were thrown from the shelves to the floor.

At mine No. 6 it was almost impossible to reach the entrance to the mine for hours after the explosion. The big fan was disabled by the shock and until it was again put into commission two hours after the explosion nothing toward rescuing the entombed miners could be done. Early in the afternoon the bodies of several foreign miners were found several hundred feed from the opening, but were not brought to the surface until an early hour this morning. Few of the bodies were burned and from all indications the majority of the men were killed by the force of the explosion.

Harry Carney, a railroader, who was an eye witness to the explosion, in describing the scene, said: "I was working directly opposite mine No. 8 at the time of the explosion and when I glanced in the direction of the tipple it seemed that the entire hill was coming toward me. Flying debris fell all round me and the force of the explosion was so great that it was almost impossible to see the river bottom the water forming into a huge wave which washed the river banks, the water almost reaching the railroad track."

The force of the explosion at the mouth of mine No. 8 was terrific. All of the buildings at the mouth of the mine were completely demolished and all three openings were blocked by timbers and other debris. The big fan was completely wrecked and nothing but a pile of brick and twisted iron mark the spot where the boiler and fan house stood.

Making An Air Hole Back Of Main Entrance.

At 9 o'clock last night the relief corps was engaged in making an air hole about one-half mile back of the main entrance of No. 8.

The fan taken there from Shinnston has been placed in the main entrance. Carpenters are engaged on the brattice which leads off the main entry. It is thought the fan will be forcing pure oxygen in the mine by 11 o'clock tonight.

The fan is a 7-foot one. So far the relief parties have not been able to get in more than 700 feet and when the fan is installed it will be possible to go much further.

Explosion Blew Board Across The River.

The terrific explosion yesterday blew the end gate of a mining car clear across the river and it is now embedded in the opposite bank. One of the witnesses says that the flame went up 100 feet in the air when the bang came.

First Loss Of Life From An Explosion.

Yesterday's accident is the first wherein a loss of life occurred by explosion in the history of the region comprising some 60 mines owned and operated by the Fairmont Coal Company. An explosion at the Berryburg mine 40 miles south, a tributary company to the Fairmont company, occurred less than two years ago and 19 men lost their lives.

No. 8 mine opened only two years ago and was considered the most modern mine in every respect in Central West Virginia. It is situated on the west bank of the West Fork river less than a half mile above Monongah. It was entirely equipped with electricity and considered absolutely safe. Electric motors were used exclusively while the mine throughout was electrically lighted and mining machines driven by this fluid were used entirely.

The mine is a bank mine, no shaft being required. The Pittsburg vein of coal is less than 200 feet below the summit of the hill wherein the mine has its main entry and not more than 30 feet above the river level.

It has been a long time when there were so few signs of life at the offices of the Fairmont Coal Company as there were yesterday. The majority of the officers and employes [sic] of the coal company have been at the scene of the terrible disaster since yesterday morning.

Last night the offices were almost deserted. S. L. Watson and Walton Miller stood in one of hte offices at 8 o'clock last night and watched the cars coming in from Monongah.

A little later a corps of newspaper correspondents called Mr. Watson on the phone and asked for an interview, but were of course refused.

Mr. Watson treated them with the greatest courtesy and told them that the officials knew little more than the public and that he would gladly furnish details when there were any to furnish.


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