Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Moundsville Mine Disaster

The Moundsville Journal - Monday, November 13, 1926






Four miners were killed, one is missing and believed to be dead, and two are confined in the Glen Dale hospital, seriously injured as the result of a blast to the First Street mine of the Glen Dale Gas Coal Company, early this morning.
The dead: WALTER FOGLE, 18, Grant Avenue, motorman, single. RUBE KIRKHART, 24, Pilford Avenue, day man.
MIKE KOWCHER, 43, Jackson Street, loader, married and has five children.
J. E. STEIFEL, 50, Myrtle Avenue, loader, married and has seven in family. Died enroute to Glen Dale hospital.
The missing: THOMAS ROBINSON, 44, Ninth Street, an experienced miner.
The injured: JAMES LEMASTERS, burns about face and body.
In Glen Dale hospital with good chance for recovery, H. M. CUMBERIDGE, burns about face and body. In Glen Dale hospital with good chance for recovery.

The explosion, the exact cause of which has not yet been determined, but which is believed to have been caused by a spark from the wheel of one of the mine motors igniting gas which had accumulated in one of the rooms, occurred about 2:30 o'clock this morning. The blast was local and Mine Inspector, A. E. Lafferty stated this morning that he was of the opinion the flame was in a burst and did not last long. This conclusion was drawn from the fact that none of the clothing of the miners was burned, but just the faces and hair. Open lamps are not permitted in the mine and for this reason it is thought a spark caused the accumulated gas to ignite.
Seventeen miners were working in the mine last night. Ten of the men had cleaned up and left the scene when the detonation occurred.
They were William Boress, J. F. Burger, William Welling, O. Dalrymple, H. C. Richmond, Marion Gilmore, George Jack, Roy Spicer, George Daugherty, and James Ross. Jess Fogle, father of the boy who was killed and night foreman was also in the mine at the time and was slightly injured from the shock. He was not burned.

The explosion occurred in the south section of the mine about a mile and half from the bottom of the First Street entrance. The exact location of the blast has not yet been determined. Arch L. McElroy, mine official stated this afternoon. The shaft is 180 feet deep.

Rock dust prevented the explosion from spreading over the entire mine and taking a possible further toll of life. Rock dust which is put in the mine, localized the explosion and prevents coal dust from spreading.
It is thought Fogle, Kirkhart and Kowcheck were killed instantly. Their bodies were the first recovered, being found about six o'clock by mine rescue teams and being brought to the surface about 10:13 this morning. Kowcheck was not burned and it is thought he died from gas. Fogle and Kirkhart were terribly burned about the face.

Steifel's body was located about 9:30 o'clock this morning. He was not yet dead when found but died enroute to the Glen Dale hospital.

Robinson has not yet been located. He is an experienced miner and it is thought by rescue workers that he is following an air course. Efforts to locate him in this manner were started this afternoon. There is only a slight chance that he is alive. Workers this morning found his bucket and tools neatly placed. The place where he had been working was also cleaned up. Efforts to locate him have so far been unavailing, but officials at the mine state that he had not checked in and that he was not at his home.
James Lemasters and H. M. Cumberidge, who were seriously burned by the burst of flame were rushed to the surface and taken to the Glen Dale hospital where it is said chances for their recovery are good.
Mine officials were soon notified and work of starting the search for the bodies began shortly after three o'clock. Mine rescue teams from the First Street mine, Glen Dale, and Panama were the first on the scene, teams from Paris Run, Hitchmans, Fort Pitt, and the Wheeling Steel at Steubenville arriving later. The rescue teams worked in shifts. One team going down and working until they were exhausted before coming to the top. They would then be replaced by a fresh team. Unending praise is due these tireless workers for their efforts in locating the bodies and searching for Robinson. Doctors Peck, Morgan, Rhinehart and Ealy soon arrived at the scene of the disaster and administered first aid to the workers and those brought from the mine.
News of the explosion traveled rapidly and long before daylight hundreds of stricken relatives and friends had arrived at the scene. The crowd became so great and automobile traffic passed the mine so heavy that stringent measures were resorted to. Every police officer in the city was called out the property surrounding the mine and the shaft were roped off. This however did not prevent many from crowding near the shaft.
The disaster which is one of the worst in the history of the city proper attracted a score of newspaper men and photographers. Mine officials were very courteous and co-operated with reporters in every way possible.
District Mine Inspector Lafferty soon arrived at the scene and entered the mine to make his investigation about ten o'clock this morning. At noon he had not yet come to the top. Before going into the mine Lafferty stated that the mine had been in good condition and that it had recently been rock dusted. The exact cause and location of the explosion which claimed the lives of four men and possibly a fifth will not be known until Mr. Lafferty had completed his investigation and made his final report. The theory that the explosion was occasioned by a spark from a mine motor wheel seems the most plausible however.
The bodies of the dead were removed to the Grisell Funeral home where they will be prepared for burial. The disaster has cast a pall of gloom over the entire city.
District Mine Inspector Lafferty also stated this morning that state Mine Inspector Lambie had been notified and before operations would be resumed again a thorough inspection of the mine would be made.
Mr. Charles Bell was instrumental in rescue work this morning. Immediately after news of the explosion had spread relatives swarmed the office of the mine seeking to determine if any of their loved ones had been killed.

The Moundsville Journal - Tuesday, November 14, 1926

Last Body Removed From Ill-Fated First St. Mine

With the body of Thomas Robbins, aged 45, recovered from the ill-fated First Street mine of the Glen Dale Gas Coal Company, all the dead have been removed and grief stricken Moundsville today prepared to bury the victims of what is Moundsville's worst mine disaster in several years.
Robbins was found after a frantic search which was carried on all day yesterday mine rescue crews from five different mines. Early yesterday morning the other four victims, Walter Fogle, Mike Kowcheck, Rube Kirkhart and J. E. Stifel had been located and brought to the top. Robbins could not be found. His tools were found neatly placed and his bucket and cap were also located. Robbins was known as an experienced miner and for this reason hopes were held that he was still alive.
At 8:15 o'clock last evening Robbins body was found. He had erected a brattice in Entry 8, West, but "black damp" which follows explosions had seeped through. He was found sitting with his back to a timber and had evidently thought himself safe. His body was heavily coated with coal dust when found and many men had passed the spot during the day, thinking the lump was a big piece of shale. He had been dead many hours when found, but his face did not bear any marks of serious burns. His body was brought to the surface by exhausted rescue workers and removed to the Grisell Funeral Home.
Shortly after the discovery of the body the rescue workers went to their homes exhausted after being on the job for fifteen hours many of them spent in the bowels of the earth searching for Robbins.
The Moundsville Journal - Wednesday, November 15, 1926
First Victim of Mine Disaster Buried Today This morning the first of the five victims of the explosion in the First street mine Monday was buried. Arrangement for the services for the other four victims have been completed. Three will be buried on Thursday and one on Friday.
Kavesak Rites Today Requiem high mass was celebrated at 9 o'clock this morning in the St. Francis Xavier Catholic church for the late Mike Kavesak, Russian miner killed in the First street mine Monday. Rev. Father M. J. Coghian was the celebrant. The services were very well attended by fellow workers of the deceased. Interment occurred in Greenlawn cemetery.
Stifel Services At 9 o'clock Thursday morning requiem high mass will be celebrated in the St. Francis Xaviers Catholic church for the late J. E. Stifel, miner who died after being taken from the First street mine Monday and rushed to the hospital. Rev. Father M. J. Coghian will be the celebrant, and interment will occur in Greenlawn cemetery.
Fogle Services
The funeral for Walter Fogle, 19, instantly killed in the explosion at First street mine Monday morning, will be held from the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Fogle, 111 Grant avenue, Thursday afternoon at 2 o'clock. Rev. W. C. Harold, of the Baptist church will be in charge. Mound City Council No. 6 Jr. O. C. A. M. will have charge of the service at the grave in Greenlawn cemetery. All Juniors are requested to meet at the Lutes hall on Second street at 1:30 o'clock, to attend the funeral in a body.
Kirkhart Services
The remains of Reuben Kirkhart one of the victims of the disaster, Monday at the First street mine were taken last evening to the home of a sister, Mrs. Wayt, at McKeefrey where services will be held Thursday morning at 9 o'clock Rev. W. C. Harold of the Baptist church in charge. Interment in Greenlawn cemetery.
Robbins Services
Funeral services for Thomas Robbins, one of the victims of Monday's disaster at the First street mine, will be held from his home, 202 Ninth street, Friday morning at 9 o'clock. Rev. W. C. Harold of the Baptist church will have charge. Interment will be in Greenlawn cemetery.