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Governor and Mine Inspector's Report

Governor Thomas Explains the Scofield Disaster

Tells how the mine was blown up, but fails to place the responsibility. State Inspector says black powder caused the explosion.

June 3. - Without attaching blame to anyone specially, and, in fact, without fixing the responsibility in any manner for the terrible disaster at the Winter Quarters mine on May 1, when 199 coal miners lost their lives and seven others were injured. State Coal Mine Inspector Gomer Thomas yesterday reported to Governor Wells what he terms the nearest ascertainable cause of the explosion, the results and the warnings to be heeded in the future.

The Inspector's official report contains a list of the names of the dead victims and of the injured ones, reported to him by Assistant Mine Superintendent H. G. Williams, together with an opinion from the Assistant Superintendent as to the cause of the explosion which brought such great sorrow to hundreds of families in Utah.

Inspector Thomas ascribes the cause of the disaster to the accidental exploding of a keg of powder, the flame from which ignited the kegs of powder and the explosive coal dust. While he believes that the dust is not explosive under ordinary conditions, he has recommended that the Coal Company keep the dust wet. Since the reopening of the mine the Company has followed the Inspector's advice. In the Inspector's report his declaration is cited that no explosive coal gas exists in the Winter Quarters mine.

Text of Inspector's Report

The official report of the State Inspector is as follows:

At about 10:25 on the morning of May 1, 1900, an explosion occurred at the Winter Quarters coal mine, apparently originating in Number Four mine, by which, according to the latest count after the most careful checking, 199 men lost their lives and seven were injured. One man came out of Number Four mine uninjured, and 103 came out of Number One uninjured. Most of the men in Number Four mine were killed by force and heat of the explosion. All the men in the first rise were suffocated by afterdamp, and more than 100 men in Number One mine were suffocated by the afterdamp which swept down from Number Four mine.

"Number One mine and Number Four mine are connected, and by reason of such connection both mines suffered a loss by the one explosion.

"It seems, from all the evidence available, that some person (Isaac Macki) accidently ignited a keg of powder which caused the dust to rise, thus igniting the dust and carrying the flames from room to room from a point known as 'Pike's Peak,' and the immediate vicinity thereof. I find that nine kegs of powder were exploded near this place. Fourteen kegs of black powder exploded in other parts of the mine, making a total of twenty-four kegs of black powder exploded, thus adding great force to the explosion.

How the miners died.

"Along the line where the powder exploded, all the bodies were badly burned, more so than in any other part of the mine. From this place the blast shot down along the main and main back entries, and through all the rooms and entries of Number Four mine, gathering all the combustibles, such as dust, powder, etc., within reach. Part of the blast shot out to the surface, through Number Four mine tunnel and air shaft, and part went through Number One mine. The part of the blast that went into Number One mine soon lost its force, the heat only reaching as far down as room No. 11, fourth rise, and room No. 7 of the sixth rise, but did not reach the eighth rise.


A Group of Finlanders at the Home of the Luoma Brothers

"There were sixty men smothered by afterdamp. These men were found between the seventh and eighth rises. They were not burned and only a short distance from fresh air.

Many Could Have Saved Themselves

"All the men working below the fourth level of the eighth rise entries escaped and scarcely felt the shock. Only two men, working above this point came out alive. They were David Uro and one other, and were rescued three and one-half hours after the explosion occurred. Uro, was working in room No. 11 of the eighth rise. He remained in his room, not knowing an explosion had occurred, and there being sufficient air in his place, his life was saved. All the other men on this level hearing the explosion ran, trying to make their escape, and encountered the after-damp, to which they succumbed. I am of the opinion that had they remained in their working places, or if they had gone down the eighth rise entry, many of them would have been saved.

"The mine Foreman having been killed and all those who were acquainted with the location of the places where the men in Number Four mine were working, having been killed, made it difficult to rescue the men, as many places had caved and buried them up, and also made it difficult to gain information as to the cause of the explosion.

No Explosive Gas in Mine

"At no time has there been known to exist in any of the Winter Quarters mines, any explosive gases, before or since the explosion, were the same as have been in existence for the past twenty years in the Winter Quarters mines Numbers One, Two, Three, and Four. These mines are all on the same vein of coal.

"In the year 1899, four thousand four hundred kegs of black powder were used in mining coal in the Winter Quarters mines. It has always been a practice for each miner to take his powder into the mine by the keg. Not alone in these mines has this been the practice, but in nearly all of the mines of the different states, and this has been done regardless of dust or other surrounding dangers.

"It is my opinion that the dust in the Winter Quarters mine is not of a very explosive nature, as we find that there have been hundreds of windy or blown-out shots in the mines, with no serious results heretofore. In one case John D. Jones accidentally exploded three quarters of a keg of black powder, and the dust did not ignite. This was in mine number three, which mine developed as much dust as the one that exploded. It is connected with Number four, being, a continuation of the same seam of coal.

"For the safety of the miners in the future I have recommended that not more than six and a quarter pounds of powder be allowed to be taken into the mine by any one miner.

"I have also suggested to the company that they put a watering system in all the Winter Quarters mines, so that every place can be sprinkled. This the company has done, and Number One mine has started to work under the new rules which I have recommended. This will make the work safer, as the sprinkling lays the dust, and there will be a great deal less quantity of powder in the mine.

"I have submitted samples of coal and dust taken from these mines for analysis, but have not received the returns. I will, however, submit the returns later."

Supposition of Probabilities

In Inspector Thomas' report reference is made to the statements of Assistant Mine Superintendent Williams, under date of May 25, as follows:

"The cause and origin of the explosion are not yet definitely known. Investigation is still pending. The fact that the mine foreman and most of the men who were in Number Four mine at the time of the explosion were killed, makes it difficult to get exact evidence. No explosion gas is known to have been seen in any of the Winter Quarter mines, either before or since the explosion. The methods of mining at the time of the explosion were the same as have been in practice for the past twenty years in Winter Quarters Numbers One, Two, Three, and Four mines, which are all on the same vein of coal.

"Investigation thus tar leads to the supposition that the explosion probably originated from an accidental discharge of black powder, and was augmented by coal dust. The explosion seems to have spread from the upper part of Number Four mine entirely through that mine and through into the rise entries of Number One mine, the after-damp extending some distance beyond the force of the explosion. Many of the deaths in Number One resulted from this after-damp. From the lower levels in Number One mine about one hundred three workmen escaped uninjured.'"

Results of Examination

Supplemental to the state inspector's report is a lengthy typewritten recital of the examination of the damaged coal mine by Inspector Thomas, Mine Superintendent Thomas J. Parmley, Assistant Superintendent Williams, and Robert Forrester and George W. Snow, expert mining engineers. The supplemental report made of the mine details the condition in which every part of the mine was found after the explosion. Every room and opening was explored and the effects of explosion and fire noted.

At several designated places it was found that the flame produced by the burning coal dust, ignited by the explosion of powder in the first instance, had exploded kegs of powder in rooms long distances from the originating point. In such places and along the path of fatal flame and heat, accompanied by terrific force, had coked the coal, charred the timber props or stewed the latent sap to the surfaces and had caused a mighty overturning and wrecking of thing's movable and the caving of unsupported ground.

In the rises, crosscuts and levels off the main and back entries the examiners found, invariably, undisputed evidences of explosive forces having been at work, with occasional demonstrations of flame and excessive heat, but as a rule the kegs of powder stored in the rooms not connected directly with the main entry were not exploded, although they had been touched by the heat and flame.

Giant Powder Found

All along it was believed that fifty-six sticks of giant powder had also exploded, but Inspector Thomas yesterday received a telegram from Scofield saying the dynamite sticks had been found, thus upsetting the theory' that the giant had contributed to the awful force of the explosion.

Officers of the Pleasant Valley Coal Company.

Wm. G. Sharp, General Manager.
H. G. Williams, Assistant Manager.
T. J. Parmley, Superintendent of Winter Quarters.
Andrew Hood, Foreman in Number One.
Andrew J. Gilbert, Night Foreman in Number One.
William Parmley, (deceased) Foreman in Number Four.
I. M. Beatie, Superintendent of Wasatch Store.

Index

Source: History of the Scofield Mine Disaster, by J. W. Dilley, The Skelton Pub. Co., Provo, Utah, 1900.

Editors Note: The I.. O. O. F. were very active in raising money for the benefit of the widows and children along with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This information is included for historical value, it does not mean the people of this project support these institutions.

 

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