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Kemmerer Coal Company No. 5 Mine Disaster 1924

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 16 Sep 1924
Location: Sublet, Lincoln County, Wyoming, United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: Mining_Disasters Disasters Wyoming
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Disasters | Mining Disasters | United States Mining Disasters | Wyoming Mining Disasters |Kemmerer Coal Company No. 5 Mine Disaster, 1924

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Contents

History and Circumstances

Mine History

Kemmerer, Wyoming is located North of Interstate 80 off Highway 30. With coal deposits in Wyoming being discovered in 1843 by the second Frémont Expedition. It opened opportunities for companies and individuals to invest money. When the Union Pacific Coal Company opened the first underground mine in 1881 after construction of the Oregon Short Line Railroad from Granger to Oregon. Mining companies starting to find locations throughout the state, one such location was near what is currently Kemmerer. In 1897, Patrick J. Quealy founded Kemmerer as an "independent town" and later incorporated it in 1899. Quealy was the vice-president of the Kemmerer Coal Company. The company and town was named after Quealy's financial backer, Pennsylvania coal magnate Mahlon S. Kemmerer. [5]
Throughout the years, the mines located in Kemmerer experienced many accidents ending in fatalities. The accidents were not exclusive to just one mining company they all experienced accidents caused by explosions. These accidents left many families without fathers, sons, brothers, and uncles. Many of the deaths received compensation depending upon whether they had families.
Kemmerer 1908
Kemmerer Mine No. 1 - 1910

Mine Disaster Circumstances

Thousands of tons of rocks blocked the main entryways into the No. 5 mine after an explosion that rocked the mine.[1] The explosion was said to have been a "resounding roar that reverberated throughout the little mining camp."[4] Many of the miners were about to take a lunch break and their remains were found sitting in the mining cars that were to carry them out.[1] Death was said to be instantaneous, and recognition afterward was not possible.[1][4] The miner's bodies that were recovered were identified but the number on their lanterns.[1]
It was reported early on that at least twenty-three miners were still within the mine.[2][3] The men that escaped did so by twisting their bodies through the rocks blocking the side entrance until they reached safety.[2] A mine rescue car, filled with equipment and 75 men, arrived at 9:50 that morning.[2] The push to rescue or retrieve miners was refreshed and they pushed forward.[2] The reported number of missing miners varied in all of the confusion. One of the rescue workers reported thirty-one men still within the mine which would have made the death toll 51, instead of the 47 reported by the company.[2]
"A downpour of rain that continued during the night added to the horror at the mouth of the shaft where groups of weeping women and children huddled together and waited for some words from the depths." United Press[3]
The families of many of the miners had been living in Sublet for years.[4] Some feared that complete families had been wiped out by the explosion as many fathers and sons were employed by the mine.[4]

Results and Findings

Thirty-five bodies had been recovered by 12:45 p.m. that day.[1] There were still some people holding out hope that the six men barricaded in the lower levels could be rescued.[1] The aged president of the mining company led the men in rescue work while his wife worked alongside the relief workers.[1] By 8 o'clock twenty-one of the bodies had been recovered, twelve miners had been rescued, and eighteen miners were still unaccounted for.[1][3] The No. 5 mine had a large number of Mexican miners. They were celebrating a holiday and were all missing from the mine. If they had been working, the death toll would have been much higher as there would have been nearly 200 men entombed.[2] It was thought that several miners that were shooting near the focus of the blast had caused the explosion, but no clear reason was released to the public. Within a month of the disaster the state's Workmen's compensation fund paid money to 14 widows and 30 children totaling $49,520.32.[6]
How it happened none can tell!
  Why it happened none will know!
With him a host of brave men fell
  Under the force of that hard blow;
The widow's prayers will not avail,
  The orphans weep and vainly yearn,
For like a ship lost in a gale,
  He's gone--and never will return.
~ David M. Elias
The editor of the Rocket was livid. He said that thirty-nine more lives had been added to the "toll of the hazard of coal mining in Western Wyoming."[7] He was referencing the 99 lives lost the year before.[7] It is thought that those two explosions spurred the Wyoming legislature to pass twelve different pieces of legislation in 1925 to improve underground working conditions.[7] Additionally, the "Coal Mine Catastrophe Insurance" plan was enacted.[7] For the families of the thirty-nine souls lost that fateful day it was no consolation. Their loved ones had been ripped from their lives and they had been left alone to mourn and then face the world.
Oh! what would we do if hope's bright ray
  Should vanish from the human breast,
Leaving the trusting soul a prey
  To the agony of doubt's unrest?
But no! it gleams like a brilliant star
  Set in the arch of heaven's dome,
Pointing to where our loved ones are
  And leading to our final home.
~ David M. Elias

In Memoriam

See the category for a list of the men that died, or were injured, in the coal mine explosion.

Men That Died

Note: 23 of the 39 men were married, 10 of which were survived by their children
Miner Deaths
Name Sourced Bio Connected Category
W. Akiyama
Carl Bahem Jr., single
Ernest Bahem,ɫ married
Paul Bahem, married, 2 children
Tony Barbara, married
Joe Bartsnar,ɫ married
Harry Bennett, married, 1 child
Joe Bostjoncich,ɫ single
Fred Delous, married
Joe Felician aka Delician, married, 6 children
Emanuel Ferrari,ɫ single
George Hanisko, married, 4 children
Tom Harada,ɫ 21
W. B. aka William R. Hood, married
N. Kono,ɫ single
Anton Krall,ɫ married
John Maskon,ɫ single
Dan Merrick, married
Niccolo Moro, married, 2 children
George Morrison, married, 2 children
John Pagon, married, 7 children
Laislau Pagon, single
J. F. Penman,ɫ single
Joe Rakum, married
Elmon Richards, married, 1 child
Tony Rose,ɫ married
James P. "J.P." Robertson, married, 2 children
Tony Rose, married
Paul Schlicker, married
Bartolo Sini,ɫ single
Matt Stroudi,ɫ married, 4 children
I. Sukemori, married, 1 child in Japan
J. Sumika,ɫ single
T. Tanamuki aka Tanimura,ɫ married
Frank Tonko, not listed
Anton Turk,ɫ married, 4 children
Frank Vozochoick,ɫ single
Dominick Zini, not listed
Pete Zorzi,ɫ single
ɫ These miners bodies were left in the mine

Survivors

  1. Denver Hysell, married
  2. Jake Hysell, married
  3. Spencer Hysell, married (brother to Denver & Jake)

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 "Recover 35 Bodies From Death Mine," Ellensburg Daily Record, Ellensburg, Washington, 15 September 1924, p. 17, col. 7.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Staff. "Twelve Dig Way From Coal Mine; Others Given Up," The Bulletin, Daily Edition, Bend, Oregon, 17 September 1924, p. 1, cols. 6-7.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 United Press. "[https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1893&dat=19240917&id=k-8oAAAAIBAJ&sjid=lNMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=5895,6035347 Eleven Bodies Are Recovered From Mine Wrecked In West'," The Southeast Missourian, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, 17 September 1924, p. 1, col. 2.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "47 Are Entombed In Wyoming Coal Mine," The Lewiston Daily Sun, Lewiston, Maine, 15 September 1924, p 33, col. 7.
  5. Welcome to the City of Kemmerer. City of Kemmerer, n.d. Web. 4 July 2017. http://www.kemmerer.org/
  6. "Widows Are Given Funds," Casper Star-Tribune, Casper, Wyoming, 9 October 1924, p. 1, cols. 7-8
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Gardner, A. Dudley. "Forgotten Frontier" (WY: Taylor & Francis, 2019).


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