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Illinois
Coal & Coal Mining
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Coal Mining Disasters in Illinois
1951 to 1986
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List of Illinois Coal Mine Disasters Reference Sources

Explosion at Chicago, Wilmington & Franklin Coal Company
Orient No. 2
      On the night of December 21, 1951, at 7:38 p. m., an explosion occurred at the New Orient No. 2 mine of the Chicago, Wilmington and Franklin Coal Company located at West Frankfort, Franklin County, Illinois. The explosion was responsible for the death of 119 men, whose names, addresses, and occupations appear in this report. Because the explosion was exceedingly violent, a large number of the men were killed by flame and violence. The additional deaths were due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
      Mr. William J. Johnson, assistant director, and eighteen State mine inspectors with the seven State mine rescue teams and the rescue team from the Union Colliery Company, cooperating with twenty-three Federal mine inspectors, assisted in the rescue and recovery work.
General Information
      Historical Background:
      The New Orient Mine No. 2 at West Frankfort, Franklin County, Illinois, was developed by the Chicago, Wilmington and Franklin Coal Company in 1922. The mine started in production in 1923, and since that time has produced 51,952,470 tons of coal up to December 31, 1951. The mine is opened by four shafts, varying from 500 to 565 feet deep, into the Illinois No. 6 coal bed, which averages 110 inches in thickness.
      The mine was originally developed by the room and pillar method with 16 rooms driven right and left off the panel. The main and cross entries were driven in sets of five. The cross entries were driven at intervals of 1,608 feet. Subsequently the mining method was changed to the panel room and pillar method.
 
Story of Rescue and Recovery Operations

      I was informed by the United Press, about 10:00 p. m., that there had been an explosion at the Chicago, Wilmington and Franklin Coal Company's mine, New Orient No. 2, located at West Frankfort. I tried to call the mine by long distance telephone and only after considerable difficulty did I finally succeed in contacting Mr. John Foster, superintendent of the mine.
      Mr. Foster informed me about the explosion and also said that James Wilson, the State mine inspector of the district; Murrell Reak, State inspector-at-large; and five other district inspectors were already there with the State mine rescue teams from Benton, Herrin, DuQuoin, Eldorado, and the Union Colliery Company team from DuQuoin; and that rescue and recovery work had already been started.
      Accompanied by Assistant Director William J. Johnson, I soon thereafter left Springfield and arrived at the mine at approximately 4:30 a. m., December 22, 1951. Upon arriving at the mine, and being informed of the extent and violence of the explosion, Mr. Johnson and I instructed the Springfield, Belleville, and Benld mine rescue teams and eight additional State mine inspectors to proceed immediately to the mine and to assist with the recovery operations.
      The recovery work was started at the portal shaft on the main north close by the 21 west. Rescue teams and recovery workers had to travel from the main north through the 21 west to the junction with the new main north. Rescue and recovery progressed on the new main north up to the 23 west new main north. On the new main north haulage, between the 23 and the 27 west junction, seven bodies were recovered and three others rescued, one of whom died later.
      At the 25 west new main north, it was discovered that the stoppings between the intake and return air courses were destroyed and the ventilation was shorted. The mine rescue teams had to use breathing apparatus to advance ahead and investigate for fires before reestablishing ventilation in the areas. Ventilation was established by erecting canvas stoppings and this procedure was followed to the intersection of the 27 west new main north. It was discovered an overcast was blown out at the junction of new main north and 27-28 east and west causing the air to be short circuited into the 27 and 28 east new main north and preventing ventilation in the 27 and 28 west new main north. After a consultation between coal company officials and State and Federal mine inspectors, it was decided that there was a possibility that the men working in the 27 and 28 west new main north were still alive. It was, therefore, decided to concentrate all rescue and recovery operations into the 27 and 28 west new main north. Work was slow because the mine rescue teams had to explore ahead before ventilation could be re-established. The mine rescue teams explored the 3 and 4 south panels, the face of the 27 and 28 west entries, and the 3 and 4 north panels. The 3 and 4 north panels were known to have a production unit and crew of men working in them that night.
      Two bodies were recovered close to the mouth of the 3 and 4 south.15 bodies were recovered in the 3 and 4 north panels, and three bodies were recovered along the haulage road between the new main north and the 3 and 4 north panels. Further rescue operations were slightly delayed at this time so that the fresh air men could further reinforce the temporary stoppings, that had been built from the 25 west new main north up to the 27 and 28 new main north and to the 3 and 4 north 28 west new main north, so that men in the 3 and 4 north could be removed.
      Rescue operations were then continued in the 27 and 28 east new main north to the 3 and 4 south panels.
      The mine rescue teams explored the 3 and 4 south panels 27 east new main north and discovered 24 bodies. The violence in these panels had been very great. After the recovery of the bodies in the 3 and 4 south panels, the recovery work proceeded along the 27 and 28 east new main north. It was then discovered that the stoppings separating the 27 and 28 east new main north air split and the main north air split had been destroyed. Recovery work was continued along 27 and 28 east new main north to the 7 and 8 south main north. Twenty-one bodies were discovered in this set of panels. Rescue work then proceeded Mine rescue teams explored these panels and discovered 20 bodies. Nine bodies were recovered on the 27 west haulage off the main north by rescue workers. Two bodies were found near the mouth of the 5 and 6 south panels 27 west main north.
      All of the bodies found in the 3 and 4 south new main north, 7 and 8 south main north were removed via the new main north. To have immediately recovered the bodies of the haulage men and the men in the 3 and 4 north panels via of new main north would have caused a considerable delay in recovery work, due to having to transport the bodies by fresh air men too long a distance. It was, therefore, decided that further recovery would be by way of the main north. Mr. Johnson, assistant director; Mr. Charles Pulliam, underground superintendent; Mr. Clem Devidias, Federal mine inspector; and Mr. James Wilson, State mine inspector, walked from the 7 and 8 south 27 west north main north by way of the main north to the portal shaft bottom, taking tests for carbon monoxide and methane as they progresed. They reported that the main north haulage road was in good condition from the 25 west main north to the portal shaft bottom.
      When the recovery work up to the 3 and 4 north 28 west main north was complete and all the bodies had been carried through the new main north, I contacted the night mine manager, Mr. McDaniel, who was with the rescue crews in the 3 and 4 north 27 west main north, and told him to get someone to accompany him and to start from that point and travel toward the portal shaft bottom by way of the main north, and that Mr. James Sneddon, State mine inspector; Mr. John Towers, State mine inspector; Mr. Clem Devidias, Federal mine inspector, and I would start from the portal shaft bottom and travel the main north haulage road until the parties met.
      Mr. James O'Connor, Federal mine inspector, accompanied Mr. McDaniels, and the parties met at the 25 west main north. From Mr. McDaniels' report and our own observations, we decided it would be safe to recover the rest of the bodies in the mine via the main north with the least amount of delay. Recovery work from the portal shaft was started immediately and the recovery of all the bodies from the 27 and 28 west main north was accomplished. Recovery work was then started on the 25 and 26 west main north where nine bodies and one live man in the 1 and 2 north panel off the 26 west main north were found. Two bodies were found near the 13 and 14 on the 25 west main north haulage road. The rescue men immediately brought the live man to fresh air and administered oxygen, and brought him on top where doctors were waiting. He was taken immediately to the hospital in West Frankfort.
      Early Monday morning the recovery work was completed, except for the recovery of the assistant night mine manager. This body was not recovered until about 1:30 p. m. Wednesday, December 26, when he was discovered near the 3 and 4 north 27 and 28 east new main north by the official party investigating the explosion.
 
Location of Bodies:
      (a) All men found in No. 1, 2, and 3 west stubs had apparently been at work at the time of the explosion and had moved from their working places to the positions where they were found. Apparently the explosion by-passed these men and their death was due to carbon monoxide poisoning and burning rather than by violence.
      (b) All bodies found in the 3 and 4 south and air course panel entries were apparently at their working places and were instantly killed by the explosion, either by violence or by the fire.
      (c) Three of the five bodies found on the 27 east north west at the mouth of the 45 going into 3 and 4 south, 27 east north west had been sent to pull steel on the 3 and 4 south entry where their motor and two cars were found. These men were apparently killed by the violence of the explosion which spread into the 27 and 28 east north west. It is not known why these men were at this location and not at their working places. It is not known what the additional two men were doing on the cross entry.
 
      I want to commend the above for their splendid and courageous rescue and recovery work following the explosion.
      I also am greatly indebted to the Union Colliery Coal Company mine rescue team, whose superintendent was Nathaniel Kirk, for their assistance in the rescue and recovery work.
      The efforts of the American Red Cross, the Junior Chamber of Commerce of West Frankfort, Illinois, the Boy Scouts of America, and especially the Salvation Army, are greatly appreciated for their aid and assistance, particularly to the rescue teams, inspectors, and all others taking part in rescue work.
      The courageous assistance given by the many volunteers who entered the mine and helped with the recovery work is also much appreciated.
      The list following gives the name, age, occupation, and conjugal relation of each fatality.
 
Arthur Adams, of Benton, repairman, aged 43 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Bill Akins, of Benton, repairman, aged 30 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
R. E. Ashmore, of Carterville, driller, aged 61 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Fay Austin, of Benton, timberman, aged 52 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Oscar Bartley, of Johnston City, loading machine helper, aged 30 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Charles A. Bartoni, of West Frankfort, Airdox shooter, aged 38 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Roy Beaty, of Benton, loading machine helper, aged 33 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Lawrence Bell, of Benton, triprider, aged 32 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Wilburn L. Bell, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 31 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
William W. Bell, of Benton, motorman, aged 38 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
John F. Bennett, of Thompsonville, foreman, aged 35 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
James L. Black, of Carterville, foreman, aged 57 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Charles E. Boyd, of Marion, driller, aged 53 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Estel Bradley, of Logan, motorman, aged 44 years, married. He leaves a widow and five children.
 
Oral Bradley, of Logan, motorman, aged 26 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Carroll Bridges, of Benton, bratticeman, aged 41 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Aston L. Bufford, of Benton, driller, aged 40 years, married. He leaves a widow and five children.
 
L. J. Cairel, of Logan, machine operator, aged 37 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
James O. Cantrell, of West Frankfort, foreman, aged 44 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Thomas Clark, of West Frankfort, foreman, aged 45 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child..
 
Paul Coats, of Herrin, bratticerman, aged 33 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Jesse Connor, of Zeigler, Airdox shooter, aged 39 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Andrew Cunningham, of West Frankfort, laborer, aged 26 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
John Dobruff, of West Frankfort, tracklayer, aged 62 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Virgil Dollins, of Benton, Airdox shooter, aged 46 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
George Dunlop, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 39 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Clyde Dupree, of Pittsburg, cutting machine operator, aged 51 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Clarence Eubanks, of Sesser, driller, aged 44 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Frank Evrard, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 33 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
J. W. Fairbanks, of Johnston City, triprider, aged 43 years, married. He leaves a widow and four children.
 
John Farkas, of Johnston City, timberman, aged 59 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Archie Ferbus, of Johnston City, driller, aged 51 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Joseph L. Fitzpatrick, of Benton, motorman, aged 29 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
James Fowler, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 37 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Harry Gunter, of Benton, motorman, aged 44 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
H. O. Harper, of West Frankfort, timberman, aged 54 years, single.
 
Herschel Harris, of West Frankfort, safety-first, aged 64 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
J. E. Haynes, of Johnston City, clean-up, aged 57 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Robert E. Hines, of Benton, triprider, aged 33 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Audrey Huffstutler, of Benton, driller, aged 21 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Roy Hutchins, of Benton, motorman, aged 41 years, single.
 
Guy Johnson, of Macedonia, triprider, aged 42 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Rolla Jones, of Benton, Airdox shooter, aged 48 years, married. He leaves a widow and four children.
 
Roscoe Karnes, of Benton, motorman, aged 55 years, married. He leaves a widow and four children.
 
Ralph Kent, died December 23, 1951, of Marion, bratticeman, aged 47 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
John Kucewski, of Benton, loading machine operator, aged 37 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Otis Lewis, of Benton, triprider, aged 28 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Lafet Lipseyr, of Benton, motorman, aged 32 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Mynett Lockhart, of West Frankfort, loading machine operator, aged 49 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
John Matelic, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 40 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Bill McDaniel, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 44 years, single.
 
Wallace Miller, of Benton, repairman, aged 29 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Claude Milligan, of West Frankfort, Airdox, aged 40 years, married. He leaves a widow and four children.
 
Warren Mitchell, of Benton, triprider, aged 24 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Harry Gunter, of Benton, motorman, aged 44 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Sam Montgomery, of Sesser, timberman, aged 41 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Harry Morthland, of West Frankfort, loading machine helper, aged 52 years, single.
 
Clyde Moses, of Marion, Airdox shooter, aged 39 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Edward Mundy, of West Frankfort, cutting machine operator, aged 40 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Roy L. Neibel, of West Frankfort, loading machine helper, aged 50 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
R. L. Newell, of West Frankfort, cutting machine operator, aged 47 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Max Nolen, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 34 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
George Novak, of Benton, driller, aged 40 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Marion Odle, of West Frankfort, foreman, aged 44 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Earl Overturf, of Benton, timberman, aged 40 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
John M. Palic, of West Frankfort, trapper, aged 48 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Shelby Pasley, of West Frankfort, triprider, aged 40 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Earl Payne, of Buckner, Airdox shooter, aged 42 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Pete Petroff, of Johnston City, driller, aged 56 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Andy Peska, of Benton, timberman, aged 61 years, single.
 
Thomas J. Pierson, of Benton, cutting machine operator, aged 48 years, married. He leaves a widow and four children.
 
George Pollock, of West Frankfort, triprider, aged 25 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Vallie Prichett, of Benton, Airdox shooter, aged 39 years, married. He leaves a widow and four children.
 
John Quayle, of West Frankfort, triprider, aged 25 years, single.
 
Joseph Quayle, of West Frankfort, triprider, aged 25 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Alexander Ramsey, of West Frankfort, cutting machine operator, aged 29 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Ellis Reach, Jr., of West Frankfort, foreman, aged 32 years, married. He leaves a widow and five children.
 
Ellis Reach, Sr., of West Frankfort, cutting machine operator, aged 57 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Earl Rees, of Elkville, repairman, aged 38 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Joe Revak, of Benton, motorman, aged 49 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Guy Rice, of Mulkeytown, triprider, aged 24 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Robert Rice, of Mulkeytown, motorman, aged 32 years, married. He leaves a widow and eight children.
 
Tom Roberts, of West Frankfort, triprider, aged 43 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Claude Roland, of Carterville, motorman, aged 46 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Charles Rose, of Benton, motorman, aged 32 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Thomas Runnels, of Benton, motorman, aged 34 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
John Sadoski, Jr., of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 41 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
William Sanders, of Benton, Airdox line layer, aged 27 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Stanely Sandusky, of West Frankfort, saftey-first man, aged 48 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Mike Senkus, of West Frankfort, bratticeman, aged 63 years, single.
 
Chalon H. Smith, of Benton, cutting machine operator, aged 26 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Charles R. Smith, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 25 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Earl H. Smith, of West Frankfort,laborer, aged 53 years, single.
 
George R. Smith, of West Frankfort, loading machine helper, aged 44 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
William R. Smith, of West Frankfort, tracklayer, aged 33 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Charles T. Southern, of Benton, foreman, aged 43 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Burton Spencer, of Whittington, Airdox shooter, aged 34 years, single.
 
Wayne Spencer, of Whittington, Airdox line layer, aged 25 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Silas Stewart, of Benton, cutting machine operator, aged 60 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Carrol Stubblefield, of Johnston City, laborer, aged 42 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Hearstel Summers, of Benton, tracklayer, aged 24 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Leon Summers, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 35 years, married. He leaves a widow and six children.
 
Ted Tapley, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 47 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Paul Taylor, Sr., of Benton, cutting machine operator, aged 51 years, single.
 
John D. Thomas, of Benton, repairman, aged 29 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Louis Trapper, of Benton, trapper, aged 45 years, married. He leaves a widow and five children.
 
Alberic Vancouvwelert, of Johnston City, driller, aged 49 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Howard Wall, of West Frankfort, tracklayer, aged 39 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Max Wawrzyniak, of West Frankfort, driller, aged 57 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
Roy Westray, of West Frankfort, machine operator, aged 36 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Charles Whitlow, of Benton, triprider, aged 52 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
B. R. Williams, of West Frankfort, triprider, aged 40 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Carl Williams, of West Frankfort, laborer, aged 36 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
James H. Williams, of Thompsonville, laborer, aged 57 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
W. E. Wilson, of West Frankfort, triprider, aged 55 years, married. He leaves a widow.
 
W. L. Woodward, of Johnston City, trapper, aged 48 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.
 
Zell Yates, of West Frankfort, Airdox line layer, aged 33 years, married. He leaves a widow and four children.
 
Victor Younkin, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 41 years, married. He leaves a widow and two children.
 
Louis Zanzuchi, of West Frankfort, foreman, aged 43 years, married. He leaves a widow and one child.
 
Joe Zeboski, of West Frankfort, motorman, aged 46 years, married. He leaves a widow and three children.

Explosion
1962 Annual Coal Report42 - Fatal Accidents
Report of Explosion
The Blue Blaze Coal Company, Mine No. 2
Herrin, Williamson County, Illinois.
January 10, 1962
      A gas and dust explosion occurred in Mine No. 2 of the Blue Blaze Coal Company, two miles northwest of Herrin, Illinois, about 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, January 10, 1962, and caused the death of eleven men. These eleven men were the entire second shift and all died from suffocation, burns and/or forces.
      The explosion originated in room 2 off 3rd north entry at the first partially driven north crosscut, when an explosive mixture of methane and air was ignited by an electric arc, or spark from a piece of electrical equipment. The explosion was propagated by methane and face coal dust. Forces of the explosion radiated from room 2 off 3rd north entries and spread west and north, south and west towards the main shaft and west and south of the abandoned closed north working section at room 1 off the north entry. All the forces converged at the bottom of the main shaft, traveled up the shaft, and dispersed upon reaching the surface.
 
General Information
The Blue Blaze Mine No. 2 is located two miles northwest of Herrin, Williamson County, Illinois. The operating officials of the company were as follows:
      Mr. Claud Gentry, Owner, Rt. #2, Carterville, Illinois.
      Mr. Virgil Woodburn, Mine Manager, Cambria, Illinois.
      Mr. Roy Woodis, Face Foreman, Herrin, Illinois.
      On January 10, 1962, a total of thirty men were employed, six on the surface, twenty-four underground on two coal producing shifts. The mine is opened by a concrete lined shaft 168 feet deep and 16 inch cased pilot hole which was primarily used as a refuse hole for the removal of the strata for the enlargement of the airshaft. The workings are in the Illinois Number 6 coal bed, which averages 106 inches in the present mine area and dips very slightly to the north and east. In 1956 a 7 by 10 foot concrete lined slope was driven near the present site of the cased pilot hole. The slope was driven to a depth of 210 feet and collapsed unexpectedly due to the caving ground and an inrush of what is locally called quicksand. Plans for opening the mine were suspended until April 23, 1959, when ground was broken for the present hoisting shaft. The hoist or main shaft was completed November 24, 1960; however, the development of the mine was temporarily halted until the surface structures were erected.
      Coal on one shaft was first produced on July 30, 1961, and continued to be produced intermittently until the day of the explosion. A full crew on the second shift started to produce coal nine working shifts prior to the disaster.
      The air shaft located 520 feet east of the main shaft was started on November 7, 1961. The six foot circular steel lined shaft has been driven to a depth of 70 feet below the surface and to within 74 feet of the coal bed.
      The immediate roof is a medium firm-gray shale which is about 12 inches in thickness, overlaid by 12 feet of hard shale, 3 to 5 feet of limestone and by 49 feet of sandstone, successively. The immediate roof disintegrates after it is exposed to the mine atmosphere and to prevent it from weathering approximately 12 inches to 18 inches of top coal is left. The floor is a smooth soft fire clay.
 
Story of Explosion and Recovery Operations

      At the beginning of the 4 P.M. to mid-night shift on January 10, 1962, eleven men entered the mine and all the men except the cager and motorman walked to the working section. The underground employees reached the working section apparently without mishap and all the coal producing workmen had been in the face region apparently 2½ hours when the explosion occurred. Conditions found after the explosion indicated the coal was being produced as usual. The mine examiner's record book in the mine showed a preshift examination of the entire mine had been made for the on-coming shift. Methane was not reported and the air was traveling in its normal course and quantity.
      Normal operating procedure at this mine required all the day shift crew to be on the surface except the mine manager before the afternoon crew was permitted underground. The hoisting engineer on the afternoon shift stated that on January 10, 1962, at about 3:30 P. M. after all the crew was lowered, normal operations of the mine had been followed. Coal was being hoisted out of the mine, and at approximately 6:25 P.M. the skip was lowered to the bottom and was stopped for about a minute when he, the hoisting engineer, heard a sound similar to a short-circuit in high voltage power cable, followed by a vibrating sound. The generator set was only a few feet from the hoist controls and being concerned about the high-voltage power he pulled the power cut-off switch on the generator stopping the set. He was turning around when he observed the hoist cables vibrating, followed by a column of smoke pouring out of the shaft. After waiting a few minutes he walked outside and disconnected the 440 volt power line to the mine. He walked back into the building housing the hoist and tried to call underground by telephone but could not get an answer. Realizing then that an explosion had occurred, he shouted from the hoist room to the top man, who was in the mine office, to call the owner of the mine and tell him there had been an explosion in the mine.
      At 6:30 P.M. January 10, 1962, Mr. Claud Gentry, the owner of the mine, received a telephone call that there had been an explosion at the mine. He immediately called Inspector Ray McCluskey and told him of the call, then proceeded to the mine. He and Inspector McCluskey arrived at the mine about 6:40 P.M. After observing conditions they promptly called the Benton Mine Rescue Teams No. 1 and No. 2.
      Inspector Ray McCluskey's wife called the Director of Mines and Minerals at Springfield about 7:30 P.M., Wednesday, January 10, 1962, and informed him there had been an explosion at the Blue Blaze Coal Company Mine No. 2 and that Inspector McCluskey had proceeded to the mine. Director Orlandi and Assistant Director Johnson arrived at the mine at 11:00 P.M. The recovery operation was directed by the Department of Mines and Minerals.
      The skip was on the bottom at the time of the explosion. When the hoisting engineer tried to raise it to the surface he found it was lodged and could not move it. Mr. Gentry called the Royalton Industries Company and had them send a mobile crane to the mine. They arrived within an hour and a two man cage was connected and suspended into the shaft.
      Smoke and carbon monoxide fumes were coming up the shaft so that it was necessary to use breathing apparatus to attempt to enter the mine. Two members of the Benton No. 1 Rescue Team donned their apparatus and got on the two man cage to descend into the mine. They were lowered slowly into the shaft, but after descending approximately 50 feet the cage struck something and they had to stop. They were hoisted back to the surface and reported that the smoke was so bad they could not see anything and the shaft was obstructed so as to prevent going on down. After a consultation, it was decided another attempt had to be made to hoist the skip to the surface. The crane operator swung the two man cage out of the shaft and the hoisting engineer proceeded to try to hoist the skip to the surface. The skip was finally hoisted to the surface at 10:40 P.M. January 10. It was damaged to the extent it had to be taken out of the shaft and the two man cage was again employed.
      Preparations were then made to explore the mine. The carbon monoxide was such that the exploration had to be made with the Rescue Teams. At 11:45 P.M. the first two men of the Benton No. I Rescue Team were lowered into the mine. They had to return immediately to the surface as they could not get off the cage at the bottom landing. The two man cage was hanging in the center of the shaft and they could not reach anything to pull themselves over to get off. We gave them a steel rod about 4 feet long with a hook on the end and they again descended and were able to get off. The other members of the Benton Team No. 1 were lowered into the mine, two at a time, and began the exploration. The smoke was heavy and visibility difficult. By means of telephone through the face mask of one member of the team and receiver and transmitter on the surface, we were in constant communication with the team. One body was observed on the south side of the shaft bottom. After approximately 45 minutes exploration, the Benton No. 1 Team returned to the surface and the Benton No. 2 Team entered the mine. The two teams entered the mine alternately until all bodies had been located and we knew at 4:00 A.M. January 11, 1962, there were no survivors. Two motormen and a cager were recovered within the bottom area and the remaining eight men were recovered at or near the working or north section.
      In the meantime, two small fans had been installed exhausting at the drill hole some 500 feet east of the main shaft, so as to establish a fresh air base on the bottom. Severe temperatures and capacity of small fans employed were such that a fresh air base was never established. All exploration and recovery of bodies had to be accomplished with breathing apparatus. Forced to use the two man cage and faced with the great task of removing the victims to the surface by use of Rescue Teams under oxygen, prompted the calling of two more Rescue Teams. The Eldorado and DuQuoin Teams were called at 2:00 P. M. on January 11, 1962, and arrived at the mine at 3:00 P. M. They joined the two Benton Teams in the task of removing the bodies to the shaft bottom. This job was completed at about 11:00 P.M. on January 11, 1962, and the first body was hoisted to the surface at 11:05 P.M. and the 11th and last body was brought to the surface at 12:40 A. M. January 12, 1962.
      Prior to the recovery of the bodies, the Rescue Teams had sealed off the west entries west of the shaft bottom with seven brattice cloth seals and installed five temporary cloth brattices along the east haulageway in an effort to ventilate and establish a fresh air base on the bottom. With the recovery of the bodies completed, the next job was to build seals and stoppings, restore normal ventilation, and clear the mine of dangerous gases.
      The two man cage that had been used thus far had hampered progress, and it was decided that since time was no longer of essence, a wood platform cage should be installed and six cage guides (which had been torn out by the explosion) replaced, to expedite lowering men and material into the mine. The placement of guides and installation of wood platform was accomplished on January 13.
      On Sunday morning, January 14, 1962, we were ready to proceed with the installation of seals and brattices. By cooperation of adjoining coal operators. State and Federal inspectors, an adequate crew was available to enter the mine and re-establish ventilation. They re-built five seals and five stoppings east up to the 1 north main east and returned to the surface at 6:00 P. M. Four more canvas brattices were needed in the 1 north main east panel entries. A second group entered the mine and constructed the canvas stoppings in the north panels.
      They returned to the surface at 8:30 P.M. on January 14, 1962. All-purpose gas masks were used when building the seals and brattices. Carbon monoxide was still present at some locations, but the percentage was steadily decreasing.
 
John Barkus, of Royalton, shuttle car operator, aged 54 years, married, one dependent.
 
Ralph Brandon, of Carterville, shooter, aged 50 years, married, three dependents.
 
William Gartner, of Carterville, loading machine operator, aged 55 years, married, one dependent.
 
Willie Gulley, of Carterville, cager, aged 43 years, married, one dependent.
 
George A. Horsley, of Carterville, driller, aged 55 years, married, three dependents.
 
Joseph H. Kimmel, of Carterville, roof bolter, aged 44 years, married, one dependent.
 
Melvin G. Ramsey, of Carterville, cutting machine man, aged 42 years, married, two dependents.
 
Virgil Tanner, of Carterville, motorman, aged 55 years, married, three dependents.
 
Ira Williams, of Carterville, motorman, aged 60 years, married, one dependent.
 
Roy Woodis, of Herrin, shift leader, aged 47 years, married, three dependents.
 
Ira Yewelly, of Carterville, cutting machine man, aged 65 years, married, one dependent.

Fire
1963 Annual Coal Report43 - Fatal Accidents
      According to an investigation by the Illinois State Mining Board, a fire of unknown origin was discovered about 3:40 p.m. on January 29, 1963, which cost the lives of three workmen and did extensive damage to the underground workings of the Freeman Coal Company's Orient No. 5 Mine, near Logan, Illinois.
      The fire, which apparently started in the 7 East 4 North Main West at the ventilating door and airlock near the neck of A & B entries was burning intensely when encountered by face crews from the 7 East and 9 East, as they were leaving the mine at the end of the day shift. This area had been inspected by both mine examiners and company personnel less than an hour prior to the discovery of the fire.
      Immediately, most of the men began fighting the fire with water, rockdust, and all other available equipment, but their progress was hampered by the rupturing of the compressed air line and the breaking of a water pipe.
      The coal company's fire fighting crews, augmented by State Mine Rescue Teams and State and Federal Mine Inspectors, continued to fight the fire, which was raging out of control until nearly midnight.
      In a meeting of Federal, State and Coal Company officials, it had been tentatively agreed that the mine was to be sealed at the mouth of the 4 North Main Entries, when it was discovered that through a breakdown of the mine's checking system, three workmen were inadvertently unaccounted for. A thorough and final search for the missing men was ordered, but to no avail.
      The mine was ordered sealed and remained sealed until February 23, 1963, when under the direction of the State and Federal Departments of Mines, the sealed areas were opened and ventilation was systematically re-established within the sealed area. The work progressed without incident and the three missing men were found in the 7 East Panel in by the fire area. All three died of asphyxiation.
      After thoroughly investigating every phase of the fire, it was evident that the mine had inadequate fire fighting equipment, a sub-standard personnel checking system, and an insufficient underground communication system to the fire area.
      Following is a list of the victims who lost their lives in this fire due to asphyxiation by the gases given off from the fire.
 
Paul Wm. Hartsock, of Elkville, shuttle car operator, aged 34 years, married, five dependents.
 
Charles J. Marvel, of Thompsonville, cutting machine helper aged 43 years, married, seven dependents.
 
Harold Glen Miller, of Sesser, repairman, aged 37 years, married, five dependents.

Explosion
1968 Annual Coal Report44 - Fatal Accidents
      At 11:40 a. m., Thursday, August 15, 1968, an explosion occurred at Orient No. 5 in the tunnel underlying the unit train coal stacker.
      The following is a list of the victims of the Explosion:
 
James Nealon, age 45, Surface Mechanic, Orient #5, No dependents.
 
Robert Boyett, age 55, died August 24, 1968 Ass't. Preparation Engineer, Freeman Coal Corp., one dependent, wife of West Frankfort, Illinois.
See : Obituary of Robert Charles Boyett
 
Charles H. Collins, age 49, Service Eng., Gen. Kinematics Corp., Barrington, two dependents, wife and son (age 17) of Crystal Lake, Illinois.
 
David Asher Walker, age 45, Welder, Orient #5, one dependent, wife of Royalton, Illinois.
 
      James Nealon and Charles Collins apparently were killed instantly.
David Asher Walker died a couple of hours later in Franklin Hospital, Benton, Illinois.
Robert Boyett died 9 days later in Barnes Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri as a result of injuries received from this explosion.
 
      Around 10 a.m., Thursday, August 15, 1968, Earl Willis, Superintendent, instructed one of his foremen to send a man and cutting torch equipment to a job for Mr. Collins on the vibrating screens in the unit train tunnel. Mr. Nealon was assigned to this job.
      Mr. Willis then proceeded on to other duties and met Mr. Walker. Willis knowing of Asher Walker's excellent abilities with a cutting torch instructed him to go to the tunnel and replace Mr. Nealon. Nealon was to come to the job Walker was doing which Willis was to perform until Nealon arrived.
      Mr. Willis was approximately 200 feet from the tunnel when he heard the noise report of the explosion. He turned and looked and saw a ball of fire come from the mouth of the tunnel extending for approximately 150 to 200 feet up the conveyor belt toward the Unit train loading towers. This flame was an instant flame and extinguished immediately.
      He ran towards the mouth of the tunnel and observed smoke and some foggy condition. The visibility down the tunnel was very poor. Mr. Willis then ran to the office to the first aid room to get gas masks. Returning immediately to the tunnel, he saw Mr. Boyett stagger out of the smoke and could hear another person asking for help. Mr. Willis and Mr. Dotson, plant foreman, went into the tunnel with masks on. About half way clown the steps they found a man and carried him to the surface. This person was David Walker. When returning to the surface other personnel were putting on masks and continued rescue work until Mr. Collins had been removed from the tunnel. Mr. Nealon had been blown from the tunnel and found approximately 15 feet from the mouth of the tunnel.
 
Obituaries & Photographs of    Robert Charles Boyett                  courtesy of Robert C. Boyett.
Obituary photo of Robert Charles Boyett
Robert Charles Boyett
April 5, 1913 - August 24, 1968
 
photo of Robert Charles Boyett
Fourth mine
explosion
victim dies

      Robert Boyett, 55, of West Frankfort, who was critically injured in an Aug. 15th coal mine explosion that killed three other men died at 3 a.m. Saturday in Barnes Hospital St. Louis Mo.
      Hospital officials said Mr. Boyett died and other injuries suffered from the explosion. He had recently been removed from the critical list but was said to remain in serious condition.
      Boyett was a miner at the Freeman Coal Mining Corp. Orient 5 Mine southeast of Benton, IL.
      Two other miners, James Nealon 45 of West Frankfort and David Ashere Walker, 45 of Royalton, and a manufacturing representative, Charles Collins of Crystal Lake, were killed in the apparent coal dust explosion at an above ground coal stacker.
      Investigators said the explosion probably was set off by flame from an acetylene torch coming into contact with coal dust.
      An inquest into the deaths of Nealon, Walker, and Collins will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the courthouse in Benton.
      Mr. Boyett was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Boyett of Ft. Pierce, Fla. He was born April 5th 1913, in Saline County.
      He is survived by his wife, Virginia; daughters, Mrs Bill (Shirley) Martin of Harrisburg, Mrs. Larry (Linda) Burnett of Waggoner; son, Charles Robert of Farmersville; brother Clyde of Poteau Okla.; sisters, Mrs. Claudia Ryan of Manteno and Mrs. Charles Porter of Oak Lawn.
      Friends may call at the Murphy Funeral Home in Farmersville tonight and at the Gaskins Funeral Home in Harrisburg after 6 p.m. Monday. Funeral services and burial will be in Harrisburg, arrangements are pending.
Fourth Victim
Of Orient 5
Blast Dies

      The fourth victim of a surface coal mine explosion Aug. 15th at the Freeman Coal Co. Orient # 5 mine southeast of Benton died early today in Barnes Hospital St. Louis MO.
      He was Robert Boyett, 55, West Frankfort, a maintenance engineer at the mine who suffered severe burns when the explosion shot along a concrete tunnel leading into a mountain of coal piled on the ground.
      Franklin County Corner Eugene Dorris said the blast apparently resulted when a cutting torch inside the tunnel was turned on to make some repairs and ignited goal dust in the tunnel.
      Also killed were two miners James Nealon of West Frankfort, who leaves a sister, Mrs Robert Brewner, 431 Winters, and David Asher Walker, 39, Royalton and Charles Collins, Crystal Lake, a representative of General Kinematics Corp at Barrington.
      A huge fireball shot from the entrance to the tunnel which led to a superstructure from which unit trains were loaded. The blast singed the hair of workers 75 yards away.

Roof Fall
Zeigler Coal Company Spartan No. 2 Mine
Sparta, Randolph County, Illinois.
1980 Annual Coal Report45 - Fatal Accidents
      These three men were fatally injured by a roof fall at approximately 10:00 P.M., Monday, September 15, 1980, while in the performance of their duties at Zeigler Coal Company, Spartan Mine #2, Sparta, Randolph County, Illinois. All three men were apparently killed instantly.
      Craig Thomas was operating a loading machine near the face of #3 room in the 3rd South at crosscut station #690. William Ashley and Richard Berry were standing nearby to the right of Mr. Thomas's loader. The first cuts in the crosscut right, crosscut left and the face had been loaded out.
      Mr. Clarence Logan, shuttle car operator had just pulled under the loader when he noticed some small chips of rock fall from the roof. Mr. Logan started flagging Craig Thomas while backing the shuttle car from under the loader when a massive roof fall occurred above the anchorage of the roof bolts. The fall was approximately 50 feet in length, 40 feet in width and 6 feet thick.
      Richard Berry, and William Ashley were recovered at 10:00 A.M., Tuesday, September 16, 1980, and Craig Thomas was recovered at 8:00 P.M., Tuesday, September 16, 1980.
 
Mr. William D. Ashley, of Steelville, Bottom Loader, age 47, married, two dependents.
 
Mr. Richard Berry, of Pittsburg, Mine Foreman, age 43, married, two dependents.
 
Mr. Craig M. Thomas, of Coulterville, Loading Machine Operator, age 30, married, four dependents.

Roof Fall Accident
1986 Annual Coal Report46 - Fatal Accidents
      Three men were fatally injured from a roof fall at approximately 11:20 A.M., Wednesday, July 9, 1986, while in the performance of their duties at Freeman United Coal Mining Company, Orient No.6 , Waltonville, Jefferson County, Illinois.
      The three victims were standing in the entry observing a continuous mining machine cutting down rock for overcast. The machine had started cutting in the cross-cut and was almost through the intersection The cut had been stopped, due to the fact a high voltage cable was routed through the intersection. At this time, a fall occurred from an undetectable slip starting at the intersection, covering an area the width of the entry and extended back approximately 30 feet into the entry where the victims were standing.
 
Mr. Kenneth D. Hartford, Mine Manager, age 37, married, three dependents.
 
Mr. Bob Perry Jr., Section Foreman, age 23, married, one dependent
 
Mr. Bob Perry Sr., Section Foreman, age 52, married, one dependent.

Sources :
 
1 A Compilation of the Reports of the Mining Industry of Illinois
                from the Earliest Records to Close of the Year 1930
                Department of Mines and Minerals; Springfield, Illinois

2 A Compilation of the Reports of the Mining Industry of Illinois
                from the Earliest Records to 1954
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois;

38 Seventieth Coal Report of Illinois, 1951
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

42 Eighty-First Coal Report of Illinois, 1962
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

43 Eighty-Second Coal Report of Illinois, 1963
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

44 Eighty-Seventh Coal Report of Illinois, 1968
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

45 Ninety-Ninth Coal Report of Illinois, 1980
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

46 One-Hundred-Fifth Coal Report of Illinois, 1986
                Department of Mines and Minerals -- Printed by authority of the State of Illinois

 

Coal & Coal Mining in Illinois

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