Special correspondence to the Herald.
Morrissey, BC., Nov. 20. Fourteen miners were killed as a result of a blowout at the coal mines near this town last Friday.
The dead are:
The accident occurred while the morning shift was at work in No. 1 tunnel of the Crows nest Pass Coal collieries at Carbonado, a short time before noon and of 15 men that were in that tunnel, only one is alive today. This fortunate man was a driver who had brought out a string of cars, and was returning into the mine. He had only proceeded a short way from the entrance of the tunnel when the blow-out took place, and although nearly overcome by gas, managed with great difficulty to reach the outside and safety.
No. 1 tunnel has always been considered the most dangerous of all the workings at this mine, on account of the great quantity of gas. Unusually large pockets of gas are encountered which, when the coal has been mined away to such an extend that, that remaining is of insufficient strength to hold the gas back, the great pressure explodes or "blows-out," as the miners term it. It was in this tunnel that five men lost their lives last fall from the same cause. As a general rule the approach to one of the pockets is followed by a low rumbling noise which gives warning to the men working as to what may follow. This last blowout, however, seems to have been so strong that the men had no chance to escape, but were caught without the least warning. So large was the pocket and so strong was the pressure, the coal forced by the gas was blown for several hundred feet out in the main tunnel, and was ground up as fine as powder. One miner estimates that there was at least 2000 tons of coal forced out and it will be some time before the debris is cleared away and work resumed.
Of the men killed, twelve bodies were recovered the afternoon and night of the explosion. One, that of the fire boss, James Greenman, was taken out Sunday morning, and one Thomas Jenkins, is still in the mine, although three shifts working eight hours each, have been untiring in their efforts to locate the remains. This is, if possible, the saddest case among the fatalities, as the wife and family of the dead man had just arrived from England the morning of the accident and are heartbroken at their welcome to Morrissey.
Patrick Boyle, one of the dead, was a driver in No. 1 and had finished his shift at 7 o'clock that morning. As the driver who was to relieve him did not appear for work, Boyle consented to work an extra shift, and in so doing lost his life. And in this instance it seems a strange co-incident in that the absent driver, by missing his shift in the Fernie mine, except a like fate there in the big explosion of two years ago, when 150 men were killed.
The funerals occurred in Fernie last Sunday, and a special train was run from Morrissey to give friends and relatives an opportunity of attending.
It was a most deplorable affair, but one in which no blame can be attributed to either the company or miners. It was fortunate in that the mines are not working full strength, and the number of men in No. 1 was unusually small, or the list of fatalities would have been much larger, and in an accident of this kind there is no escape.