Sometimes, there are certain job professions that everyone flocks to which usually offer great pay, nice hours, and a big plus; les hazardous. Unfortunately, there are jobs that your average person would try to avoid but end up doing it if nothing else is available. One such profession deals with mining coal and even though there are many safeguards in place to protect workers, it can be still be a danger to one’s health and loss of life. Looking back at coal miners over a century ago, the hazards were more profound to a miner’s health and good reason to be concerned about possible explosions.
One such example happened in the early 1900s in Jacobs Creek, Pennsylvania as a coal mine blast occurred on December 19th, 1907. The explosion kills 239 workers and only one individual working deep in the mine survived the awful tragedy.
The Darr mine that the explosion occurred at was established by the Pittsburgh Coal Company and was set up on the side of a mountain close to the Youghiogheny River. The workers for the mine (the majority of them were immigrants) needed to ride a wooden bucket, it could hold a maximum of six occupants, down to the mine and back up to the entrance since it was approximately two-miles deep. Unfortunately, this set-up was a tragedy-in-the-making if there was no other way to evacuate the miners in a hurry at the first sign of trouble.
While the day may have started as a normal one, things were about to turn a whole lot worse. The date was December 19th, 1907 as workers rode the wooden-bucket downward until reaching the area where they would continue mining for coal. Roughly at 11:30 in the morning, there were 240 miners working below when an enormous explosion shook the mine. The force of the blast was so tremendous that in Jacobs Creek, homes began to rattle while windows were completely shattered.
Just before the entrance imploded, pouring out of the mine could be seen thick black smoke. Mrs. John Campbell had reported what she had heard and seen by saying, “My husband was about due for his dinner when the loud report came and I looked out the back door toward the mine. Instead of my husband, I saw a great cloud of dust and smoke pouring out of the mouth of the mine. It floated upward and disappeared across the river.”
The only one to survive the disaster was Joseph Mapleton; when the explosion happened, he was close to a side entryway. While many might have assumed the miners had all died instantly, it turned out there was a variety of causes that led to their deaths; some workers died as a result of the explosion, some were crushed to death when the mine imploded and others ended up suffocating. Although the exact reason for the mine blast was never discovered, the majority of coal-mine explosions result from the accidental ignition of a pocket of gas. Sadly, there were some concerns before the tragedy happened that miners were concerned about possible gas pockets existing in the Darr mine.