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THE WALTON PARK MINE FATALITY., Issue 10454, 26 October 1897
THE WALTON PARK MINE FATALITY.
THE ADJOURNED INQUEST.
The adjourne 1 inquest into the circumstances attending the death of David Gillies at the Walton Park mine on Monday, October 18, was held to-day in the Commercial Hotel at Green Island before District Coroner Carew and a jury of six, of which Mr William Geddis was foreman. Mr Hodgkins was present to watch the proceedings on b.-half of the owners of the mine, and Mr Hanlon to watch on behalf of the relatives of the deceased. The Inspector of Mineß (Mr Hayes) was also present. David Marshall, coal miner, residing at Green Island, deposed that he was deputy-manager of the Walton Park coal mine, where he had worked for eight or nine years. The deceased, David Gillies, was engineer and engine-driver, and had worked at the mine for the last twentytwo years—ever since the shaft was sunk. Previous to the 18th inst. the" water had been rising in the shaft in consequence of something being wrong with the pump. On the morning of the 18th witness was instructed by the manager, Mr Kenyon, to go down and repair the leak in the pump. The manager said that the engineer would go down along with him (witness). In reply .to witness deceased said he had a good idea where the leak was. Witness said he thought the leak was three or four feet below the . manhole. . Deceased then said it must be about "half shaft," and explained that he knew every foot of the shaft, having been down several times. Between eight and nino deceased was ready to go down. He would not put on oilskins. Witness said he would follow Gillies down, but the latter said that would not be necessary, a3 he could see what was required, and they could both go down when they were ready to do the repairing. Witness stood at the shaft whilst deceased went down and came up again. He said he had seen where the leak was and explained its nature. Deceased was down the shaft about a quarter of an hour, and had no light on that occasion. He made no complaint about the shaft or about the air. The only complaint he made was about the water dripping down, and said that he would require the oilskins next time. After they had made preparations for repairing the leak, in about twenty minutes time, witness and deceased both uesceuded the shift, deceased going first. Witness had a lamp, but deceased declined to take one, saying he did iot require it for where he was going to work. Thev could see well enough to go down without a lamp. After they had gone down some distance witness told deceased to be careful and not look up for fear that some dirt might come off his (witness's) feet and go into his eyes. There would bs about 4ft between witness's feet and deceastd's head. When they were nrar the leak deceased told witness to tell them at the top to lower down the spanner. Witness did so, and immediately afterwards heard a heavy sigh, followed by a splash in the water. Witness at once ca'led: "Davy, are you all right?" but got no answer. He trailed down the shaft, and called out deceased's name several times, but could neither see him nor get an answer. He then gave the alarm to the top of the shaft. When witness heard the sigh his feet could not have been 'more than 3ft or 4ft above the manhole. Witness found nothing wrong with the bunton or laddering in the ahafr. Witness was carrying an open miner's lamp. He found nothing wrong with the air, and the flamo of the light burnt, quite oUarly. When the alarm was given Mr Kenyon, the manager, came do«vn the shaft, and took witness's lamp, and thoy went down some 30ft or 40ft further. Witness told the manager it was no use going any further, as he was »ure deceased fell into the water at the bottom. Mr Kenyon had the opinion that Gillies had got caught in the bunton, and that was why they went so far down. The water had risen in the shaft about 20ft above the well. They went back to the top and made preparations for grappling for the body. When thoy turned to come to the top of the •shaft they were a lew feet from the top of the water. It did not occur to witnfS3 that the body might bs on the-surface of the water. About half an hour afterwards witness and the manager again went down to within a few feet of the water. They each had a light, which burnt quite freely, and there were no noticeable symptom? of bad air. There was no sign of the body on the surface of the water. David Hunter, the engine man at the raiue, would not use the engine because he was not accustomed to it. This prevented them from using the grappling irons until they got the night-nhift man, Alex. Clark, from Momington, to lower them down to the water. At halt-past two or three o'c!ook Clark came and lowered down Mr Kenyon. William M'Neill went down the bunton? to maintain communication with the top. About half an hour afterwards Mr Kenyon came up and said be thought he had secured the body in the plaae where ha (witness) had indicated—via., in the pump aompartment. Witness and another man named Pollock then Went down to the water and pulled on the grappling rope and brought the body to the surface, and eventually to the top of the shaft. There was a Wound on the back"of the head and an abrasion on the baok of one elbow, and the other arm was broken at the back of the elbow. Dr Will was present when the body was brought to the top of the shaft. There was no appearance of life in the bo ly, which had been lour or five hours in the water. James Pollock had previously been the mine manager for five or six years up to the 4th of October.
By the Inspector: 0f t hi3 own knowledge witness did not know that deceased had previously been down the shaft, but it was part of his duties to look to the pumps. Witness's opinion was that deceased had missed his footing or lost his hold. He knew about the manhole, for he had told witness all about it.
By t onstable O'Sullivan : The buntons varied in the distances from one' another, being in places 15in apart and in others 7in and 6in. The big difference in the width of the SDace3 was at the manhole; it was at this place that witness thought that deceased lost his footing. By Mr Hanlon: The object of the manhole was for the purpose of gaining access to the pumps from the cage in the winding department. The two compartments were separated by the buntons only ; there was no earth. The-' area of the pumping compartment is 4tt 6in by 2ft. The distance from the shaft to the top of the manhole was 81ft, and from the bottom of tbe manhole to the water was 67ft. The full dtstance from the top to the water waa 152 ft 6in, and the distance to the leak was B§ft 6im Witness had been down the shaft on Sunday to the water. He suffered no ill effects from it. It was not correct that Mr Kenyon was prostrated after coming up from the shaft. He was put out and excited. Witness did not see the doctor attend Mr Kenvon. Deceased when he went down the shaft had a spanner hanging from his neck, and had no other tools. When there was no other mode for getting down shafts the buntons were generally used. The reason why Gillies on this occasion was sent down on the buntons was because the engine for working the cage was out of order. Witness did not know that deceased was ordered to go down the shaft, but the repairing of the pump 3 was his duty, and the manager gave instructions for the leak to be repaired that morning. Witness supposed that Mr Kenyon must have known that the only way to get down to the leak was by using the buntons. It was not usual in coal mines, when men went down the buntons, for them to be secured by a rope under their arms. It was not usual for men to descend by the buntons, but in cases of emergency it was frequently done. This applied to witness's experience, not only at Walton Park but at other mines. . Some miners would nqt go down by the buntons, as they were not used to the work. It was a matter of practice. John Kenyon, manager of the Walton Park coal mine, deposed that he had been in his present position since the Wednesday prior to the accident. He gave the last witness instructions on the morning of October 18 to have the leak .in the pipes rnended. Gijlies came to witness and volunteered to go dowp, 'saying he had been down regularly, and knew every inch
of the shaft. Witness; said "All right." He (witness) had not been ddVn the shaft on the buntpns previous to this.- Witness corroborated?. tne-previous witness's'-'evidence regarding de-. v ceased going down the' shaft -once by himself, • and a second time_with Marshall. Witness was r at the top of the shaft, and .heard Marshall' call out to Gilließ.but he heard no answer. Almost immediately afterwards Marshall called' out that Gillies' was down the shaft. Wit-; v nesa at once went down the buntons to almost as far as the water. He couldsee the water. He and Marshall went back : to the top. Witness said ho was not satisfied, and almost immediately went back. He thought Gillies might have got jammed amongst tho pipes. Be made a thorough search, ho-v----ever, and could see no trace of the body. Theyi then got ready the grappling appliances, but it was between one and two before they could make a start, because they had to send to Mprnington for ah engine-driver. Witness tried to grapple the body firat in the main shaft, and then in the pump shaft. He eventually got the body in the latter shaft about 7ft below the surface of the water. It was jammed, however," and he secured the rope.to the buuton and went up to the to'p to get a saw to cnt away a portion of the woodwork to allow the body to be taken through into the main shaft.- Marshall and Pollock went down the next time and completed the work. When witness came up from the Bhaft he felt a little sick, and was given some sodawater. He Btarted lomitimg. He had frequently had the same experience. It was brought on through anxiety, and*was not neces-. sanly caused by contact with foul air. When ■ the body was brought to the top of the shaft life was quite extinct. - . .■
By the Inspector:. If everything had been in proper order there would have been no necessity for the men to have gone down by the buntons. The work could have been done from the cage. The winding apparatus, however, was a total wreck owing to an* accident on the previous Sunday. With ordinary care there was no danger in going down the buntons. If there had been anyfire damp in the shaft, with the lamps use_d there would have been an explosion, and if there had been black damp the lights used would have gone out. There was a good deal of black damp in the "Walton Park mine, but the water in the shale would have sealed back whatever damp there was in the workings. He did not think that deceased had lost his hold through being overcome with damp. By Constable O'Sullivan: The fact of a body falling through the damp wculd break and clear the damp to a certain extent. Owing to an accident some time ago witness was not able to smell damp. The damp could, however, both be smelt and tasted by miners. By Jtfr Hanlon: The-reason why the* men were sent down to repair the leak on Monday morning was that the water was rising, and the longer it was left the' more trouble it would be to get the water away. At the time Gillies was sent down witness was awaro that the way to get down was by using the buntons as a ladder. Gillies, however, volunteered- to go down, saying he knew every foot of the shaft. A rope was lowered down before Gillies went down. The object of this was that Gillies, if he desired to do so, could sit in a loop in the rope while working at the leak. The rope was lowered when deceased went down the first time, and he told them when to make it fast. Witness had taken no precautions before Gillies went down to see that there was no foul air in the shaft. He did not think there was any necessity, because no damp had been experienced there. The of the shaft was too small for a falling body to completely dispel the gas. He was certain there was no foul gas in the mine. Witness's illness was not caused by any contact with foul air. Ho sent 'for the doctor to attend to him after he went home.
John Hayes, acting inspector of mines, deposed that he had visited the Walton Park mine on two or three occasions recently. On the 23rd September ho went down both winding compartments to within a few feet of the surface ofthe water, having previously lowered a light and found that there was no damp nor gas of any description. After the accident was re-ported-he vi-ited the colliery on Thursday last and mado the drawings of the shafts. He went down by the buntons for about eighty-seven feet, and found the air as good as at the surface. The buntons were strong and substantial and fit for the purpose. To an ordinarily acti.e man thero was no difficulty getting up and down by means of the buntons, but at the manhole care had to be exercised. The probability was that deceased had reached the top of the manhole, and being in a hurry had not been careful enough about his next foothold and so fallen. The ownership of the mine had changed hands just a few days previously, and in clearing out the water a complete smash up of the maohinery had taken plaoe on the' Sunday, It would have been two or three weeks before the winding gear could have been got in order. '.
By Mr Hanloa: The buntons at Walton Park were better than in most mines. They went right to the bottom of the Bhaf t, and a mail who fell into tho water and reoeived no injury or was not overcome with gaa would be able to at onoe grasp the buntono and, save himself. Deceased, however, had-fallen 67ft, and the probabilities are that, he would sink a considerable distanoe, and when rising at an angle, ax was generally the case, would catch on aorne impediment and so be drowned. dames Pollock deposed that he had been aoting-manager of the "Walton Park mine for over three years previous to about ten days before the accident. He had only known deceased to go down the buntonn as far as the landing board, a distano of 10ft. He might on occasions have gon* lower down, but not to witness s knowledge. On Monday morning, the day of the accident, when going down insearch of the body, he amelt a little damp. Deceased was an active man, but when anything went wrong he got nervous. By the Inspector: When they were recovering the body they had a lantern which burned very well. Previous to that, after Mr Kenyoa and Mr Marshall came up, water had been pumped down the shaft for about twenty minutes to clear it. The water was diverted into the mine by a hole being knocked in the landing box.
By Mr Hodgkins: Witness was not connected in any way with the mine, but was superintending the repairs to a boiler at the mine. He bad been one of the lessees of the mine. Kenyon was down the Bhaft when witness first got to the mouth of the pit. . Alexander Clark, engine-driver, deposed that deceased knew all about the mine, whieh had always been in the position shown on the plan. Constable O'Sullivan also gave evidence regarding the recovery of the body. The Jury, after an absence of twenty minutes, brought in a verdiotof ''Accidental doth."
THE WALTON PARK MINE FATALITY., Issue 10454, 26 October 1897
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