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FEARFUL MINING CATASTROPHE AT KAITANGATA.

THE MANAGER AND UPWARDS OF

THIRTY MEN KILLED.

(BY OUR OWN REPORTER.)

Early yesterday morning a telegram was received in town stating that an explosion tad occurred in the Kaitangata Coal Company's mine at Kaitacgata; that a large number of men were in the mine, and that there was little hope of any of them being rescued alive. It also appeared from the first telegrams received tbat a boy, who was leading a horse into the mine, had been killed. By the 11.25 train a number of gentlemen, including Mr James Davidson, the manager of the Kaitangata Com pany, Mr Watson, and Mr[TwinningJ(in'ning engineer), left Dunedin for the mine. Stn ng hopes were entertained that the catastrophe was not so serious as was represented, and a telegram received at Waihola did not give the affair a mere serious aspect. Upon arrival at Stirling, however, thenewscame like a shock that three dead bodies had been recovered, and that there was scarcaly any hope of any of the men being saved. The number of men in the mine is not positively known, but all the under ground men—some 30 or 31—and the manager, Mr Wm. Hodge—werejin the workings when the explosion took place, and not one escaped alive.

The accident occurred shortly after 9 o'clock in the morning, but how it was occasioned will only be a matter of conjecture when the mine ha? been examined by experts. The inhabitants of the township observed a dense column of smoke issuing from the mine, and many hastened to it, knowing that it betokened a very serious condition of ail airs. It appears that there was hardly any report, but a boy named Edward Dunn, who was entering the mine, was thrown out of it by the explosion a distance of about 20 yards; that a horse and bix empty trucks were projected from the pit's mouth a similar distance; and that another lad, named James Hawke, who, noticing smoke and dust coming from the pit, was trying to escape, was blown some distance, but falling into a slight hollow, escaped serious injury. The boy Dunn was killed instantaneously, and was much lacerated, but strange to say, the horse was not kille'l, although it was greatly injured. Without delay the men from the neighbouring pits met together and organised a volunteer party to try to rescue the miners, or to recover their bodies, and simultaneously tho women and children gathered at the mouth of the pit. When the danger became known, the scene at the pit was indescribably. sad. The women and children huddled together on a hillock and gave vent to their anguish in the most heartrendiDg cries, but only the children were able to find relief in tears. The simple statement of the facts that some 20 women knew that in

all probability they had spoken to their husbands for the last time, and that the strong 1 arms of the breadwinners of 100 children lay atill in death, will perhaps most adequately convey an. idea' of the feelings which sought expression in the piteous cries that went up from such an assemblage of widows and orphans. All the miners assembled were ready to do their utmost, to the imminent peril of .their own lives, in order if possible to help their comrades in the mine. The body of the boy Dunn, a eon of George Dunn (hawker), was recovered, and Messrs W. Shore, K. M. Sewell, Aitcheaon, and others entered the pit In the meantime, Mr J. B. Griffin, the stetionmaster, had despatched an engine to Balclutha for Dr Smith, and had also telegraphed to other places for assistaace. The rescuing party made but slow progress. Although only two falls had been caused by the explosion, the drives; had been cleared of the " brattices," or partition?, which j cause the draught necessary to the safety of the mine, and these had to be replaced "with canvas, or the men could not have lived five minutes in the mine. As it was, several of the workmen were well-nigh suffocated. At first they did not work in regular shifts, but those who started worked under Buoh excitement that they could not be induced to desist when they were unable to continue the work effectively, and had to be dragged out when they became faint. On reaching the mouth of the pit they were in a deplorable state, but recovered within 15 minutes or half an hour of their removal to the open air. Meßsrs Shore, Stevens, Sewell, and Aitcheson were all exhausted in this manner. When it was found that the "after-damp!" which follows an explosion of gas was so strong, all hope of rescuing any of the men alive was abandoned by all the experienced miner?.

At 12.25 p.m. three of the bodies were recovered and brought to the pit's mouth. The first was that of a younsr man named Charles M'Donald, a son of Jolin M'Donald. This body was found nearest to the mouth ef the pit, and waa scorched to such an extent that at first the lad's father did not recognise him, and Ihe was subsequently identified by his clothing. The bodies next identified were those of WUJ liam Hay, a single man, and Edward Beards- ! more, who leaves a wife and two small children. These men had not been hurt by the explosion, but, as was also apparent in the whole of the remaining bodies which were recovered, had Jnaet their death by the afterdamp. A few minutes afterwards the body of James Beardsmore, jun., was brought out and recognised. Of this family five of its members were engaged in the pit, and four were at work when the fatal explosion occurred. Shortly after 1 o'clock the men brought out the bodies of three olhers—viz, George Lockhart (married), John Clark (married), and John Gage (who leaves a wife and three children). During the next half-hour the following bodies were recovered :—Thomas Blapk (single), George Jarvey (who leaves a, wife and two children), Thomas Frew (married), and Caleb Beardsmore (who leaves a wife and four children). Constable Warring took charge of the bodies, and conveyed them to Jenkins' new | hotel. At this time (1.30 p.tn.) a delay occurred in consequence of the air being too foul to permit men to work. After a short rest a further attempt was made, and by 7 p.m. 16 more bodies were identified and placed in the hotel, and four others had been seen in the workings. During this time the bodies of the following men wete recovered :—R. Hall and his brother, — Hall, D. Buchanan, John Mulloy (sen.) and his sons J. F. and J. Mulloy, James Beardsmore (Hen.), Wm. Whinney, Joseph Bsardsruore, Joseph Moulton, Barney M'Geo, John Coining, William Hodge (manager), W. S. Wilson, and W. Watson, Mr Davidson, on his arrival in the afternoon, gave the management of the mine to Mr Twinning (mining engineer), who had previously acted as inspector for the company. Mr Twinning got the men to work systematically, and was most energetic himself in leading them through the workings, and in recovering the bodies. There are many who deserve to be honourably mentioned for their courageous exertions in endeavouring to save the lives of the workmen of the Kaitangata Company's nnue, and in bringing out the bodies. Prominent amongst these may be named Messrs Shore, Sewell, Aitcheaon, Wm. Bain, Thomas Knowlea, John Gray, John M'Farlane (of Wangaloa), Bissetts (father and two sons), Wm. Law, Joseph Robertson, and John Nelson.

At about 6.45 p.m. Mr Samson (the Mayor of Green Island) and some 24 miners from the Green Island pita arrived by special train and relieved the men who had been at work during the afternoon- Mr Thomas Logan, a successful and experienced quartz miner, stripped and went in with the men to assist them in their endeavours to rescue the remaining bodies—for there was no hope whatever of any being brought out alive.

At 7 p.m. four bodies were found in the pit, but were not brought out or identified. The body of Archie Hodge had not been, found at 8 p.m., when the special train left Kajtannuta, furuunediu, ana it was supposed that it would be in some of the side workings, probably in the chamber in which the gas had accumulated.

Mo3t of the bodies were all found pretty close together in the main intake for tho air, and about 300 yards from the mouth of the drive. As the men were more or less clothed, and were close together, it is considered most probable that after the explosion they were trying to make their escape, when they were overtaken by the attar-damp and suffocated. It would be idle to attempt to describe the effect of this melancholy accident upon the little township of Kaitangata. The catastrophe has no parallel in this Colony, and probably not in the Australian Colonies ; and the feeling in regard to it, especially at the scene of its occurrence, is one of acute anguish and intense sympathy. The Rev. Mr Allan (Presbyterian) and the Rev. Mr Carr (Wealeyan) arrived at Kaitangata during the afternoon, and did all in their power to alleviate the sufferings of those who had lost relatives by this sad calamity. Commissioner Weldon, Inspector Moore, and a strong staff of police were also present to attend to the duties which devolve upon them on such occasions.

LIST OP THE DEAD. As we have already stated, the number of men in the mine at the time of the accident is not known, but it must have been from 32 to 35. Twenty-six bodies have been identified, four others nave been discovered, ami Archie Hodge is known to be in the mine, but his body has not yet been found. The bodie3 of the following men are now lying in the new public-house, at Kaitangata :— Edward Dunn Charles Mac Donald William Hay Ed. Beardsmore James Beardamore, jun. Caleb Beardsmore Edward Beardsmore, sen. Elisha Beardsmore William Hay D. Lockhart John Clark John Gage Thomas Black George Jarvey Thomas Frew • R. HaE D. Buchanan John F. Mulloy John Mulloy, sen. E. Mulloy William Whinney Joseph Moulton Barney M'Gee James Coining William Hodge (manager) W. S. Wilson W. Watson — Hall John M'Millan John Ferguson — Coulter, sen.

(By Telegraph.) Kaitakgaxa., midnight. Four men have yet to be found. Their names are:—A. Hodge, J. Spiers, T. Smith, and A. Jarvie.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18790222.2.19

Bibliographic details

FEARFUL MINING CATASTROPHE AT KAITANGATA., Otago Daily Times, Issue 5308, 22 February 1879

Word Count
1,742

FEARFUL MINING CATASTROPHE AT KAITANGATA. Otago Daily Times, Issue 5308, 22 February 1879

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