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THE KAITANGATA CATASTROPHE.

THp ADJOURNED INQUEST. (fbom our special repobter.)

The inquiry into the circumstances attend'ng the late fatal colliery explosion at KaitaDgata was resumed yesterday morning, before Mr E. H. Carew, the district coroner, and a jnry f at the Bridge Hotel, Kaitangata. Superintendent Weidon was also present. A brief delay wa=! cained in the commencement of the proceedings in cotsequence of the temporal y abs-nce of a juror mined Charles Smail, wno met with an acc'cUnt on Friday evening. He wai ldd up in bed, and the doctor had ordered him not to attend the inquest tbat day, lest erysipelas might set in. Mr Andrew Smail, who was al-io a member of tb.9 Jury, stated that his brother was very anxious to attend. At the suggestion of the Coroner sevenl of the Jury repaired to Mr Charles Smart's residence, and brought him to the Court in a boat. William Shore said: lam manager of the No. 1 colliery at Katangata. I have been working at that mine three years and a-half. I have been engaged in coal-mining for 24 years. I was 19 years in Ayrshire, Scotland, and five year* in this Colony. I know the Kaitangata Railway and Coal Co.'a mine. I was in it on four different occasions prior to the explosion. I have been through the old workings when the men were engaged there. That must have been 12 months ago, as near aa I can judge. The la?t time I was in the mine, prior to the explosion, was about three months ago. Do you know the stat9 of the mine at that time with regard to fire-damp? No further than from hearsay. I had occasion to go there for some dynamite once, and the men said then that there was fire-dump in the heading. What wa<i the general reputation that the mine bore with regard to nre-damp ? With the exception of this one place I have referred to, I never heard of fire-damp being in the mine. Its reputation was pretty good. Did you ever know of any accident taking placs from fira-damp ? Yei; I knew of Mr Jarvie being burnt there. Theu all you know on that subject is that fire-damp was seen in the heading ? Yes; repeatedly seen there—that is, going towards the rise. I understand the system by which the mine was ventilated. You say you know the old workings ? Yes. Is the rcof_ higher tban the air-shaft ? Yes; c >i;siderably higher. And v.ouli there be spaces in it ? Yes. Do you consider, then, that the mine was properly vent lated, knowing that there was fit c damp in the mine ? I can't say that the old workings were thoroughly ventilated, to judge from appearances. In what would the ventilation be deficient? The air was allowed to scatter, instead of the current being carried along in one body. Of course I am speaking now from appearances after the explosion. What do you consider the best way of achieving that object? The cheapest and s'mplest way would have been to have fire-screens. Your name has been mentioned in connection with a safety -lamp : have you got it? No; ■ I found it and delivered it to the owners. Where did you find it ? In the new workings.

It could not have been blown from the old workings to where you saw it ?

No ; that would have been impossible. I believe you found Archie Hodge's body ? Yes; it was about half-past 4 o'clock on the Sunday morning after the accident. He was found in the old workings—the only one that was found there.

Have you formed any opinion as to where the explosion originated ? I have no hesitation in saying that it took place in the old workings. Why? I form that opinion from the direction in which the blast travelled. There were plenty of traces from the way in which the stoppings have been knocked out. Besides, you can see the direction of the current on the floor of the mine. Where do you think it started from ? It must have started from where the body of Archie Hodge was found. A Juror: In searching for Hodge's body, did you use a safety-lamp ? Undoubtedly. And v/ere there any traces of fire-damp still remaining ? No ; not whilst we were searching. After it was hnown that fire-damp bad been seen in the heading you have spoken of, would you consider it a safe or a rash thing for a miner to go into the old workings with a naked light? I would always consider it a rash thing fc r a man to go into o'd workings on any occasion, knowing that fire-damp existed. Have you worked much in mines in which fire-damp wai known to exist ? Fire-damp has been known to exist in every mine I have worked in, with the exception of the Green Island ininea.

When did you first hear of fire damp in this mine?

When Mr Jarvie was burnt—about six months ago. As mauagerof a mine, do you think it proper to leave the healings ot' old workings open, in Buch a way that men may go in and out w.tii naked lights a? they choose ? It may not be proper, but it ia customary in coal-miues to leave them open, so that men may trav<l out and in, although they are generally prohibited from doing so. It U customary to have a board with the word "Fire" written on it. George Jonathan Binnu sm<l : I am a mining engineer. I have a certificate of compel ency as manager of a mine from the North-East Lancashire B.ard of Examiners. I am coal-viewer for the General Government of New Zealand. I know the Kaitangata Railway and Coal Company's mm -, having been down it once previous to its explosion. That was on the 24th January last. I than examioeJ the new workings, and portions of the old workings, on behalf of the Government. I had permission from the late Mr Hodge, the manager. Tte permiapioa was given perfectly freely. Will you state what opinion you have formed in regard to ventilation and the mode of working ? I have formed the opinion that the ne v workings were, comparatively spealduif, sufficiently yeutilat.ed, but the old workings wer* in a very dangerous condition : or, perhaps, to put it more correctly, they wer<s not unlikely to become in a very dangerous c mditioa. And do you mean that you did not ascertain •whether it was so or not ? I did not ascertain that it was »o.

Do you wish to give any explanation of that? Certainly. In the first placa I had no time, and in the second place there was no safetylamp. Besides, I was assured by Hodge that there was no gas there. . And did your not having a safety-lamp influence you at all in not going farther into the old workings than you did ? I can't say that it did. If I had had one it is possible that I might have gone farther than I did, but I did not stop owing to not haying one. To test these high places would require a great expenditure of time, and would aho require either a ladder or a veiy Imp pole. And w<is that time at your disposal ? Not entirely. I was given a certain time to " work" this part of the Island, and .although I did not occupy that time fully, I had to get on as fast as possible. The words of my instruo tioos were to go through as quickly aa possible, as thera was a great deal of other work to be done. Perhaps at the time I did not consider the danger of the thing so much as I did after I had left. Hodge told me that gas had never been seen in the old workings, and I was bound to believe him. I thought these large open spaces constituted an element of danger, and I said so to Hodge. If there had been no unevenness in the roof a current of air would have taken all the gas away. If the roof had been uneven the gas would lodge in the_ highest places. lam of opinion that the brattice-work is not proper in the main intake. There should most certainly have been another outlet. It is scarcrly possible to say whether another outlet would have saved any men after the explosion. The openings from the new to the old workings should have bean cut off by brick stopping and a trap-door, fitted with a lock, the key of which the manager should keep. Would you consider it a want of ordinary care that the passages were not fittel in that way under the supposition that gas had been seen? Certainly ; it was great negligence. Whose duty would it have been to make that provision ? I should say the manager of the mine ought to have done it. A Jur r: Did you make aDy report to the Government of that fact' Witness: I made a repojt ta the head of my department. The Juror: Have you a copy thereof ? Witnesj: I'Lave ac py thereof. Another Juror: Did you give any instruction to Hodge 1 I had no power to give instiuctions to Mr Hodga. I excee lei my duty as it was in telling Mm that it was very dangerous. The im-mine.K-e of tin daagtr prompted me to do this. I went round tin mina principally to collect statistics and report on the mine; but if I saw anything that requ'rei attention di\»wn to in my cursory examiua'ion, I nientiouei it. The Juror: Did you form any opinion as to the capability of the manager 1 Witness: I had not time. It is impossible to form an opinion of any man in a couple of hoars. It would take we^ks or months. He was a very reticent man, but quite willing to give any information I asked for. Examination coatiaued: I have examined the pit this morning. I have been close to the place where Aichibald Hodge was killed, and have found a very large quantity of gas thtra, Is it dangerouß 1 Highly dangerous; sufficiently dangerous, indeed, to cause another explosion if approached with a naked light. Must that g&3 have accumulated since the lasb explonon? I should certainly say so. All gaa wou'd be cleared out by that explosion. Can you tell me what a "blower" is? A blower is a sudden outburst of ga<?, which hr.s probably generated in the coal some distance in—l should say in a cavity —and finds au outtefc in owt place and escapes from there in a stream that you can light. You can hear it

Would you say that this has accumulated from a blower ? I should say not. Will you give your reason ? So far m I can form an opinion, it was not from a bl iwtr. Do you think that the gas accumulates very quickly in this particular mine ? Yes; in a p&rticular portion. On the morning of the explosion and the day previous the barometer had fallen very considerably. I don't know how much it had fallen, but such was the case. With the foil of the barometer

the gas would be likoly to come out from the coal readily. Mr Allan Holmes then stepped forward to give his evidence. Addressing him, the Coroner said : I understand you are a director of the Company, and you may or may not be responsible for the management of the mine. I therefore caution you that you are not compelled to answer every question uobss you choose to do so

Allan Holmes said: I am a director of the KaitaDgata Railway and Coal Company. I am not the chairman of directors. I have taken no part whatever in the management of the mine. It was managed by William Hodge, under the directors. He received no instructions whatever from the directors as to the general mauagemsnt of the mine. He only cod suited the directors on special matters. Were the directors ever informed of there being fire damp in the mine ? I was informed of it, and they would know of it, I imagine. Who told you ? Hodge told me himself. About what time was this ? About the end of July or the beginning of Au?u t. That was the first time I. had heard of it. What were his words ? He said the mine was making a littk firedamp. I said, "You must take tvery precaiitioa." He said it was a mere notbiug, or something to that effect. I toll him that I should ftel a great deil more comfortable if the mine was put upon the sa'ety-lamp system. He said he had appointed Beardsmore as fireman, and it was Heardsmtre's duty to gorouid tLe mine evay morning and inspect it thorough'y for fire-Jamp. I impressed upon him the neoestiiy oE using every {.recaution, and told him to see that tLe men did not enter the mine ti 1 it bal been examined every morning. Tue mtn did not at pear to be frightened about fire-damp. They never dreamt of any big explosion, but simply feared one 'r two of fjemgtt'ing buriit occasionally in tha rooms. Hodge was a very caie'ul man, and from several truits I observed in his character I had every confidence in him. About the end of December rr tbe beginning of January last, I came down to the mine to see how it was going on. Hodge told me that the previous day the men had not beei at work, and he would not allow me to go into the mine, as it had not be*n tested that morning. Beard-m'-re was sought for, and I took the oppor unity of questioning him on tbe subject if nre-dimp when we were alone. Ho appeared to be a Very intelligent lean, and t(-ld me that he had spoilt the greater part of his Ife am >i>g fire. Hesetmul to realise the cLngrr of firedamp, and my visit raas&mvd ma that every precaution would be taken Just before that 1 ordered several safety-lamps and an instrument for test'ng the velocity of the a'r. Ho 'ge told me tbat he had or le-red three dozen safety-lampe. He had gnral authority to get all timber for the mine without requisition to tbe directors. He had full permission to o'jtain anything he wanted for the working of the mine, and, so far as I know, he has n, ver been r fused anything Mr Hodge had a c nskl- r.ible interest in the mine, beirjg a shurabolder to a la-ge extent. The fact of his beicg a shareholder did not interfere with our attitude towards him. He was exceedngly pushing and faithful in every respect so far as I knew. I got to know that there were defects

in tU mode of winning the coal, but I was convinced that he woukl take evtry cars of ha men. He took ia the Mining Journal, aiid bought expensive works on mining, and once thought of attending the M nes classes at the Otago "University. [An extract from Mr Cox's report of the mine, as embodied in the report of geological explorations during 1877-8, witness took to be favourable. ] After an adjournment of 15 minutes for lunch the Jury reassembled. The Coroner (to Mr Binns) : Mr BinDS, I wish to ask you one question that I had previously forgotten. Some of the witnesses have given it as their opinion—but they did not pretend that they were experts—that the gas that penetrated in the new workings would be carried across into ihe old workings until it met the high places', and tb.3n it wouldeeparate from the air and rtinain there. Do you believe that's a oc rrect theory ? Mr Binns: I don't be'ieve itis. Air charged with gas might go up there, but unless the air in the main drive were explosive, I don't tbink that the air there Lidged would be explosive. The Coroner: 1 hen the accumulation of gas in the old workings came from the old workings ? Witness: Decidedly.

The Coroner : I think that will do. (To the Jury): Well, gentlemen, that's all the evidence there is to lay before you. It is your duty now to consider your verdict. I think there can be no doubt that you will find that the deaths of these men have been occasioned by an explosion of gas in the mine. If you find that, then you have further to consider whether the explosion was caused —or whether the collection of the gas and the explosion of the gas were occasioned—through the negligent or improper working of the mine. I will read to you from " Eussell on Crimes " (vol. i), so that you may understand for what purpose you have to consider that: —'' An indictment for manslaughter alleged that it was the duty of the prisoner to cause to be ventilated a coal mine, and to cause it to be kept free from noxious gases, and tint the prisoner feloniously omitted to cause the mine to be ventilated, and that noxious gases accumulated and exploded, wherehy the deceased was killed. It appeared that the deceased was killed by the explosion of firedamp in a colliery, of which the prisoner was a sort of a manager, and it was computed on the part of the prosecution that this explosion would have been prevented if the prisoner had caused an air-heading to have been put up, as it was his duty to have done. For the defence it was attempted to be proved that it was the duty of one of the persons killed to have reported to the prisoner-that an air-heading was

required, and! that hchad not done bo. _■ In summing up, Moule, JV, said: -'The questions for you to consider are, whether-it was the duty of the prisoner to have: directed an airheading to have been made in this mine, and whether by his omitting to_ do so he waa guilty of a want of ordinary and reasonable precaution. If you are satisfied that it was the plain and ordinary duty of the prisoner to have caused an air-heading to have been made in this mine, and that a man using reasonable diligence would have done it, and that by the omission the death of the deceased occurred, you ought to find the person guilty of manslaughter. It has been contended that some other persons were, on this occasion, also guilty of neglect; still, assuming that to be bo,'their neglect will not excuse the prisoner, for if a person's death be. occasioned by the neglect of several, they are all guilty of manslaughter; and it is no defence for one who was negligent to say that another was negligent also, and thus, a* it were, to try to divide the negligence among them.'" It may be that that is a cass very much to the point. If you think that this mine waa improperly worked by_ Wm. Hodge, who wsb the manager of the mine, and that it was his duty to have worked it in a different manner—that it was his duty to have made better pro\i-ion for ventilation, or to have got the passage into the old workings I eloped, so that persons could not go in. and out as they chose, —then, gentlemen, I think you have to find that he was guilty of such culpable negligence as would amount to manslaughter. If, on the other band, you think that this vwa an unforeseen occurrence that might almost occur doily in the working of themine, and that it was simply aud-Jental, you will find that it was so. With regard to Archibald Hodge, even if you were to find that Wm. Hodge worked and kept the mine in a negligent manner, the fact of Archibald Hodge entering the old workings with a nakel light would also render him culpable. Oq thit poii.t Russell, on page 864, vol. i. saja.—"Where persons employed about snch of their lawful occupations whence danger may probably arise to others, neglect the ordinary cautions", it will be manslaughter at least on account of tuch negligence." If you think that if he ussd ordinary precautions he would not have fjone into the old workings without being provided with a safety-lamp, I think, then, gentlemen, you would also have to find him guilty of manslaughter. If there is any part o£ the evidence —I have here all the evidence talwn on the different diys—that yfu would wish your memory refreshed upon, I shall be very glad to read it to you. Or if there is any other point you wish t) ask me about —and it is my duty to diract your attention to every point connected with the matter —I shall be glad to do so. The room will now be cleared whilst you consider your verdict. Shortly after 3 o'clock the Jury were left to consider their verdict. About 10 minutes to 4 o'clock the Foreman sent for the Coroner.

The Coroner: Gentlemen, are you agreed upon your verdict ? Foreman: We are.

The Coroner : How do you find ? Foreman: First, your Worship, the Jury find " That Archibald Hodge, through entering the old workings without ordinary precaution and with a naked light, caused an explosion of fire-damp whereby 34 men and boys lost their lives " Second, the Jury find " That William Hodge has not used the necessary precautions to prevent an explosion of fire-damp in the mine over which he had the management."_ As a rider, we add " That seeing that there is no law for inspection and supervision in the conduct of mining, we express the necessity of measures being adopted whereby many accidents may in the future be averted."

The inquiry then closed,

THE KAITANGATA RELIEF FUND,

The Central Committee acknowledge the rece'pt of the following subscriptions to tbe

fund:—South District Scbo A (i er Mr Park), L 25 lla ; Walter Robson, Whit-lea, L 2 2t; D M Robson, 10s ; R J Morrison, 10s; Harry Tobin, 10s; John Bam, ss; R Fras-r, ss; Da ly Times staff, Lls ; Josiah Richards. Wanpanui, LI Is; W A Wilson, Portobello, L 8 17s; Nevil'e Thornton, Wellington, Ll4. Further contributors from Christchurcb, per Mr J A Bird, L 200; sma'l nugget of gold, per Mrs H J Walt r, from Miss Rosabel Wilkin. son, Kirg-ton ; L4l Is 4d, proceeds of lecture by Mr O Bright, after deducting L 2 Cs Gd for expenses.

Two of the Inverrargill I;st3 have been filled and returned. Mr Harvey's shows a total of L 26 11s, snd the Rev. A H Stobo's of L 34 ss.

It is anticipated tbat tbe Blue Sour claimholders will contribute about L7O. The Great Extended Company has headed the list with Ll4, and tbe Ntlsou Company has given LlO 10».

The Timaru Herald believes that between L4OO and LSOO will be subscribed in Timaru alone.

The costume cricket match at Hagl^y Park, Cbristchurch, in aid of the Kaitangata Fund, will be held on St. Patrick's Day. The cricketers and Towle's amateurs have amalgamated the sports and cricket. Persons paying 2s 6d at the cricket-ground obtain a ticket for the concert in the evening. Beside the cricket match and concert there will be a Richardson Show, a dancing-tent. Maypole dancers, for-tuce-tellincr, a sensational drama written by W. HilLand a pantomime. As the day is a bank holiday, beside 3 being proclaimed a general one, an immense attendance is looked for in the park. It is probable that the Mayors and Borough Councils of Kaiapoi and Rangiera will play a muff cricket rnatcb. the proceeds to be devoted to the Kaitangata Relief Fund. The Rev. J. W. Inslis re delivered his brilliant lecture on "Sir Walter Scott" last evening, on behalf of the Kaitangata Relief Fund, in Knox Churcb. Tue lecturer was introduced by the Rev. Dr Stuart. During the delivery of bis discourse the Rev. Mr Jnglis recited very effectively the poem written by MiThomas Bracken on the Kaitangata disaster, and at the conclusion of the lecture ho spoke with much feeling of the terrible calamity, and of the effect which the news had upon the people in distant parts of the Colony. The lecture was listened to with rapt attention, and its delivery proved a treat to the audience, as well a=i being a grateful tribute of sympathy and help from the lecturer, to those who have suffered loss by the terrible mining calamity. Over 600 pjisoas were present. The sum of L2l Is 6d was recaived at the door for admission, and tickets were presented which represented LlO 4s Cd, bo that the amount the lecture will yield to the fund will be L3l Cs

TII9 workmen of Messrs Angus and Co, brickmakers, &c , Invercargill, have subscribed L2l to the hind; while the men employed at the Mataura Paper-mill have each agreed to give a day's pay. Our Invercargill co; respondent telezraphed last night:—" A concert, given by the Garrison Band, came off to-night. It was in aid of the Kaitangata Relief I'und, and proved a great success."

The concert given by the Oamaru Philharmonic Society lust night in aid of the fund was well attended. The proceeds amounted to L3O.

A Greymouth telegram dated March 10th says:—"All the Friendly Societies meet tonight to arrange for a grand fete at Easter on behalf of the Kaitangata Fund."

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Bibliographic details

THE KAITANGATA CATASTROPHE., Otago Daily Times, Issue 5322, 11 March 1879

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THE KAITANGATA CATASTROPHE. Otago Daily Times, Issue 5322, 11 March 1879

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