Millfield Mine Disaster Article 1

"used with permission of the Dayton Daily news"

Dayton Daily News/Journal Herald- Cox publishing

article submitted by Susan Leffler fellow Athens county researcher


Dayton Daily News, Thursday, November 6, 1930: Toll In Mine Blast Will Be Greatly Increased; Last Body Taken out; Survivors Are Near Death. 76 Officials and Workers known to have Perished. President Tytus, Inspectors Killed. Three Men Performing Rescue Overcome and Brought to Surface.

No. 6 mine of the Sunday Creek Coal Co. gave up the last of its dead today when the 76th and last body of the men who met death when an explosion and fire wrecked the underground workings later yesterday was brought to the surface.

Fear that this toll might be increased, however, was expressed by rescue workers and officials of the Sunday Creek Co., because of the serious condition of 18 men who escaped from the inferno alive. They were brought to the surface late last night and early today after having spent several hours in the gas filled shaft. Following is the corrected list of identified dead in the disaster: Thomas R. Raynor, traffic manager, Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co., Fultenham, O.; Vernon Roberts, foreman for the glass company; Howard Upson, Newark Field Manger for the Sunday Creek Co; Robert Parsons, Zanesville, glass company official; Joe Bergin, of the Ohio Power Co., Philo, O.; P.A. Coen, Columbus, vice president in charge of the sales for the Sunday Creek Co.; Hubert Lancaster, Nelsonville, Chief engineer of the coal company; Walter Hayden, coal company superintendent; William Tytus, Columbus, president of the Sunday Creek Company, all members of an inspection party that entered the mine shortly before the blast, and the following miners: Paul Burids, Harry Sykes, Delmar Bauer, Phillip Erwin, Luther Wade, James Hurd, E.F. McKee, Walter Undervich, George Brown, Joe Jackson, George Thomas, Ben Fielder, Virgil Phillips, George McLean, Floyd Pettit, James Martin, William Pratt, Thomas Peyett, Carl Robinette, Joe Butsko, John Nadroski, George Love, Charles Hoopes, William Kish (NOTE: actual spelling is Keish), Ray Hunter, Frank R. Davis, Alex Bernick, Andy Tanok, and John Bauer.

Three men performing rescue work were reported overcome in the gaseous chambers today, but were brought to the surface safely by others.

A silent crowd of women and children whose husbands and fathers met death stood throughout the night, hoping against hope that their loved ones had escaped the choking gas, but broke into tears when body after body was brought to the surface in a cage that dropped down into the depths of the mine. The cause of the explosions remained uncertain today, although it was generally believed to have been caused by accumulation of gas. F.W. Smith, chief of the mine division of the Ohio department of industrial relations, said the cause could not be determined until a thorough examination is made. He said, however, that the blasts occurred about a mine and three-fourths from the shaft.

The 18 who still lived were in so serious a condition that physicians feared to risk pneumonia by bringing them from the gaseous underground to the chill, biting fresh air of the surface. They were being cared for at the bottom of the shaft. It was believed that they had built brattices to escape the deathly fumes.

Meanwhile, this little village, a typical Hocking co. mining center, virtually was under martial law. A detachment of national guardsmen was through about the entrance to keep back the anxious and the curious alike, and keep traffic moving on the narrow, winding road leading to Athens, the county seat, nine miles away from where relief supplies were being dispatched.

Several hundred friends and loved ones of the tombed men huddled together, sometimes hysterical, sometimes quietly weeping as they kept their eyes on the entrance of the shaft. Rescue men, working until the effect of the gas drove them out and then giving way to another crew, toiled throughout the night under brilliant searchlights.

As fast as the bodies were brought out, they were taken to the temporary make-shift morgue near the mine entrance, where a corps of 25 embalmers from a number of cities were on hand to lay them out on slabs to await identification.

Many of the victims "faces were blued and twisted and the bodies gave evidence of their wild rushes seeking freedom from the gas".

A temporary hospital was established while Salvation Army and Red Cross organizations distributed blankets, food, and other necessities.

Representatives of the state department of public relations were on hand with instructions from Gov. Myers Y. Cooper to write compensation checks for poverty-stricken families.

The first explosion was tremendous. Tons of slate and coal were jolted into the passageways. Bodies of many of the workers were dismembered. A short time later, there was a second blast and the mine filled with gas which penetrated masks and held back rescuers until last night.

The, mine rescue squads from Ohio an Pennsylvania, besides those recruited from the surrounding mining territory, went down and discovered the full extent of Ohio's worst mining tragedy. There was a heap of bodies at the bottom of the first shaft, while others were sprawled throughout the tunnels; some of them dying with their hands grasping at their throats or kneeling in prayer.