Successful Mine Rescues in May

1907 — Seven miners were rescued after 100 hours in the flooded Mine No. 38 of the Berwind-White Operations at Foustwell (near Johnstown), Pennsylvania. Their rescue was made possible by the bravery of Stiney Rodon and Charles Ream who located the men by swimming 50 feet through a water-filled heading. Earlier, four others made a similar attempt, but were unsuccessful and returned half-drowned. Mike Bolya, a mine contractor, took charge of the group of trapped men and led them to the highest point in the heading where they waited for rescuers. Source document.

1912 — Norrie Mine, Oliver Iron Mining Company, Ironwood, Michigan – A party of 10 miners and 3 trammers on the night shift was walking home from the boundary of the property above the twentieth level of the mine. Hearing ground dropping, they retreated to what they thought was a safe place, the main drift, which was securely timbered and had 35 to 40 feet of solid ore above it. The cave, however, did not occur at the place where the men had been working, but in the very place of refuse to which they had retreated, crushing in the drift timbers over a length of about 80 feet. Six men were rescued alive after about 24 hours, but one died about a week later. In all, 7 miners were killed.

1919 — After almost 10 hours of tunneling, Andrew Coshosky, trapped under a fall of slate in the Old Colony Mine, Ligonier, Pennsylvania, was rescued and expected to recover. Covered to a depth of 30 feet, the only way to reach him was to drive a tunnel under the fallen mass of rock. Source document.

1928 — Frank Bucsha was found alive and said to be in good condition after he was found 55 hours following the Mather Mine explosion in Mather, Pennsylvania on May 19, 1928. 195 miners were killed in the blast of the mine owned by Pickand-Mather and Company. Another miner, John Wade, was rescued from the same mine after 147 hours. Mine officials said he must have been wandering around in the mine and was missed by the rescuers. Source document.

1939 — Robert Galligan was rescued from a “bootleg” anthracite mine near Shenandoah, Pennsylvania after a cave-in trapped him in the mine for 65 hours. During the rescue, he was heard joking and singing. Source document.

1939 — Rescuers worked for 15 hours to free sixty year old Joseph Babatsky after a fall of clay in a “bootleg” anthracite coal mine near Shenandoah in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Thirty rescuers began the work shortly after the fall and as they neared him, he instructed them how to proceed. Source document.

1957 — 50-year-old, Cantrell Owens, was rescued from an abandoned Kentucky coal mine near Harlan after spending more than 2 days lost in mine. Rescuers had to give up the search once because of the foul air they encountered. Source document.

1958 — 24 miners, trapped for more than 15 hours, were rescued from a flooded Boone County Coal Corporation mine in Logan, West Virginia. There were no deaths reported in this accident. Source document.

1968 — Inundation of water at the Saxsewell No. 8 Mine in Hominy Falls, WV. Fifteen men were rescued 5 days later and six others were rescued 10 days after the inundation occurred. Source document.

1972 — Two men, Tom Wilkinson and Ronald Flory, were rescued and found to be in good condition after being trapped for 8 days following the Sunshine silver mine fire in Kellogg, Shoshone County, Idaho. 91 miners were killed in the disaster. The four men responsible for the rescue were Wayne D. Kanack, Frank J. Delimba, and Don Morris from the U. S. Bureau of Mines, and Sonny Becker, a Sunshine miner. Source document.

Rescuer Deaths in May

1911 — Hartford Mine Fire, Negaunee, Michigan — Within 1 hour after the discovery of the fire, an attempt was made to begin rescue operations without the aid of breathing apparatus. Three bodies were discovered. However, because of the reversal of the air current while erecting a stopping, the smoke became so dense that the shift boss ordered the men to return to the surface. One man attempted to remain and finish the stopping but was overcome. It was several hours before rescuers reached him, but he was dead. Three of the others attempted to go out to the Cambria shaft but were overcome and were revived with great difficulty.

1913 — Taylor Mine Asphyxiations, Hartford, Kentucky — Five men were killed by black damp in a deserted shaft of a coal mine belonging to the Taylor Mining Company. The men were working near the shaft when C. F. Frazier went to explore the abandoned digging. He fell into the water and with the four others who went to his rescue succumbed to black damp. The miners attempting to rescue Frazier included John Killers, J. P. Ramer, F. Tourk, and Jim Porter.

1913 — Imperial Mine Explosion, Belle Valley, Ohio — Henry Fairhurst, a member of the first rescue party to enter the Imperial mine following the explosion, was overcome by gas and died soon after being brought to the surface.

1915 — Smokeless Valley No. 1 Mine Explosion, Johnstown, Pennsylvania — Apparatus man succumbed during recovery work. Mr. Gomer Phillips was an employee of the Cambria Steel Company of Johnstown, PA. Mr. Phillips was a voluntary rescue man in the Johnstown explosion and came to his death while wearing the apparatus in attempting to rescue the men in the explosion. Mr. Phillips was the captain of the rescue team.

1920 — Mullan Tailing Plant Electrocution, Idaho — A miner was electrocuted and instantly killed at a sub-station of the Washington Water Power Plant, when he was endeavoring to rescue a patrol man of the company, whom he found burned and unconscious upon going to the sub-station to investigate the cause of the power being shut off at the plant in which he was working.

1940 — Anthracite “Bootleg” Operation, Eastern Pennsylvania — On May 16, 1940, Andrew Wolfgang, a foreman of the Philadelphia & Reading Coal & Iron Co., and captain of a mine rescue team, lost his life while wearing a McCaa 2-hour oxygen breathing apparatus, in an attempt to rescue a miner at the bottom of a 50-foot, almost vertical, shaft at a “bootleg” mining operation.

1982 — Magma Mine Cave-in, Superior, Arizona — At about 2:40 a.m., as two miners were barring down some loose ground near timbers, a cave-in suddenly occurred without warning. One of the miners was trapped in the collapse. After unsuccessfully attempting to free the trapped miner, the other miner summoned three miners who were working in an adjacent area. Their rescue attempts went awry when one of the rescuers removed a steel bar near the trapped miner, triggering a second cave-in. This collapse fatally injured another miner. Shortly thereafter, a third cave-in occurred. This collapse killed the trapped miner as well as a fourth individual.

Note: In all, 68 successful mine rescues, and 84 incidents of rescuer deaths have been located. If others are known, please contact Rob at and I’ll research them further.

Thanks for the share, RM!