Carmichaels, PA Robena Coal Mine Explosion, Dec 1962
EXPLOSION IN ROBENA COAL MINE ENTOMBS 37 EMPLOYES.
47 OTHERS FLEE TO SAFETY FROM FROSTY RUN SHAFT; HOPE FADING FOR TRAPPED.
Carmichaels, Pa. (UPI) -- Weary rescue workers battled against time today in an effort to reach 37 men trapped 680 feet below the earth's surface by an explosion in the Frosty Run shaft of a U.S. Steel Corp. coal mine.
Rescuers pushed to within 5,500 feet of an area where the men were believed trapped. At that point, progress was halted as a horizontal shaft was sealed off to permit further advances.
Officials said there was a slim chance the miners had reached a safe area and survived the methane gas explosion and a fire which apparently followed. But no word had been received from the trapped men since the blast.
The blast occurred at 1 p.m., EST, Thursday in the Frosty Run shaft of the Robena No. 3 mine owned and operated by the United States Steel Corp. Eighty-three men were in the mine at the time. Forty-seven fled to safety.
At 4:30 a.m. EST today, a U.S. Steel spokesman said rescue teams had worked their way to within about 5,500 feet of where the men were believed trapped.
The blast area was about 680 feet underground and between three and four miles from the mouth of the shaft.
Anniversary Of Disaster.
Thursday was the 55th anniversary of the worst mine disaster on record in the United States -- one which killed 361 men Dec. 6, 1907, at Monongah, W. Va.
JAMES B. GIROD, assistant general superintendent of the Robena Mine, said it was "difficult to say" whether there could be any hope the missing miners were alive.
GIROD said that two assistant mine foremen who were among the missing men were "crack rescue men ... if there were any chance, those two would have accomplished something."
Among the missing was 18-year-old ALBERT F. BRONAKOSKI of Bobtown, Pa., a U.S. Steel student-trainee under a five-year engineering program operated jointly with Pennsylvania State University.
Pennsylvania state Mines Secretary LEWIS EVANS said the explosion was caused "either by methane gas and dust, or methane gas alone."
Workers Encounter Fumes.
The rescuers workers, operating in relays of three eight-man teams, encountered traces of carbon monoxide fumes, indicating fire, and small amounts of methane gas which GIROD described as "below the safety level."
The rescue workers had to dig through rubble from rock falls and timber cave-ins. As they went along they shored up the walls and roof of the shaft and set up power lines to operate the ventilating system.
At midnight, GIROD said it would be a "great many hours" before the rescue workers could reach the blast area.
Weather conditions at the site were bad. Srong winds whipped a steady snowfall, hampering the movement of emergency supplies to the site. State police reported many trailers jackknifed along the main arteries leading to this soft coal mining area in south-western Pennsylvania about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh.
Families Wait At Shaft.
Because of the bad weather the U.S. Steel Corp. at first asked the families of the trapped men not to go to the mine. But about eight hours after the accident the company began calling the families to tell them they could go to the site. The families waited in a large corrugated structure which along one side houses the elevator leading down into the Frosty Run shaft. They were mostly silent. There was no weeping.
GIROD said that workers in the corrugated structure got their first indication that something was wrong at 1 p.m. EST., Thursday when the ventilator fan in the Frosty Run shaft stopped operating. Shortly after that miners came rushing out of the shaft.
Some of those who escaped said they were working about two miles from the blast area. Some said they heard a "thud," some felt a rush of air. Some said the blast waves knocked their helmets off their heads.
The Robena No. 3 mine, together with its sister mines, Robena No. 1 and Robena No. 2, form a vast spider web of shafts under 69,000 acres in Greene and Fayette counties. They are called "captive mines" -- workings which are owned and operated by steel companies to provide soft coal for their mills. The Robena mines serve U.S. Steel's mills in the Pittsburgh area.
The state mine rescue truck, and state and federal mine inspectors were on the scene. United Mine Workers leaders, led by WILLIAM J. HYNES, veteran president of UMW District 4, stood by.
One of the UMW leaders was ALFRED (FRICKY) CAVALCANTE. His cousin "BIZ" CAVALCANTE of Masontown, was one of the trapped men.
Twenty of the 44 miners who escaped unhurt joined the rescue workers.
Frick District General Supt. RALPH C. BEERBOWER was at one of the other Robena mines when the disaster happened. He immediately entered the Frosty Run shaft and was still there after 10 p.m.
JESSE CORE, U. S. Stell vice president for coal operations, came to the scene.
KENNETH HRIBAL, a brother of one of the trapped foremen, explained that his brother is an expert in mine rescue work. He expressed the belief that there is some sort of escape route in the mine (though Secretary EVANS wasn't optimistic on this score).
"If anybody can get them out, JIM can," HRIBAL said.
Operations at the Robena 1, 2 and 3 Mines -- employing a total of 1,200 men -- ceased immediately upon word of the explosion. All of the mines are inter-connected underground, with Frosty Run at the far southwest corner of the complex.
The Frosty Run shaft is 628 feet deep, and the face where the blast occurred is more than three miles from the bottom of the shaft.
There was a possibility that there actually were two blasts instead of one.
The first intimation of disaster, said Frick District Asst. Gen. Supt. JAMES B. GIROD, came when the mine fan "went down."
It was put back on the line, and then ten minutes later it went out again.
This time it was 45 minutes before the fan could be started and ventilation restored.
A cloud of dust boiled back down the haulageway from the disaster scene.
Mines rescue crews, carrying self-contained breathing apparatus, immediately entered the mine. They were followed by other men restoring rails, cables and communications lines.
There was no telephonic communication whatsoever from the trapped men.
Narrow roads leading to the mine drifted shut in many places as the snowstorm increased in intensity during the night. There were numerous skidding accidents.
State Police hurried to the scene from the Waynesburg, Uniontown, Belle Vernon and Washington stations.
Ambulances were sent from funeral homes -- Yoney, Masontown, Dearth, New Salem; and Lucas, Carmichaels. Other ambulances throughout Fayette and Greene Counties were placed on standby alert.
Secretary EVANS said that the disaster had the appearance of being the worst in his eight years as head of the Mines Department.
Five years ago, in 1957, six men were killed at Marianna Mine in Washington County.
And the explosion recalled the terrible 1928 disaster at Mather Mine -- only a few miles to the north in Greene County.
The explosion fell on the 55th anniversary of the worst mine disaster on record in the United States. That was at Monongah, W. Va., on Dec. 6, 1907, when 361 persons were killed.
Robena Mines, scene of an explosion yesterday afternoon trapping 36 men underground, comprise the world's largest mechanized coal mining operation.
It is uner a 69,000 acre tract in Greene County, 50 miles south of Pittsburgh, U.S. Stell Corp., the nation's No. 1 steel maker, owns the mine.
Several years ago the mine was divided into three geographic sections known as Robena No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3. Robena No. 3 is the southwestern section of the property.
Pittsburgh seam coal from Robena is barged to U.S. Steel's Clairton Works, near Pittsburgh, where it is processed into coke for blast furnaces.
The mine has its own tipple cleaning and preparation plant on the Monongahela River. They are equipped with modern mechanized facilities.
The Robena mine may be entered by a number of shafts all of which extend several hundred feet underground. The Frosty Mine shaft goes to a depth of about 525 feet. The point where the accident occurred is about 2 miles from the shaft at a depth of 650 feet. Approximately 1,200 are employed at the mines.
Robena has produced as much as 20,000 tons of coal a day -- enought to heat more than 2,000 homes for an entire winter.
LESLIE B. WORTHINGTON, president of U. S. Steel Corp., issued the following statement last night on the explosion at Robena 3 Mine:
"The news of the explosion at Robena Mine came as a great shock to all of us and I share the fervent hope of everyone in U. S. Steel that the men who were working in the mine will be found alive and well by the rescue teams now working so hard to reach the men."
The statement was released by the public relations office of U. S. Steel in Pittsburgh.
NAMES OF MEN SOUGHT IN ROBENA MINE.
Pittsburgh (UPI) -- The names and addresses of the 36 miners trapped in the Robena No. 3 mine explosion, as provided by the United States Steel Corp. here:
C. LAUCHER, 49, Box 28, Leckrone, Pa.
E. W. McCANN, 48, 211 Cumberland Ave., Masontown, Pa.
C. J. SEPER, 44, House 57, Ronco, Pa.
W. H. WRIGHT, 55, RD 1, Box 199, McClellandtown, Pa.
S. RAIN, 47, RD 1, Box 165, McClellandtown.
G. L. SPEELMAN, 58, Uniontown, Pa.
A. J. HVIZDAS, 47, Box 339, New Salem, Pa.
A. J. SAUNER, 49, Box 9, Hibbs, Pa.
H. PITTS, 37, 14 Jamison, Uniontown.
C. S. VAN DIVNER, 39, Box 635, Uledi, Pa.
M. E. STANIK, 60, Box 227, Crucible, Pa.
F. HUDOCK, 51, Box 197, Oliver, Pa.
J. V. TOKISH, 43, 327 N. Market, Carmichaels.
A. CAVALCANTE, 48, 400 N. Main, Masontown.
N. BENNINGHOFF, 57, RD 1, Box 125, McClellandtown.
A. ANDREWS, JR., 45, RD 4, Box 93, Uniontown.
J. KARLYAK, 38, Box 218, Grindstone, Pa.
J. H. STEECH, 60, 200 I St., Masontown.
A. K. KANYUCH, 55, Box 410, Rt. 88, Carmichaels.
E. G. ZUZAK, 46, Fairbank, Pa.
P. C. ZVOLENSKI, 40, Box 88, Adah, Pa.
C. J. SEBECK, 41, RD 1, Grindstone, Pa.
J. E. MARTONCIK, JR., 45, RD 2, Box 197, Uniontown.
NICOLA CAROMANO, 57, 4 Clarendon Ave., Uniontown, wife and 3 children.
A. MARRA, 62, 36 Kerr St., Uniontown.
F. HAINZER, JR., 40, Box 386, Masontown.
J. H. BOYD, 43, Carmichaels.
F. H. RIFENBURG, 51, Box 11B, RD 1, Masontown.
E. MULLICA, 58, RD 3, Box 40, Uniontown.
H. C. STAINAKER, 50, 155 Palmer, Adah.
WILLIAM BLACHA, 49, Box 322, Clarksville, Pa.
ORAN McDOWELL, 46, Box 83, Smithfield.
ALBERT BRONAKOSKI, 18, Box 213, Bobtown, Pa.
J. J. ST. CLAIR, 42, maintenance foreman, RD 1, Box 156, New Salem.
J. M. SANTER, 53, assistant mine foreman, 47 Mullen St., Uniontown.
J. W. HRIBAL, 39, assistant mine foreman, 326 N. Market St., Carmichaels.
ARTHUR LABOS, 37, Fairbank.
The Daily Courier Connellsville Pennsylvania 1962-12-07
Researched and Transcribed by Stu Beitler. Thank you, Stu!