Deadly mines: 30 killed in just one month in 1930
The 1930s was a time of problems and pain. The economy collapsed, millions fell into poverty and war loomed across the world toward the end of the decade.
In Carbon County, in one month in early 1930, a number of accidents in mines took the lives of 30 men in seven different incidents. From Jan. 12 to Feb. 11 men were crushed by railcars, killed in cave-ins, blasted by explosions and overcome with carbon monoxide.
The events of that four weeks of death would have set off huge alarm bells in today's society. Death after death, with finally in mid-February 23 dying, would have brought international press and strong government investigation. In 1930, the single death incidents throughout the month brought little more than a three inch report in the local newspapers. Only when the 23 died did any kind of investigation by the state take place.
The first to die was Gus Helston, 31, an immigrant from Finland. He was killed in King Mine #1 at Hiawatha when he and two other men apparently were picking away and hit a deposit of blasting powder that had not gone off in a previous blast set to release rock and coal from the mines face. The other two men were hospitalized for some time with burns, cuts and bruises.
In the week following three more men would die in the mines in the area. On Jan. 19, Thomas Richards, 42, and Joe Turra, 31, were killed in a gas pocket explosion in a mine in Spring Canyon. A spark from a machine the men were operating set the gas off. On Jan. 22 another man, Frank Nemanich, 31 was killed in a rock fall doing timber work for the a National Coal Company mine in Consumers. He was with several other timbermen, but they were ahead of him in the mine and were not injured.
On Jan. 31 Mike Dantis (no age was given) was killed in a rock fall at the Royal Coal Company mine in Rolapp. His skull was crushed by the rock.
On Feb. 4 Lee Ottson, 44, was killed when after his shift he was walking down the tram toward home when a line of cars approached. Snow clogged one side of the line and apparently when he went to step off the track to avoid the moving cars, he slipped and fell on the tracks. He was dragged 300 feet.
The Standardville Mine was the scene of mass death on Feb. 6. An explosion took place in the mine about 9 p.m. that night. There were 29 workers in the mine and nine got away from the blast and were able to get out. Sparks from a cutting machine probably caused the blast in the number 3 mine, and the blast and carbon monoxide came down into mines 1 and 2 killing many of the miners. Rescue work began immediately and not long after that started three men from the rescue team were killed in a rock fall in the number 3 mine. That crew was trying to put fresh air into the mine for rescuers and any survivors. Because of those deaths, the rescue operation was halted until the next morning. It then became a recovery mission.
Today that same kind of catastrophe would have ended that mines operation for a very long time. In those days, however, as soon as the bodies were removed crews began repairs and operations to output coal once again began by Feb. 14 or 15.
This disaster did bring someone from the Utah State Industrial Commission to town to investigate. Within a few days he said the mine would be fine to start operating again, despite the fact gassy conditions had existed for a long time. The Feb. 20 issue of The News-Advocate said that he claimed the mine was free of gas and any other problems that might keep the work of the mine from moving forward. A report he issued in March said that the cause of the blast was gas buildup and a failure to inspect for it was negligence on the mine's part. It was also announced that the families of the miners killed would get a grand total of $89,856 in compensation. That worked out to $3,906.78 per miner ($52,140 in today's money).
The death and destruction was not over, however. On Feb. 12, James Marranges, 33, was killed at the Kenilworth Mine when he was crushed by two sets of coal cars that met at right angles when he was bring one set of cars out of the mine, and it crashed into another set that was being driven in.
It was a month to be reckoned with. While there have been bigger, more devastating disasters in mines before and since that time, none have equaled the number of incidents that took place in such a short period of time.
The rest if 1930 was not very good in terms of mine deaths, either. February saw one more death late in the month, March saw seven deaths with five coming at the New Peerless Mine, and all except April had at least one fatality for the rest of the year (June had two, July had three and October had two. Altogether there were 50 deaths in or around mining operations in the county that year. In addition, the number of injuries incurred totaled into double digits as well.
(All statistics and information for this article came from the front pages of The News-Advocate from the year 1930).