1924 Castle Gate disaster had repercussions long after the mining deaths
The Castle Gate Mine explosion that cost nearly 200 people their lives in March 1924 was a horrible disaster. The loss of life was a direct blow at hundreds of people who not only lost loved ones in the mine, but also lost their support financially and emotionally.
Disasters this extensive can also often cause social problems in communities, although in the early days of the 20th century things weren't necessarily perceived that way.
Violence was more commonplace in the communities of Carbon County in those days to begin with, but sometimes tensions exploded for various reasons, often beyond a dispute between two people. Some of it had to do with differences in heritage, communication and just a general dislike of another group of immigrants that lived in an area.
Such was some of the problem on the early morning of Oct. 19, 1924. It was early Sunday morning when a dispute broke out in a coffee house near the junction of what was then known as the Price Canyon Road (now Highway 6) and the road that runs up Willow Creek Canyon.
It began, as Tom Martinez and Mike Lopez were gambling with some other men in the shop. As they were playing cards in came another man named Nick Conners. Something between Martinez and Conners had already taken place and an argument began. It was, according to the Carbon County News, a dispute over something to do with the mine disaster, possibly having to do with family involved in the mine explosion. The argument led to a fist fight
As the fight progressed, others in the shop tried to stop it, including Mike Venetkakis. Martinez then pulled out a pistol and shot Venetkakis through the abdomen.
"He then pumped his revolver wildly," reported The Sun in its Oct. 24 edition.
In the shooting spree Martinez hit Mike Blazokakis who was seated in the parlor. Others seemd to avoid the fire by diving out of the way. The Sun reported that Blazokakis died almost immediatelly.
He also wounded Wilbur Hardy in the hand as he shot five rounds.
He then went outside and fired a shot at someone running from the coffee house who "had left the room for a shooting iron (The Sun)."
Martinez and Lopez then fled the scene.
Help was called for as Martinez ran away. Local deputy Milt Burns began searching for the shooter. Just before help arrived in the form of Carbon County Sheriff Ray Deming and two deputies, Martinez surrendered to Burns and he took him into custody.
"He confessed, according to the officers," reported The Sun. "But said it was self defense."
Martinez had crossed the Price River initially but once on the other side had decided that it was better to surrender than be hunted down.
Venetakis was taken to the Utah Fuel Hospital where he was operated on. However, the papers at the time gave little hope of his surviving.
In later issues of both papers, nothing about the incident was reported in the rest of 1924 or 1925.