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This video shows the location of the knox mine disaster and shows how it looks today as well as footage from 1959. enjoy
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At approximately 11:20 a.m., two laborers in the Pittston vein heard a sharp “popping” sound. They quickly called upon
John Williams, the assistant foreman.
The three employees hurried to escape and notify superintendent Robert Groves, who immediately ordered an evacuation,
although he withheld the severity
of the situation. Unfortunately, the other three men who were stationed in this vein could not escape in time and the
fierce waters of the Susquehanna took their lives.
While millions of gallons of water flooded into the mine, thirty-three men managed to catch the last elevators at the
May shaft, but forty-five others remained trapped,
desperately seeking their own outlet. During the first sixty four hours of the emergency, an estimated 2.7 million gallons
of water per minute streamed underground from an enormous whirlpool near the riverbank.
Down below, thirty-two men wandered in two separate groups until they managed to escape through the abandoned Eagle air
shaft. Pennsylvania Coal Company surveyor, Joe Stella, led the first group of seven. He not
only knew the mines well, but also possessed maps which allowed his group to find a direct course to the opening. The
second group, led by Myron Thomas, consisted of twenty-five men who wandered for hours before
they found their way to safety. Unfortunately, twelve of the original remaining bodies have never been recovered.
Thousands of bails of hay and hundreds of railroad ties were also added. Culm,
dirt, and rock along with over 50 coal and railroad cars barely stopped the river.
Finally they diverted the river around Wintermoot Island by building dams at both ends of the
island. Once they pumped the water out between the dams the size of the hole was evident.
Tons of clay and rock were poured into the hole and a concrete cap was placed on top of the opening. They then pumped
much of the water out of the mine to look for the 12 missing miners.
How could this tragedy have happened? The original plan was to keep 50 feet of rock and coal between the workings and the
river bottom. The Knox company wanted this to be lowered to 35 feet. Mine inspectors deemed
this ok as it would be sufficient to stand up to the river. At this point the seam of coal sloped up towards the river in
what is known as an anticline. Company owners kept pushing the miners closer and closer to the river bottom until the rock
could no longer support the river. At the point where the river broke through the rock was only 5 to 6 feet thick! This
disaster ended deep mining in the Wyoming valley as almost all of the coal company’s mines connected.