What will probably prove to be the second greatest mining disaster yet recorded in New Zealand took place on Saturday morning, when, as a result, of a fearful explosion in Ralph's mine, one of the two Huntly collieries owned by the Taupiri Coal Company, Limited, fiftyeight miners were entombed. Of this number nineteen escaped alive, of whom one has since died and at least two others are lying in a serious condition, two at Hamilton Hospital and one in Huntly. The bodies of eighteen of the remaining forty have been recovered, and it is not believed that it is possible, to save any of the others alive.
The workings of Ralph's mine extend for miles westward from Huntly, and go under the Waikato River. Experts who had examined it declared it to be one of the safest coal mines in the world, practically free from all forms of dangerous gas. The miners, numbering about 250, habitually worked with naked lights. There were two outlets to the mine, the main shaft in the very centre of Huntly, and the intake ventilation shaft over a mile and a-half away to the westward.
The roar of the explosion, which occurred at twenty minutes past seven in the morning, was heard and felt for miles around, and a great cloud of smoke and dust, momentarily shot with flame, hovered over the main shaft. Within an hour seven men, four of them badly burned, emerged from the main shaft, and another eleven escaped practically uninjured through the western shaft. Three injured men were despatched immediately to the Hamilton Hospital.
Rescue parties worked heroically, but for hours they were beaten back by poisonous gases and noxious fumes- The mine was found to be on fire near the main shaft, and while large gangs attacked the fires and subdued them, and attempted to repair the seriously-disarranged ventilation system, the rescue parties entered the mine from the western shaft and fought their way slowly to the scene of the explosion, a distance which is ordinarily an hour's walk from the bottom of the shaft.
Here they found William Brocklebank crawling on hands and knees towards the shaft, and brought him out, the only man who was near the scene of the explosion to come out alive. He had been many hours unconscious, but was not seriously injured. An hour later, six o'clock on Saturday night, search parties brought out seven bodies, and. working without ceasing all Saturday night, they recovered live more.
The members of the rescue parties were frequently attacked by the deadly gases, but the gradual re-establishment of the ventilation system gave them better air, and on Sunday they penetrated farther and farther into the. affected areas. The bodies, as recovered, were laid side by side in the Oddfellows' Hall, but the injuries were so terrible that identification was difficult. There were pitiful scenes as the victims were recognised by their relatives. Most of the dead and missing men were married.
THE NAMES OF MINERS WHO WERE KILLED.
Following were the names of the men known to have been killed:
ALEX. IZATT, onshover's assistant, single, died in Hamilton Hospital.
JOHN WHORSKEY, deputy, married.
J. C. SKELLERN, deputy, married.
H. PECKHAM, senior, deputy, married.
WILLIAM BURT, shiftman, single.
S. JACKSON, shiftman, single.
W. HINCHCO, shiftman, single.
J. ROBINSON, trucker, married. J.
HOLDEN, shiftman, married.
WILLIAM SLAVIN, trucker, single.
JACOB THOMPSON, horse-driver, single.
ROBERT MUNSEY, shiftman, married.
C. MALONEY, trucker, single.
WILLIAM KELLY, contractor, married.
D. LYONS, shiftman, married.
H. BURT, trucker, single.
JOHN STEELE, roundsman, married.
W. PATTERSON, contractor, married.
D. PATTERSON, roadsman, married.
MEN WHO ARE MISSING AND PROBABLY DEAD.
The following are missing, and probably dead:
WILLIAM GOWANS, undcr-manager, married.
JAMES DARBY, deputy, married.
WILLIAM SMITH, deputy, married.
W. BROCKLEBANK, sen., shiftman, married.
J. GREENER, shiftman, married.
T. BERRY, winch-driver, single.
F. TAYLOR, winch-driver, married.
J. MARTIN, trucker, single.
J. BOWLER, trucker, single.
W. MAYLAND, jun., clipper, single.
JOS. JACKSON, clipper, single.
W. MITCHELL, trucker, single.
T. MOLESWORTH, engine-driver, married.
J. W. JONES, roadsman, married.
H. RANSOME, road-cleaner, married.
W. BLENINSOPP, shooter, married.
SEYMOUR HOPPER, trucker, married.
ARTHUR RUSTON, roadman, married.
W. ALLEN, machine boy, single.
T. CASSON, trucker, single.
W. BURTON, trucker, single.
THE MINERS WHO SUCCESSFULLY ESCAPED.
Those who have escaped from the mine are as follows:
Seriously Injured: J. Jackson, severely burned: Alf. Beckham, severely burned Joseph O'Brien, burned hands.
Escaped with Slight Injury: B. Healey, bruised arm; Mottram, body bruised and leg injured William Brocklebank, jr., considerably cut and bruised.
Escaped without Injury A. A. Stewart, A. Mcintosh, J. Tollan, W. A. Mitchell, J. Richards, J. Wilkie, D. Fletcher, T. Earby, J. Young, A. Farrar, Joseph Brownjee, Pat. McGill.
New Zealand Herald (Aukland, New Zealand), September 14, 1914.