Harold Mann, the day overman, received the message from the undermanager at 5.15 a.m. which told him to go to the pit at once as there had been an accident. He got down the pit about 6.15 a.m. and contacted
Holmes, after getting all the information he could from Ayscough, went inbye with his team, coupling their apparatus at the bottom of the plane and got to the 6th slit on the top level where there was a fall completely blocking their progress. He tested for gas and found 4 per cent. He then went down the 5th slit to the return where he again found 4 per cent gas, along the level and got as far as the 8th slit where another fall completely blocked any progress. A short distance outbye of this fall there was a small fan with a girder across the roadway and one or two other girders dislodged. Just inbye of the 4’s heading in the bottom level the four jackets of the missing men were lying and their snacks and water bottles untouched in the pockets. Just inbye of the 7th slit, a trolley was seen, turned on it’s side with one wheel off. In Holme’s opinion this had been done by the explosion.
Opposite the bottom of the 7th slit and reaching the top level they saw all the supports dislodged and heard heavy falls of roof taking place inbye. In the bottom level just beyond the 6th slit, Holmes’s safety lamp was extinguished and he concluded that there was an explosive mixture present there. The 7th slit was badly damaged and there was a fall of roof in it. Owing to the falls that were taking place and the levels being obstructed, he decided to retire with his team and on arrival at the fresh air base he reported to the undermanager and the captain of the following team.
An unsuccessful search was made for Leeman along the bottom level to the 1st slit and at the compressed air pump outbye of the slit. This was found to be running and was stopped. Leslie Phillips, a shotfirer, was the leader of the third rescue team which had stood by from 4.10 p.m. and went in at 8.05 p.m. They started to work at the fall in the bottom level of the 8th slit. An aperture had been made by the other team but it was not large enough for men to pass with breathing apparatus. After about an hour this team managed to get through and at 8.55 they found the body of Raymond Kelsey and those of J.W. Ollitt, J. E. Kelsey and B.J. Conroy all within eight yards of the face between the 10th and 11th slits in the bottom level. The first three were facing outbye and Conroy inbye, all face downwards. Only Conroy showed injury by violence and all were covered with a thick layer of coal dust. The team continued but found a heavy fall at the junction and retired.
Alan Wild, the undermanager was informed of the accident about 4 a.m. and after giving instructions to Ben Winder and Ayscough. He rang the agent, Mr. Payne because the manager was away from home. Payne told the Divisional Inspector and Mr. Joseph Hall to arrange for the Rescue Teams. Wild arrived at the colliery about 4.45 a.m. and Payne was already there. They descended about 5.30 a.m. and remained at the pit bottom and at about 9.15 a.m., Tom Holmes came out with his team and reported the state of affairs in the workings. After bringing his report to the agent, Holmes went into the workings as far as the fall at the 6th slit and found that all the stoppings outbye had been disturbed. At the 5th slit, half the brickwork on the left side had been knocked out but the right side remained intact and some of the bricks had been blown into the lower level. He then returned to the 5th North telephone and reported to the agent. He asked him to send four men and a supply of brattice to temporarily repair the stoppings. This work started about 11 a.m. and was soon completed.
Later Major Humphrys, Mr. Miller, Mr. Hall, Mr. Jones and Mr. Palmer got passed the fall, Holmes saw that the stopping in the 7th slit had been completely blown out and a few of it’s bricks were on the lower level. Rescue teams continued working in relays at the fall on the top level and to secure the entrance to the workings. A fresh airbase was established at the 7th slit and the compressed air auxiliary fan was moved to the 4’s heading, carried air to the fall. It was necessary for the men wearing breathing apparatus to work in the bottom level to secure the roadway and make it safe to travel.
Mr. Kimmins, the manager, had to get from Uttoxeter and arrived at the colliery about 6 p.m. and at once went underground to the North-West where he met Payne, Humphrys, Hall and others. The rescue men tried to get into the top level up the slits inbye of the 8th but were stopped by heavy falls of roof. Major Humphrys was relieved at 10 p.m. by Mr. Houston, H.M. Senior Inspector of Mines and was present as the recovery work progressed. By the 8th March it was possible for persons without apparatus to get into the headings with rescue men standing by and to the fan on the top level. On the following day the Inspectors, colliery officials and representatives of the men made a careful inspection of the workings.
Girders had been stripped out of parts of both headings, stoppings blown in in the 9th, 10th, and 11th slits from return to intake. The stoppings in the cross slit opposite the low level was blown in the direction of the 7’s to 6’s headings, part of the conveyor drive head in 6’s heading was blown 25 feet outbye and the fan blown into the top level and completely turned round. The blades were broken off and blown out of the casing and the fan tubing extensively damaged and shredded.
In the top level the conveyor drive head at the top of the 11th slit had been blown outbye and the switch panels and main cable damaged. The roof had fallen into a great height from this point to just outbye of the 7th slit and at other places had fallen to a height of two feet or more. The gear head of the chain conveyor in the 6th slit had been moved bodily outbye for four and half feet. There was little evidence of coking. The search for the body of Charles Leeman continued until the 16th March. While part of fall was being cleared from the inbye end of the top level, he was found lying under the top level belt of the conveyor which had been dislodged from the conveyor frame, along side the gate-end switches near the 11th slit. He lay face downwards, head outbye, wearing his coat with his electric lamp about a yards from his feet.
The men who lost their lives were:-
Glossary of Terms