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Fire At Michael Colliery, Fife, 9th September, 1967 - Page 2

A Report By Eric Savage Of The Mines Rescue Service, Cowdenbeath
9 Died in This Tragedy

Four Feet Section
Warnings and withdrawal of men

Realtives just had to wait and hope

D. Hunter, the roadways deputy, received an urgent message and came outbye sending his men on ahead. He met haze 150 yards from the face and smoke as he rode on the conveyors up the Four Feet Dook. At the top he telephoned to warn H. Gallacher, the 750 Branxton pumpsman (Plans Nos. 1 and 3) and then stayed a few minutes to keep the conveyors running.

He next tried to get to the top of the 750 Branxton Cable Belt Dook where some of his men had been working but he managed to travel only about 40 yards in the dense smoke.

(The men had already seen the smoke and escaped successfully). Hunter then went outbye along the Sea Mine to the Dysart Turn where he saw several men including Todd, Buckley and McIntyre. He told them to start the conveyor and to shout into the Sea Mine to see if they could get any answering calls. After a while he heard a voice and, with nil visibility, he went into the smoke and guided by shouts found
C. Cunningham, pumpsman, lying on the ground. He carried Cunningham most of the 50/60 yards into fresh air receiving help from some men at the Dysart Turn (Plan No. 2).

D. Wilson, an apprentice fitter, set off from the face with J. Smith and A. Thomson, power loader operators. They rode up the first of the two conveyors in the Dook together but when they reached the top of the second one, Thomson was not with them. About 50 yards from the Dysart Turn, D. Wilson found A. Grieve, a maintenance man, lying on the floor and told him to get up and keep walking. However, when Wilson found that Grieve was not following him, he lifted him on to his feet and assisted him to fresh air.

Several of the men who came out of the Sea Mine vomited and most of them suffered from dizziness, coughing and loss of power in their legs. Of the 25 in the workings at the time, 18 were able to escape.

Mines Rescue

Escape of men from the Bowhouse Inset

McArthur at the top of the Four Feet Dook had only just received the telephone message advising him to escape through the return, when the black smoke appeared. He telephoned to McEneamy, who was at the bottom of the Dook, and arranged to meet him at the top. As they went through the doors into the No. 31 Section top road they saw Taylor coming towards them. After Taylor had been through the doors and seen how thick the smoke was in the intake, they set off up the return airway which was signposted. They turned left at the first junction but had to stop for a rest at the ladder at the next junction (Plan No. 1). They now saw the first signs of smoke in the return. Taylor, who had been alone at the top of the No. 31 face, didn’t know that his men had gone down to the bottom road; in spite of protestations from Mc Arthur and McEneamy, he decided to go back to make sure that they were all out being particularly worried about Gallacher, the 750 Branxton pumpsman. He arranged with McArthur and McEneamy that if he did not return in a few minutes, they should look for him and, if they didn’t find him quickly, they were to go through the return, following the signs. After about five minutes, they went back down the return, but not seeing Taylor they set off outbye. At the top of the ladder, they turned right; continuing to turn right and following the signs to the "Escape Pit", they came to the junction of Walker's Dook and Steven's Brae. They went up Steven's Brae to the inset in No. 2 Shaft at the Bowhouse level. By this time, the smoke was quite thick but, on going towards No. 3 Shaft, it cleared and they stopped at a fence where there was a "no road" sign. They spent some time in old workings to the north of the shafts and eventually returned to the No. 2 Shaft Inset. McEneamy started to strike an old rusty bell-plate with a brick and they shouted when they saw a cage go by. Later, a second cage with rescue men blowing hooters passed them.

rescue menWhen A. D. H. Smith, overman, came up the No. 2 Shaft at about 7.00 a.m. he heard and saw nothing, but W. Shaw, acting as a rescue brigade captain, heard voices at 10.35 a.m. Shaw's brigade who returned down the shaft were unable to identify the inset but L. M. Irvine, the workmen's inspector, deduced that it must be at the Bowhouse level.

A rescue brigade under G. Pratt, part-timerescue man, went down at 11.30 a.m. to attempt a rescue but, on account of signalling difficulties, they were unsuccessful.McArthur and McEneamy were eventually brought out through the No. 3 Shaft at about 2.50 p.m.

The men from the inbye workings made their way to the Compressor House via the 430 fathoms Lateral, where they were checked out by their deputies. Some of them were taken out on locomotive trains to the bottom of the Lower Dysart Manriding Dook. The majority of the men walked up the Dook; some required assistance on account of the steep gradient.

No. 2 Pit Bottom

W. Cull, a deputy, went down the No.3 Shaft at 8.50 a.m. with the day shift onsetter and pumpsman. They walked down the Lower Dysart Manriding Dook and found thick smoke on the inbye side of the doors to the 430 Mine. After leaving the doors open for a while, it cleared and they went on to the No. 2 Shaft bottom. Conditions deteriorated and at 10.45 a.m. wearing short period breathing apparatus, they were brought up the No. 2 Shaft by a rescue brigade.

The evacuation of the mine was completed in extremely difficult conditions and in such a commendably short time is in itself a tribute to the very high standard of self-discipline exercised by all. Under-officials displayed their concern for the safety of the men in their charge and the men an equal concern for the welfare of their workmates. That there was at times some confusion is, in the circumstances which obtained, quite understandable. That there was at no time the slightest degree of panic is remarkable. Had there been, the death role in this incident would undoubtedly have been very much higher.

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