Monday, July 14, 2014

Death under a falling car in the shaft

Met their death under a falling car in the shaft of the Orpha May mine on Bull Hill

By Rob Carrigan,

Having visited with Jeff Tapparo at the annual open house of the Western Museum of Mining and History several years ago,  I had mining on my mind. Tapparo, is on the museum's board and periodically gets to operate the Osgood steam shovel.
He called my attention to the following story in the Cripple Creek Morning Times death notices of 1898. The Times is actually and ancestor to the Courier. I felt was appropriate to remember how dangerous the industry once was.
Sep 20, 1898: Victor:
"The remains of E.O. Alexander will be buried today from the residence of his daughter in Strong’s camp. Sickening Catastrophe in a Mine. – Patrick Fitzpatrick and Mathew Branigan were killed yesterday and W.D. Crawford terribly injured by one of the most shocking accidents since the day of the Anna Lee disaster.
"They met their death under a falling car in the shaft of the Union company’s Orpha May mine on Bull Hill. All three of the men were employees of the Union company, and were employed in sinking the shaft, working at a depth of 900 feet below the surface. Several of the upper levels are operated by lessees, whose rock is hoisted by the company for a consideration. H.P. Funk, a trammer, working on the lease at the fourth or 200-foot level, yesterday morning pushed a car of rock up to the shaft, to await the cage which would hoist it to the surface. The shaft is guarded by a chain, which is always fastened across except when a car is being rolled onto the cage. The car, weighing, with its load of rock, 1,700 pounds, rolled against the guard with such force that the chain was broken, and the car, load of rock and all, toppled down the shaft on the heads of the men 700 feet below.
"The unlucky trammer, knowing that men were at work in the shaft, driven mad by grief and fright at what he had done, climbed up the ladder and took to his heels. Below, the men at work in the shaft never knew what happened. Fitzpatrick and Branigan were working and the awful force of that load falling 700 feet struck them squarely. When their mates went below to hoist their bodies, they were so crushed beneath timbers, rock and the wreck of the car, that they could hardly be identified at all. The car had gained such momentum that it took out the bulkhead at the twelfth level, and two sets of timbers lower down, as if they had been made of straw. The whole mass of wood, iron and stone struck the men as swiftly as the lightning’s bolt.
"Branigan was found under the car, with his head split wide open, and nearly half of it shorn away. His body was reduced to a pulpy mass of flesh, bone and cartilage absolutely indescribable. Fitzpatrick was pinned down under rock and timbers, his head mashed flat, and his body a veritable jelly of flesh and crushed bone. Crawford’s escape from instant death is little short of miraculous. He was working in a corner of the shaft, doing single-hand work. He declares that he never heard a sound, or had warning of any kind of what was about to happen, and knew nothing of when it id strike. The first thing he knew was the open air and the sunlight after he had been lifted to the surface and restored to consciousness.
"Though not killed, he is still in a pitiable condition. His skull is fractured, and his head looks as if it had been slashed in a dozen places with a razor. His left hand is shattered, and his right foot crushed as flat as if it had been put through a cane roller. The knee joint of the same leg has been split open, and it is a question whether the leg will not have to be amputated above the knee. The ambulance was called, and Crawford, accompanied by Dr. Johnson, who had dressed the wounds as well as he could temporarily, was brought to the hospital. There Drs. Johnson, Chambers and Hassenplug amputated the leg about six inches above the ankle. The surgeons think the man has a fair chance for recovery, but state that the cut into his knee joint is the most serious of his many injuries. Both the dead men were single, and about 30 years of age.
"Branigan has a brother at Central City, who has been telegraphed for, and Fitzpatrick has a brother at Goldfield, in this district. Both were members of the Miners’ union. The remains were removed to the rooms of Mulligan and Dunn at Victor, where they now lie. Arrangements have not been made for their interment."

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