I am trying to find out more about the Dandy pit disaster. I understand that my grandfather, Francis Shuker, of Coopers Bank, was the only man to escape from the coal face after they hit an underground stream and did so by climbing a ventilation shaft. I am told he emerged from the mine with a towel wrapped round him.
He went on to work at Baggeridge and was over 70 when he retired.
I would be pleased if anyone can let me know any information on this including the date and people involved.
Thanks in anticipation,
(Unfortunately information is more easily available when an accident becomes officially a disaster but this requires at least 5 to die. I have some information from Charles Bird, see email below.)
Kaitangata Coal Mining Disaster
At the moment I am also looking at the disaster in Kaitangata in New Zealand where 5 Beardsmores were killed in an explosion in 1879, James Snr, James Jr, Edward, Joseph and Caleb.but I am sure you wouldn't be able to help with this!
Kaitangata's European history is closely tied to coal extraction. One of New Zealand's early industrial disasters occurred in South Otago in the Kaitangata Coal and Railway Co.'s mine on the 21st of February 1879, there was a loud underground explosion in the coal mine and 35 miners lost their lives. Coal mining was the mainstay of the town's economy from the 1870s until 1972, when the last state-owned underground coal mine closed. Several open-cast mines have continued to exist (both state and private) up to the present day, such as the Kai Point Mine.The Kai Point Coal Company has been mining coal at Kaitangata since 1951 and produces coal for local industry and domestic heating.
Image and infomation from Wikipedia
At first no one knew exactly how many men were underground. A train was sent to nearby Balclutha to bring help. An initial rescue attempt was thwarted when rescuers were unable to enter the mine due to the debris from the explosion and the presence of ‘fire damp’ (mainly methane gas which becomes explosive when mixed with a certain amount of air). It was not until around lunchtime that rescue parties were able to enter the mine.
By early evening it was clear that there were no survivors and that 34 men had died. The condition of the men’s bodies revealed that they had not been killed by the explosion but had been suffocated by a belt of ‘black damp’ – a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. The coroner's report identified faults in the mine's safety practices and ventilation system. There was also a lack of safety lamps.
The explosion appeared to have been sparked by the mine manager’s brother, who carried a candle into a disused part of the mine, where fire damp had accumulated. The gas exploded when it came into contact with the naked flame. The accident resulted in the introduction of stricter controls for mining.
Information from NZ Today in History
Subsequent investigations of working conditions in the mine disclosed a disregard for generally accepted safeguards. To unskilled management was added reckless carelessness, and the result was tragedy. At 9 a.m. on 21 February, the small township of Kaitangata, a few miles from Balclutha, was shaken by a violent explosion, and 12 hours later the last of the bodies of the 35 victims had been located. The exhaustive inquiry into the accident uncovered a system of neglect and foolhardiness that the public found impossible to accept calmly. Defective ventilation, the use of naked lights (mainly candles) in the face of recurring evidence of firedamp in the mine, and the refusal of the manager (“confessedly unskilled”) and the deputy manager to abandon or modify their haphazard and slipshod methods of operation were shown to be the causes of the tragedy. In response to public clamour, new legislation was passed to provide stricter control of the working of coal mines, but even with this warning from Kaitangata it was to be many years before legislation produced the relatively safe conditions of today.
Information from An Encyclopedia of New Zealand 1966
A lot more information at Angelfire.com