Wakefield, Yorkshire. 21st March 1973
Work on the afternoon shift of 20th March was normal and operations ceased as usual at 7.30 p.m. by which time the trepanner had taken two webs from the face and was in the tail gate. During the night shift of the 20/21st March, the district had 27 men working there. E. Finnegan was the deputy and he made his pre-shift inspection starting in the tail gate and reported to B. Oldroyd, the overman when they met in the main gate about midnight, that the face was normal. Work then commenced on coal filling, advancing the heading and stables and ripping both roadheads and proceeded without incident apart from the usual brief interruptions. With the men at work there were four ripper, two stable hole men and a shotfirer at the tail gate, four face men and the deputy who had returned from the main gate on the face near the machine and forty yards towards the tail gate there was an electrician. In the main gate roadhead area there were two men in the advance heading, a supports man in the stable, four rippers and a shotfirer near the ripping lip and an overman at the stage loader with a fitter, who had arrived there from the face. Along the conveyor roads there were four transfer point men, two in the South 9B district main gate and the other two further outbye.
At about 2 a.m., the trepanner, which had cut to powered support No.60, approximately
70 yards from the main gate, was stopped together with the face conveyor because large stones were being broken at the main gate roadhead. The face conveyor never restarted. The inrush was sudden and violent and water flowed in both directions along the face. It was therefore impossible to set down briefly in correct chronological order the events
T. Denton Heard A Bang, Looked Up And Saw Water Flowing Towards Him
At approximately 2 a.m., T. Denton, the electrician was travelling along the face from the tail gate and was examining the power loader cable midway along the face when he heard a bang, looked up and saw water flowing towards him from the direction of the trepanner. He made his way immediately to the tail gate with the water at the height of the conveyor, about 7 inches, flowing alongside him. By this time it had become apparent to those at the tailgate roadhead that something was wrong and R. Barrett, the tail gate shotfirer, attempted to make contact, by telephone, with anyone who might be available but got no reply. At 2 a.m. B. Kus was in advance of the face near the main gate roadhead when he heard a rumbling noise, looked along the face and saw lights at what he estimated to be 30 yards. He then heard a loud crack and saw his workmates at the roadhead start to run outbye. He shouted a warning to C. Barnaby who was in the advance heading. As Kus made his way out past the ripping lip he was overtaken by a wave of water at the full height of the seam which knocked him against the side of the road. He dragged himself upright and ran outbye.
Oldroyd, the overman who was at the stage loader, heard a heavy rumbling noise and thought the ventilation had reversed. He saw the main gate men running towards him and heard someone shout that water had broken in. He then tried, without success, to contact the facemen over the loud hailer. The water was now at knee height in the main gate and he hurried outbye to the conveyor tandem point, where he tried to contact the surface by telephone but was unable to do so.
Oldroyd then tried to ride out on the gate conveyor but this stopped almost immediately so he jumped off and ran. He passed C. Cotton, a main gate ripper, and made his way to the top of the 1 in 6 drift where he again tried to contact the surface. He eventually did so from the South 4 loader.
K. Stone, a fitter who had travelled along the face with the trepanner to No.60 powered support, was at the main gate roadhead when he was warned that water had broken in.
He ran outbye and when he passed the 9C south development heading he looked in and saw no one. Stone switched off the electricity to the development and continued outbye passing and warning S. Wojeck, the attendant at the conveyor transfer point at the outbye end of the main gate. He continued outbye and switched off the electricity supply to the main gate at the transformer house at the overcast, then ran on to the top of the 1 in 6 drift, where he picked up the telephone and found Barrett the South 9B tail gate shotfirer on the lone. He told Barrett, who was still at the inbye end of the South 9B tail gate, what had happened and was advising him to withdraw his men when Willoughby, the main gate shotfirer arrived, took the telephone and told Barrett to withdraw his men immediately.
Barrett’s conversation with Stone and Willoughby took place some time after his earlier unsuccessful attempt to make contact by phone but in the interval, no men had come off the face. On replacing the phone he instructed Denton to cut off electrical supply to the face and after G,Firth, the tail gate stableman, had gone back and looked along the face but could see nothing, all the men at the tail gate roadhead made their way outbye. When this parity of eight men arrived at the slit at the air crossing, Denton opened the first door and saw that the second was bulging towards him with dirty water seeping through it. He retreated to the return and the party then travelled over the air crossing through South 9A gate and ultimately to South 4 gate. Had they delayed a little longer this escape route would almost certainly have been blocked. Later a check was made by Willoughby on the number of men who had got out of the South 4 gate.