Wakefield, Yorkshire. 21st March 1973
Thoes Who Died
On 24th March, work began on a small ‘piggy-back" roadway over the arches at the foot of the 1 in 6 drift to try to gain access to the slot and to the tail gate over the wooden doors. When this was done on 26th March work was suspended on the surface borehole. At 10.20 a.m. on 26th March, the Lofthouse colliery No.,2 rescue team started from the 1 in 6 drift to inspect the South 9B tail gate.
Passing through the ‘piggy-back’ roadway, the team dropped in to about 4 feet of sludge and water, which persisted for about 30 yards, after which it was possible to travel up the tail gate without hindrance.
At five yards beyond the No. 20 methane drainage hole there was a slit and rubble which reached to about 3 feet 6 inches from the roof. The team crawled on top of this for a further 44 yards to a point 1,067 yards from the air crossing where further progress became impossible. Air samples were taken by the team at 160 yards and 760 yards inbye of the air crossing. The first sample was found to contain 6 percent firedamp, 13 per cent oxygen and 4 per cent carbon dioxide and would not have supported life. J. Coxon, the Area Chief Scientist, said although the samples were small they were accurate.
At 12.45 p.m. Glasshouhghton Colliery rescue team attempted to explore the intake road beyond the slit but they found water and sludge to within a few feet of the top of the arches at the slit junction, and after a few yards the underlying sludge became very soft. The team sighted a body about 7 yards inbye before they withdrew. Later that day R. Williams, H.M. Inspector of Mines and Quarries, recovered the body which was identified as Charles Cotton.
At 10 a.m. on 28th March, A. Rollinson, an assistant superintendent of the Rescue Station at Doncaster, made an assessment of the possibility of exploring along the intake gate inbye the slit junction. Although the water level was within 14 inches of the roof at the outbye end. He found that the condition inbye improved.
At 11.33 a.m. the Ledston Luck Colliery rescue team carried out an exploration and after some difficulty at the transfer point, travelled 490 yards beyond. Very high methane content was found in the air samples that they brought back. Later the Savile Colliery rescue team made an inspection along the same route and found that the road was blocked with debris about 917 yards inbye to the South 9C development heading. No survivors were found on any of these explorations and after consideration of the air sample results and the reports of the team captains it was agreed by all that there was no further hopes of finding anyone left alive.
The Victims Of The Disaster
- Charles Cotton aged 49 years, faceworker was recovered 26th March 1973
Those who were not found:-
- Frederick William Armitage aged 41 years, faceworker
- Colin Barnaby aged 36 years, faceworker
- Frank Billingham aged 48 years, faceworker
- Sydney Brown aged 36 years, faceworker
- Edward Finnegan aged 40 years, deputy
- Alan Haigh aged 30 years, faceworker
Work was then directed to recover the district and despite the arduous periods of duty and the disappointments which followed the valiant efforts of the rescue workers they persevered in conditions of extreme difficulty and discomfort.
On the 19th April, all interested parties inspected the district. Mr. Mapplebeck spoke of the violence of the inrush and said that the water was still seeping through the debris which blocked both roadways at the time of the inspection. He pointed out that the artificially low level of the surface water table and referred to the possibility that the natural restoration of the water in the strata and old workings would put pressure on the debris which blocked the South 9B face and the inbye end of the main gate and tail gate. The opening up of the Bye, Engine and Bull Pits to the surface would cause water to flow down these shafts and from the fact that old shaft lining had been found in the district after the disaster, there was little doubt that there was physical connection between the old shafts and the old workings in the Flockton Thin seam and the district. When everything was considered it was realised that the recovery of the bodies would necessitate the clearing of the debris from the gates and face and would invite the possibility of a further inrush. It was decided that the risk was too great.