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Markham Colliery - 1973 - Page 4

Names of those who died 1938 Names of those who died 1973
Mines Rescue

The Disaster


At about 5.35 a.m. on Monday 30th July 1973, the day shift winding engine man R.W. Kennan, arrived at the No.3 winding engine house as the last of the night shift men were being wound to the surface. Some 20 minutes later Kennan operated the winding engine to wind the first day shift men into the mine and by about 6.20 a.m. 105 persons had been lowered. The overlap rope cage on the Bolsover side was then loaded at the surface with 15 men on the top deck and 14 on the bottom. The underlap cage on the Roadway side was empty. The wind proceeded normally until the cages had passed the mid point of the shaft when Kennan began to retard the engine and out of the corner of his eye saw sparks under the brake cylinder and heard a bang. He immediately moved the control level towards the 'off' position to increase the breaking effect and simultaneously pulled the brake lever towards the 'on' position. The operation of the brake lever felt the sameas 'picking up a pen' and had no effect on the speed of the winding drum. Kennan continued moving the control lever towards the 'off' position but it appeared to him that this had little effect on the drum speed so he pressed the emergency 'stop' button. He expected to see the drum brought to a sudden stop but nothing happened and as a last resort he switched off the motor for the hydraulic pump which supplied the 'ungrabbing' gear. This had no effect on the winding engine and the next thing Kennan remembered was bricks falling around him. The ascending cage was detached from the underlap rope by the operation of the detaching hook in the headframe bell but continued to ascend until it struck the roof girders of the airlock structure where it broke the surrounding concrete and brickwork.

As there were no shaft catches in the headframe the cage then dropped back until it was hanging by it's suspension chains from the detaching hook. The descending cage carrying the men crashed into on the pit bottom with such force that it fractured nine of the 17 wooden landing baulks. Although the power had been cut off before the crash, the momentum of the winding system unwound spare coils of overlap rope and the sword capel with part of the drum side and brake path was torn away. The rope and capel were pulled over the headgear pulley and then it fell down the shaft on top and alongside the cage containing the men. The drum continued to rotate and the flailing capel of the underlap rope seriously damaged the winding engine house and an adjoining workshop.

It was immediately obvious to the men at the bottom of the shaft that a serious accident had occurred and the onsetter entered his cabin to telephone the surface the winding rope was still falling down the shaft. He was unable to obtain an answer to his emergency call on the automatic telephone but spoke to the surface operator on a magneto phone. The mine emergency organisations were brought into operation with a control centre at the surface.

On the north side of the pit bottom some of the tangled winding rope had to be moved and there was difficulty in opening the cage gates because their vertical rods had been distorted in the crash but once the gates were open, the removal of the casualties proceeded quickly. Morphia injections were given to the very seriously injured as they lay in the pit bottom before they were transported to the surface. Some were brought out through the nearby No.2 shaft and to minimise the delay others were carried out down a steep drift to No.4 shaft about 700 yards away. The last casualties arrived at the medical centre about two hours after the accident.

In the early stages of the recovery there was some delay in getting the injured to hospital but the situation improved as the County Authority sent more ambulances.

The mobile emergency winding engine from the Mansfield Rescue Station was in position alongside the No.3 shaft about 80 minutes after the disaster. During the rescue operations, one of the workers was badly injured. J. Maxwell who had started work at the pit only that morning was in the pit bottom at the time of the accident and was seriously injured when he fell from the top deck platform while assisting in the recovery.

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