Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

THE MINERS who were saved, April 1, 1917. (random order) Harry Graham, Thomas Davis and Nick Radovich are photographed on the steps of the Whitehorse hospital April 1, 1917, several days after they were rescued. The three miners were entombed in the Pueblo Mine cave-in for 86 hours while a rescue tunnel 81 feet long was driven through to them. Although six other miners were trapped, the rescue attempt was called off on March 29, because of dangerous conditions. The bodies were never recovered. Pueblo Mine site (right) March 21, 1917-Following the cave-in, the mine was shut down but was soon re-opened by Atlas Copper Ltd. who subsequently suffered a financial loss, due mostly to the expense of pumping and timbering the deteriorating shafts. On October 5, 1917 the Pueblo was again closed down and only two more shipments of ore were shipped from the site. One in 1929, after the Company was changed to Richmond Yukon Co. Ltd., and one final shipment in 1930. MacBride Museum coll./Yukon Archives.

Cave in at Pueblo

At 11:27 a.m. Wednesday, 21st inst., 18 minutes before the men on shift were to leave work for the noon meal, the west stope in the Pueblo mine caved in.

By Whitehorse Star on March 21, 1917

The extent of the cave-in has not yet been definitely determined on account of all efforts being confined to the rescue of the men, nine of whom are either caught in or are entombed behind the cave-in on the three hundred foot level.

All the men were saved from the four hundred foot level, and apparently the cave-in extends from the two to the four hundred foot level.

The men entombed are T.M. McFadden, Bob Collins, Harry Graham, Thomas Davis, Andrew Beecher, B. Levich, Mike Kasovich, Nick Radovich and Tom Zuckoff.

By those who understand the workings at the mine, it is believed the men are behind the cave-in, in which event they are perfectly safe until they can be reached with the drift that is now driving through the solid rock. This drift will have to be seventy five feet long and to date those at work have made the unprecedented speed of one foot per hour.

The rescuers are working four hour shifts, and if this speed can be kept up, the men should be reached by Sunday morning.

The news of the disaster was flashed over the telephone to Whitehorse immediately after it happened and the coroner, Mine Inspector R.C. Miller, Dr. W.B. Clarke and a number of citizens hastened to the scene, where measures were already under way to do all that there was to be done for the relief of the missing men.

Whitehorse Star, Friday, March 30, 1917

The Rescue Work At Pueblo Mine Has Been Carried on Incessantly

Since early in the afternoon of the 21st, immediately after the cave-in at the Pueblo mine, whereby nine men were either entombed in the drifts or carried down to instant death, and at which time the work of rescue was started, the workings both above and below ground have been the scene of a feverish energy that is always an accompaniment of any disaster of either great or small extent wherein the possibility of saving or not saving human life is a factor.

Fearlessly, and carrying their lives in their hands, the brave rescuers under the personal supervision of General Manager Greenough, assisted by Supt. Berg. Civil Engineer Porter, Shift Bosses Geo. Demetrovich, Norman McCloud and Dick Adams, none of whom had hardly taken time to either eat, or sleep, or rest during the trying ordeal, pushed their way steadily ahead until shortly after 9 o'clock Saturday night at the end of an 85 foot drift they had driven through solid granite in the footwall behind the west stope of the 300 level they broke through into the old drift and found Harry Graham, Tom Davis and Nick Radovich, alive and but one of them at all injured.

These men bore up wonderfully well and were in excellent spirits when taken up to the mine office for dry clothing and nourishment. Dr. Clarke and Miss Adamson were in waiting and attended upon them after which the men were brought to the Whitehorse General Hospital, where they have since been, but will be discharged in a day or two.

The 85 foot drift to where the men were found was driven in 72 hours, which is, as far as known here, a record that has never before been equaled.

As soon as the three men were rescued a raise was started from the 300 level into the west stope in an endeavor to reach two men that were thought to be on the 7th and 8th floors of the stope, but when this 57 foot raise was completed at 4 o'clock Tuesday morning great disappointment was in store, as no one was found in the space at the end of the raise.

The diamond drill crew consisting of Foreman A.R. McDougal, C.J. Gaunt, A.A. Gillis and J.A. McKenzie, also did yeoman service. They started drilling a 2.30 a.m. of the 23rd, in the 200 foot level with the hope of locating the men and feeding them through a pipe until such time as the raise was finished, and by 8 o'clock a.m. or in five and one-half hours, had passed through 20 feet of solid rock, timber and debris from the cave in.

In addition to the work mentioned above a raise has been started from the 400 level to go in on the other side of the drift. The work on this latter raise is still under way, and it is the intention to advance up and through the cave in from this latter raise.

Whitehorse Star, Friday, April 6, 1917

Rescue Work in the Pueblo Mine Is Abandoned on Account of Unsafe condition of Shaft - Management of the Mine Exonerated

Shortly after the Weekly Star went to press on the night of March 29, word was received in town that the rescue work that had been progressing steadily at the Pueblo mine since the afternoon of March 21 had been abandoned by direction of Manager W.D. Greenough on account of the imminent danger of a cave-in taking place in the main shaft, as an examination of the shaft had been made by a specially appointed delegation of three miners, who had reported it to be unsafe.

So great was it deemed necessary for haste in getting out that all the machinery in the underground workings, including the diamond drill, was left behind and no effort since made for its recovery.

We mentioned last week the drilling record made in the rescue work by the crew of the diamond drill but did not learn until afterward that Shift Boss Dick Adams and his men had also made a record of three shots in four hours and an advance in the drift they were running through solid granite of 13 feet 6 inches in the same length of time.

In the investigation of the accident by a commission composed of Capt. A. L. Bell of the R.N.W.M.P. and D. J. McDonald, foreman of the Copper King mine, the sittings were held on the afternoons of Monday and Tuesday and the testimony of 20 witnesses all practical miners who had at various times been employed in the Pueblo mine, taken. The finding of the commission appears below.

Although, as we stated above, there were 20 witnesses examined we give only the testimony of one, Manager W.D. Greenough, whose statement, corroborated in all particulars by the others, is a clear and concise epitome of the events immediately preceding and following the accident.

Superintendent Berg in his statement goes more into detail than does Mr. Greenough, but it is so voluminous that we have not space for its publication:

Statement by W.D. Greenough

On the morning of the 21st of March I went to the 500 level with Mr. Berg. I was in the habit of going to the 500 level every morning to keep in close touch with the development work being done on this level.

This particular morning Mr. Berg accompanied me at my request with the view of determining and locating some diamond drill work to be done on this level. After checking up the development work and determining the directions of the proposed drill holes, I came on top.

Mr. Berg came up to report to me about 10:00 a.m. that the 400 stope was taking weight, and that he had taken his men out of the stopes. I was satisfied that he had done everything that was necessary in taking his men out and attached no particular importance to the timbers taking weight.

Mr. Berg then went back underground and at about a quarter to 12:00 o'clock sent for me to come down to the 300 level, stating that he had a cave-in at the mine.

In company with Fred Porter, the engineer, I went to the 300 level and found that the west stope had caved, also ascertained that nine men were either in or behind the cave. Mr. Berg with the day bosses, Adams and Demetrovich, had already started rescue work.

I sent for Norman McLeod, the night boss, and the rescue work was continued as fast as possible until the evening of the 29th when it was found necessary to abandon the rescue work together with the underground equipment and machinery owing, to the unsafe condition of the shaft.

When the rescue work was started I cautioned Adams, Demetrovich, McLeod and Supt. Berg to be particular and note any signs of the shaft taking weight. On the 29th at noon, I thought it advisable to have a careful survey of the shaft made with a view to giving the rescue party every possible protection.

At noon of this day, I requested Mr. Berg to take Dennis P. Dwyer and make a careful inspection of the shaft. I chose Mr. Dwyer because he was acting in the capacity of utility man and had put in more than two months actual time in the shaft on repair work, therefore he would be familiar with the shaft from the collar to the 500 level.

They made the inspection and reported to me a about 4:00 o'clock. The report was not favorable. I then called in Norman McLeod and Angus McDougal and had them go over the shaft with Berg and Dwyer. They reported at 7:00 o'clock that the shaft was unsafe and recommended that the men working on rescue work should be taken out immediately. This recommendation was immediately carried out, abandoning all the underground equipment and machinery.

In my opinion the cave was caused due to the action of the water passing through some slips on the hanging wall side. This action continued until it made a weak point, which might have been either below or above the 300 stope; and was unavoidable owing to the fact that it could not and was not noticed by any of the mine staff or the miners.

Mr. Berg was particularly attentive to his work and gave practically all of his time and attention in directing the underground work. His shift bosses, Norman McLeod, Robert Adams and George Demetrovich were competent and experienced miners.

The mine was exceptionally well timbered and all apparent weak points were bulkheaded. The least distance of solid ground between the 300 level and top of the workings on the 400 level was 40 feet, and at this point the ground was only mined 3 sets wide by 2 sets long, a space of 15 x 10 feet and one of these sets was on the solid or footwall, thereby leaving a space of only 5 square sets well timbered.

Therefore, I do not believe that the workings on the 400 level were directly the cause of the cave.

From the Whitehorse Star - March 21, 1917

Comments (1)

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James Gibson MD on Jan 2, 2020 at 3:38 pm

Fascinating story of a heroic attempt to save lives. Dr. Clarke mentioned in the news piece was my father in law’s dad.

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