SHOCKING FATALITY AT SPRING GULLY.
DRILLING INTO GELIGNITE. ONE MINER KILLED OUTRIGHT ANOTHER MORTALLY INJURED. NO FAULT OF THE COMPANY.
News was received in Castlemaine early yesterday morning of a fatal blasting accident at the Spring Gully No. 1 mine, near Fryerstown, and when fuller particulars came to hand the utmost regret was expressed at the sad occurrence. Our representative was early at the
scene of the accident, and found Mr E. D Williams, M.L.A., Chairman of Directors of the mine, and Mr J. Rowe, Mining Inspector, already on the mine attending to their respective duties. The shaft, which is 10ft by 4ft in the clear, is being sunk, and as the ground is very tight, two hammers are kept going on the drill. At the time of the accident the total depth was 332ft, or 32ft below the bottom plat. At the bottom they have a dig in the centre about 2ft 6in wide and 2ft deep, and this dig is generally full of water. The afternoon shift on Sunday had, at knock off time (midnight) drilled six holes — three on each bench — but, owing to the tightness of the ground, none of them were more than 2ft deep. They charged the six holes and ignited the fuse to each, intending, according to the usual custom, to fire the six shots simultaneously. The explosion took place, and they got into the cage and went to the surface. The night shift then came on, consisting of James Brown, 36 years, married, with one child, residing at Campbells Creek ; William Morse, 37 years, married, with four children, residing at Campbells Creek ; Robert Scott, 31 years, single, residing at Yapeen. They cleaned up the shaft and drilled a couple of holes. Where they intended to drill the third there was an old drill hole, and although Scott suggested that it would be better not to use it, Morse cleared it out with the drill, gunned it, and jumped the drill in it, saying it was solid enough. During this time Brown had filled and lighted his pipe, and then took the drill from Morse with the intention of ‘turning’ to Scott’s striking. Scott, as is customary in starting a drill, tapped it once or twice with the hammer, Morse, in the mean time, standing behind Brown, who, of course, was in a kneeling position. Morse was lighting his pipe when Scott put his weight into the hammer, and when it struck the drill a terrific explosion took place. This was about 2.45 a.m. The effect of the explosion was horrible. Brown was killed almost instantaneously. His legs were smashed — the right one being almost severed below the knee, his two arms were broken, and his head and body generally cut and bruised all over. When assistance came he was gasping, but died before being sent to the surface. Morse cannot possibly live, as he is fearfully mangled. The right side of his head is dinted in, and he has concussion and laceration of the brain. His face is bruised and cut, his right forearm is broken, three ribs on his right side are fractured and driven into his lungs, which are lacerated, his right thigh is gashed, and his back is greatly torn, and he’ probably has internal injuries. He was unconscious when found, and still remains in that condition.. Scott was the most fortunate, as he was standing away from the lift of the hole. He has a nasty gash, over his left eye, and his face and arms were peppered with the flying particles of rock. His left hand is also severely injured, and he is suffering greatly from shock. When Scott regained possession of his reasoning faculties after the explosion, he called out for his companions, and was answered by a deep groan. The candles had been blown out by the explosion, and it was pitch dark, bub the brave fellow, heedless of his injuries and blinded with .blood, groped about the shaft for his two comrades. He found them both in the dig, so he pulled them out and placed them on the benches. Only for this action Morse would most assuredly have been drowned, as there, was fully 2ft of water in it. He then climbed up the 30ft of ladders to the plat and signalled to the surface. The Mine Manager, Mr T. Grose, accompanied by Mr G. D. Murray, were in the cage in a very minutes and descended to the plat. On going to the bottom they found the bodies as Scott left them. They were placed one at a time in the bucket, hauled to the plat, placed in a truck, and taken to the surface, Mr Grose deserves every credit for the smart businesslike way in which he grappled with such a painful and awkward circumstance. Morse’s body was taken into the engine house and a messenger dispatched for a medical man, and word was also sent to the police, the Mining Inspector, and the Chairman of Directors; arrangements were also made for acquainting the relatives of the injured men of their sad condition. Dr Maxwell, oh arrival, ordered Brown’s body to be removed to the Spring Gully Hotel, and that Morse should be conveyed to the Castlemaine Hospital. His instructions were carried out and Scott also was driven to the Hospital. Inspector Rowe descended the shaft and made an examination, and Constable Nonmus at once wired to the Coroner, Mr W. R. Anderson, P.M., who was in Kyneton, for instructions relative to an enquiry. The accident cast quite a gloom over Spring Gully, and Mr E. D. Williams, seeing that the men were deeply grieved over the misfortune to their comrades, instructed the mining manager to inform them that if they so desired they need not work that day. The men gladly availed themselves of the opportunity, and no work was done in the mine yesterday, although the company had the Inspector’s permission to start work. No blame whatever is attachable to the company, and the men in drilling an old hole have themselves to blame for the result. Mr Rowe pointed out to those miners in tho engine house yesterday that such a course was contrary to the regulations, and any miner known to do such a thing was liable to a fine not exceeding L10. According to Scott, who was interviewed in the hospital yesterday afternoon, the hole was 8in deep, and he thinks it contained the full charge. It was probable, he said, that when the previous shift lighted the fuses running into the six charges, that the flying rock from one of the first charges to fire, cut the fuse of this particular hole close to the collar before it had ignited to that point. If this be the case, then the full charge was in the hole. To make matters worse, there was a thin quartz floor a few inches beneath it, which was a splendid let- go for the shot, consequently the force and quantity of country shifted was much greater than if the ground had been solid. The news of the accident is felt very keenly by Mrs Brown and Mrs Morse, and they are both prostrated with grief. Every effort was made to break the distressing news as gently as possible. Brown, who is a native of Taradale, had only been working about a fortnight in the mine, and intended leaving shortly to work on tribute in the Eureka and Vineyard mine. Morse was also a new-comer in the mine, having been engaged three weeks ago. Both were highly respected and were steady, upright men. The sinking of the shaft in this mine seems to he inseparable from accidents, as during he previous sink in June last, W. T. Williams was killed through a piece of sandstone falling on him.On arriving from Kyneton last night, the Coroner drove to Spring Gully and opened the inquiry, and adjourned it to 10 a.m. on February 16: h at. the Court House, Fryers town, no other date being suitable. Evidence
as to identification of Brown’s body was given, which was necessary to allow of burial taking place. Early this morning Morse was still unconscious, but Scott is progressing favourably, and will be able to get about in a few days’ time.
Mount Alexander Mail 23 January 1901 p2. William Morse died some hours after being admitted to hospital.
This mine produced some of the richest finds in Victoria and was closed in 1910