|Death: ||Jul. 6, 1939|
Tower Hill Number One
FOUR BLOWN TO BITS BY MINE GAS
Workmen Killed At Tower Hill Plant; Trio Barely Escape Engaged in Dismantling Old Fan House When Torches Set Off Pocket of Gas.
BODIES MANGLED BY HEAVY BLAST
UNIONTOWN, July 6— Four men were blown to pieces by an explosion of accumulated mine gas as they were dismantling, with the use of acetylene torches, the fan house at the abandoned Tower Hill No. 1 plant of Hecla Coal & Coke Company at 7:15 o'clock this morning. Three others, who only a few minutes before had walked from the scene, escaped a similar fate.
Albert Basha, 56, of Fairbank.
James Coddington, 30, of Amend.
Russell Moyer, 21, of Uniontown.
George Murray, 50, of Masontown.
Basha, a wrecker, was tearing down the buildings at the Tower Hill plant and the other men were employed by him in razing the property.
The four, killed instantly and their bodies blown to bits, were inside the fanhouse, dismantling it. They were using acetylene torches when there was an explosion. Authorities were inclined to believe mine gases had gathered under the farm house and were touched off by the open torches.
It was only through a stroke of luck that three others' including sons of the victims, escaped death. Just a short time before they had been sent for another tank of gas for the acetylene torch. They were on top of a hill about 150 yards away when the blast tore the tile fan house to pieces and sent fragments of the bodies in all directions.
Those who escaped were George Murray, Jr., 21; Albert Basha, Jr., 15, and Francis Umbel, 21. The trio ran back to the scene to find the mangled bodies of the four victims, including fathers of two of them.
The remains of Mr. Basha were found 100 yards away; those of Mr. Moyer flattened against a building 50 yards distant; those of Mr. Murray 100 yards to the west and those of Mr. Coddington 100 yards to the east in a nearby field.
The body of Mr. Moyer was battered beyond recognition. The other bodies were mutilated but identification of faces was possible. The force of the explosion shattered windows in nearby dwellings and awakened persons who were still asleep.
Coroner S. A. Baltz and other officers are making an investigation into the cause.
Mr. Moyer was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Moyer of Morgantown road. He was a graduate of the South Union Township High School in the Class of 1936. For the last three years he had been employed by Mr. Basha. He is survived by his parents and three sisters, Mrs. Laverna Smith and Ellen and Annabell Moyer.
The Daily Courier, Connellsville, PA, Thursday Evening, July 6, 1939, page 1, column 8
Begin Inquiry Into Explosion That Killed Four
UNIONTOWN, July 7— Official inquiry is being conducted into the four-death explosion at the Tower Hill No. 1 mine early Thursday morning. Mine officials gathered at the shaft and went over the situation most minutely in the presence of State Motor Police who are keeping a crowd of curious spectators back.
It was estimated several thousand persons visited the scene Thursday. A barbed-wire barrier has been erected and watchmen were on duty all night.
Removal of a four-inch ventilating pipe from the concrete seal over the abandoned air shaft was cited as probable cause of the devastating explosion which cost the lives of four men.
Ten minutes after seven men had gone to work to dismantle the fan house at the abandoned workings of Hecla Coal & Coke Company, there was an explosion. Three of the group had only a few minutes before left the scene to get a tank of gas for the acetylene torch being used and thereby were saved a similar fate.
Accumulated mine gas was believed to have been set off by the open acetylene torch and the explosion blew the quartet to bits.
A double-funeral service for Albert Basha, 56, junk dealer of Fairbank, who had charge of the demolition of the property, and his brother-in-law, James Coddington, 30, of Amend, will be held Sunday afternoon. There will be a prayer for the two at the Basha home at 1:30 o'clock followed by full rites at the New Salem Christian Church with Rev. A. J. McCloy, pastor, officiating.
Basha will be buried in Acklin Cemetery at Merrittstown and Coddington in Walnut Hill Cemetery near Uniontown. Basha is survived by his wife, Mrs. Estella Umbel Basha; six children, John, Elizabeth, Anna, Gladys, Roger and Albert, Jr., the last named being one of three who escaped death; a grandchild, a brother, Abe of Detroit, his parents, two sisters and two brothers. Coddington leaves his wife, Mrs. Lydia Umbel Coddington, and six-year-old son, James, Jr.
The Daily Courier, Connellsville, PA, Friday Evening, July 7, 1939, page 1, column 4,
continued on page 6, column 7
Estella J Basha (1899 - 1981)
Created by: WichitaFalls
Record added: Nov 15, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 100758963