A pit explosion
Many men brought to safety, cause unknown
Feared loss of three lives
This morning shortly after 8am, a terrible explosion occurred in the Pasture mine of the Hulton Colliery Company at Cronton. Fire damp was first suggested as the cause, but a later message hints at blasting operations as the seat of the mischief. This mine is the highest mine belonging to the company and is some 270 yards deep.
Fortunately when the accident happened there were comparatively few men working in the pit.
Immediately after the explosion rescue gangs were sent to work, and men were soon brought to the surface, some very badly injured. Ambulances and several vehicles were sent out from the Whiston Institution and the injured men were conveyed there. So far no dead body has been recovered. The whole work of the mine has been suspended.
While some 250 men were employed at the mine, only about eighteen were engaged in the Pasture section. Of these all but three have been brought to the surface. Ten of the rescued men were so badly injured that they were at once conveyed to the Whiston Infirmary, but the remainder, less seriously injured were allowed to return to their homes. At noon three men were still in the pit and grave fears were entertained of their safety.
Rescue gangs are still hard at work, but their labour is greatly retarded by the pressure of so much gas. The colliery officials and others likely to know are extremely reticent as to everything relating to the accident, but it is believed that the explosion was as a result of some blasting operations in progress.
Liverpool Echo 13 December 1917
The Cronton explosion
The fifth of the unfortunate men injured by the explosion at the Cronton Colliery on Tuesday last died in Whiston Infirmary today, his name is Walter PYE, aged 43, married of Huyton Quarry. Two others at the infirmary are still in a critical condition.
The body of James O’NEIL of Thatto Heath, who was entombed, had not up to noon today been recovered, and no hopes are entertained of him being alive.
Liverpool Daily Post 15 December 1917
The Cronton explosion
Inquest opened on 6 victims
Mr S. BRIGHOUSE, County Coroner, opened the inquest at Whiston Institution yesterday on the six men who died as the result of the colliery explosion at Cronton last Tuesday.
The Coroner said that as a result of the explosion six men had already died, and there was one man still in the mine. He expressed his sympathy with the relatives of the deceased, in which he was joined by Radcliffe ELLIS, on behalf of the firm, Mr SIDDALL, Government Inspector, Mr PARKINSON on behalf of the Lancashire and Cheshire miners Federation and Mr BOUCHIER, solicitor of the Firemen’s Association.
Evidence of identification was then given with respect to the six dead men, Albert Boardman BALL, aged 30, married with two children, 29 Brook St, Whiston, Samuel FOULKES, aged 63, single, 24 William St, Prescot, George Richard JONES, aged 23, married with one child, 16 Derby St, Prescot, John HARRISON, aged 33, married, with two children, of 19 Derby Square, Prescot, Walter PYE, aged 42, married, 1 Wood Lane, Huyton Quarry, and Joseph LOWTON, aged 32, married with three children, 1 Church Row, Whiston.
Dr GREEN, resident medical officer, said that the six men died from shock caused by severe burns, FOULKES had also head injuries and JONES, fractures of both legs.
Jack TRAVIS aged 23 of Huyton Quarry was still in hospital and was very ill. James CUMMINS, 15, of Cronton Ave, Whiston was also in hospital, and was the better of the two. Three other men were being attended at their homes, William FORSTER, Albert TYRER, and Thomas AMES. Mr SIDDALL asked Dr GREEN if any of these men were in a fit condition to make a statement as to what happened in the mine. Dr GREEN replied they were not.
The Coroner and Government Inspector adjourned the inquest until January 23rd. 1918
Liverpool Echo 18 December 1917
The body of James O’NEILL aged 40 of 20 Emily St, Thatto Heath, who was buried by a fall of roof at the Hulton Colliery explosion at Cronton was found yesterday underneath the debris, recue parties had been working continuously from Tuesday repairing the road and roof of that section of the mine where the gas explosion took place, but it was only after five days hard work that they succeeded in reaching the place where O’NEILL had been struck down.
The man it is reported appeared to have been suffocated by the fumes which accumulated after the explosion, this makes the seventh death. The bodies of four of the men, who died in the Whiston Infirmary of injuries caused by the explosion, were interred yesterday at the Prescot Churchyard. Their names were John HARRISON, aged 36, of Derby Square, Prescot, George Richard JONES, aged 23, of Derby St, Prescot, Albert HALL, aged 36, of Whiston and Samuel FOULKES, of Prescot. The officiating clergymen were Canon MITCHELL and the Revs, S. JONES and J. WILLIAMS.
Liverpool Echo 20 December 1917
The Cronton explosion
Eighth victim of colliery accident dies
There has been another victim of the recent explosion at the Hulton Colliery, Cronton, the deceased being John W. TRAVIS, a single man, aged 23, of Hale View, Huyton, who has died at the Whiston Infirmary.
This makes the eighth death which has occurred, and of the men removed to the infirmary only one survives, a youth named James CUMMINGS, aged 15, of Cronton Ave, Whiston, who is now recovering from his injuries.
The two Prescot men removed to their homes after the explosion, William FORSTER and Albert TYRER, are doing well.
Liverpool Daily Post 16 January 1918
Inquiry into Cronton disaster
The adjourned inquiry into the colliery explosion at the Cronton Colliery, belonging to the Hulton Colliery Company, which took place on December 11th and caused the death of wight men, was concluded at the Whiston Institute yesterday by Mr BRIGHOUSE.
Mr NICHOLSON, divisional inspector and Mr SIDDALL conducted the case for the Government Department, Mr Arthur ELLIS [PEACE and ELLIS] represented the colliery company.
Mr James R. HARK, certificated manager explained that six or eight shots were fired each day by the fireman Joseph LOWTON, who was killed by the explosion. His witness theory was that when LOWTON was in the act of firing a shot in the working place that was furthest away from the pit bottom a general weight or excessive gas pressure, or both, caused a fall in all the three working places that were entered from the same brow where the ventilation passed along. The fall also broke the electric battery cable which was used for firing the shots.
By these simultaneous falls great volumes of gas were liberated, and a block of coal that fell in the furthest place exposed or partially exposed the shot hole, so that the charge was fired in practically an open atmosphere, if not entirely open. The flame from the explosion passed through the other two working places or stalls along the jig brow, and up to the tunnel end, where it evidently became mixed with a sufficient percentage of oxygen and went off with a bang. The flame passed along for about 300 yards before the final explosion, and on its way it burned and struck down the men who were working at different points, and James O’NEILL was found buried under the fall in his working place.
Two shots fired together
In answer to Mr NICHOLSON, witness said he found that apparently two detonators had been coupled up together as if two shots were fired together.
Mr NICHOLSON, “That is contrary to regulations?” “Yes”
The Coroner asked was he certain that this was so, witness replied the wires had given every indication of it.
Coroner, “Then it follows both shots were fired at once?” “Yes”
Witness said he was very much surprised that two shots had been fired at once, because LOWTON was a very careful man. He had never seen anything before in the mine to indicate that this was a practise at all.
Mr SIDDALL, assistant mines inspector, said that after careful examination of the pit, he agreed with the theory advanced by the manager, he was also of the opinion that two shots had gone off together.
The jury returned a verdict of “Death from misadventure” accepting the evidence, but attributing no blame to anyone.
James O’NEILL, aged 41, interred, St Helens Cemetery, 19th December 1917, purchased grave section, 31, grave number, 38.