1905: An Awful Accident | AspenTimes.com

1905: An Awful Accident

In celebrating the 125th anniversary of The Aspen Times, we are printing a story or two from each year the newspaper has existed – 125 historical selections in 125 days. This series is in conjunction with the Aspen Historical Society.Peter Swanson Killed in Smuggler Lead MillPerhaps in the history of Aspen there has not been a more awful death than that of poor Peter Swanson, whose life was snuffed out instantly yesterday while on duty at the Smuggler Lead concentrator. He was not only an employee at this mill, but was perhaps the oldest on duty at the time of this sad, sad accident, as he has been employed in almost every capacity in this mill since 1891.Yesterday the pump belt was not working satisfactorily; he at once cut out a piece, thus shortening it and was in the act of putting this belt on the pulley when his overalls were caught by a set screw on the line shaft and the rest of the story is too sad to tell. Without a moment’s warning he was twirled around at the rate of 120 revolutions a minute striking the castiron hanger at each turn, and was thus crushed into an unrecognizable mass of humanity. His head was crushed beyond recognition, his left arm was broken twice – one between the shoulder and elbow and again between the elbow and wrist; his right arm was broken between shoulder and elbow; his left knee was dislocated; his left side was literally crushed breaking his ribs – in a word he was whipped to death in an instant. At the time of the accident Walter Jenkinson and Frank Post were assisting him. Walter was at the corresponding pulley and seeing his fellow thus caught, he recognized the situation and flew to the motor to cut off the power, but too late to save his comrade, who, when the power was stopped was a lifeless mass.W. Cornwall, another employee, was perhaps the first at his side and says he heard one low moan and then all was still. This truly awful accident happened at twenty-two minutes to 10 o’clock and soon cast a gloom on the entire city as the untimely news was carried by ‘phone and lip to lip.Acting Coroner Justice Sanders being at Coal Basin, investigating a fatal accident there, it became the duty of Justice Hail to take charge of the case. Manager Cohn gave assistance and soon he, Justice Hall and others were at the scene of the death and remains which were literally distorted were taken to Undertaker Blakemore’s parlors to await inquest which was held in the afternoon, under the direction of Acting Coroner Hall. (Aug. 25)The Percy La Salle FireTwo Miners Missing – All Working to Save Them.When the word flew over the city yesterday morning that the great Percy La Salle was on fire, even the school children stood aghast, as they only too well know what that meant, if true. Men, women and children were on the tip-toe of excitement and it was not until some good news of the actual conditions could be learned that there was any abatement.The Times representative was on the scene early in the day and gleaned the following facts covering this calamity which will deprive at least 125 men of work and possibly twice that number.Since the first of the present month the management has been working a few men in the “graveyard” shift in order to tram certain ore to the best advantage as to time. Monday night the “four o’clock” came off shift in regular form; two men, Emil Kullerstrand and Jacob Plut, went above to do the tramming. J.W. Harrison, shift boss on the 4 o’clock, followed his men out, and Engineer W.O. Perry, after examining the property, left with the shift, the electric lights were shut off as was the compressor, and quiet reigned.Timberman J.O. Henderson and Nick Garrish were the first to enter the Newman tunnel yesterday morning on “day shift.” As they neared the station, some 4,000 feet from the mouth of the tunnel, they discovered a raging fire – in fact, the station, some 10x12x60 feet, was on fire and was so completely burned that the massive timbers were already falling. They gave the alarm and the first thought was for their two unfortunate fellows above. In an instant it was seen that no human aid could come from the tunnel, so General Superintendent H.E. Woodward directed a force to proceed via the city to the old Percy workings to effect on opening, to give ventilation and possibly rescue the entombed men.These men lost no time in making the opening, only to be driven back by the poisonous fumes. In the meantime a full working outfit of force pumps, hose and fire helmets was secured from the city and hurried to the tunnel and a force of men was put to work fight that cruel master, “Fire.” They worked five minutes to capacity, were then relieved by willing hands and thus this task was carried on until close to 4 o’clock when victory was gained. Examination showed the “station” a complete wreck and the fine plant of machinery a mass of ruin. The rescue work proceeded and later the bottom of the 1,000-foot incline was reached – this was really the chimney which carried the deadly fumes to the men above.While at this writing full information is not at hand as to its condition, the management feels it is in better condition than hoped for earlier in the day. The orders are: “Get those poor fellows out at any cost,” and to this end another searching party went back to the Aspen side of the mountain last night to try and gain entrance, if safe to do so, while the force is not loosened in the tunnel. At a late hour last evening no encouraging work was at hand as to the fate of the miners entombed … (Oct. 11)

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