South Yorkshire Times, November 23.
“Drivers Warning may have Saved some Lives.”
Conisbrough inquest story of Cadeby mine car crash.
When two runaway mine cars crashed into a Paddy mail at Cadeby Main Colliery last Thursday, one man was trapped under the mail and died later from his injuries, it was stated to the jury at a Conisbrough inquest on Monday when they recorded a verdict of “Accidental Death” on Walter Bellingham (56), a miner, of 95, Clifton Street, Denaby.
The jury praised the action of George Flaherty (24) of 4, Edlington Street, Denaby. He had driven the Paddy mail, carrying 144 miners, to an underground loading station in the Hague Moor seam, when he saw the two runaway mine cars approaching on the same line.
He told the Doncaster District Coroner, Mr K.D. Potter, “I saw a light in the distance, and then I saw a mine car. I could tell it was moving because it was bobbing about on its springs. My first thought was to put the locomotive into reverse and then I realised men were still getting on and off. I stood up and shouted to the chaps, “There’s a runner – get clear,” and I jumped off just before the impact.
“It was a violent impact, which, knocked the Paddy mail back about 15 to 20 yards.”
In answer to questions he said that when he saw the light he understood it to be a warning of an emergency.
Arthur Downing of 87, Old Road, Conisbrough, a contractor, said he and Harry Bowman and Fred Stocks, were driving a heading in the Hague Moor seam. They were working with a machine used for shovelling debris. The machine travelled on rails and they used it as a kind of engine to push mine cars along.
The driver was about 450 yards from the loading point. One of the mine cars was already full and they drew in an empty car and filled it.
“When we saw the tubs moving we waved our lamps, and shouted. We receive a lamp signal back and we thought the block had held”, he said.
Coroner: “it seems that a safety block of this kind is useless because it gets knocked out of the way.”
Witness: I don’t agree to this, sir. We found it successful on other occasions, otherwise we would not have used it.
Contractor, Mr Harry Bowman, 34 Clayfield View, Mexborough, said that as brakesman of the team of three men, he had checked that the brakes of the full mine car were applied before they started filling other cars.
After the first empty car had been filled, it was breasted forward to couple with the other.
The safety chain coupling the cars to the machine was then removed, and the cars were pushed another five or 6 yards to clear points at the intersection of the full and empty roads. Unless thechain was removed, he said, there was a danger that the loading machine would be pulled down the line by the loaded cars. It was only meant to take one car at a time.
The brakes of the first car were on, but those of the second were not, Mr Bowman added. Practically straight away the two cars started moving and he assumed that the impact of shuntedhad knockedthe brakes off the first car. He tried to reach the brakes but was obstructed by some packing at the side of the line, and couldn’t reach the second car´s brakes.
He flashed his cap lamp about to try and warm people further down the line, and although there were no express instructions about signalling in the dark, he saw somebody signalling back in the same way. He took this to mean that the safety block had held. They were told of the accident 10 min later.
Mr Bowman agreed that there had been a case for taking the first car down to the safety block before starting work, so there would be little momentum in the event of a runaway. He said he had never been told not to carry out operations in the way they were carrying them out that morning.
Asked about the relative advantages of a dumpling safety block and the improvised type they were using, Mr Bowman thought that runaway cars would mount the dumpling block. The sleeper device could, he said, be easily knocked out with a hammer in that event. On occasions he had seen cars mount this type of block and it had held.
Mr Frederick William Stocks, a contractor of 94 Firbeck Street, told the coroner that when Mr Downing shouted he saw the cars running away. He also waved his lamp in warning and saw from further down the line what appeared to be an answering signal.
Mr Stocks said they had never been told not to do the work in this way.
Alan Squires, salvage worker, 46 Adwick Street Denaby, said while he was getting undressed to start work he saw cap lamps waving backwards and forwards. He took it to be a danger signal. “I put my light on and saw the runaway cars. There were about 30 or 40 yards away. I realise I was in the path of them and I had to pull a boy and myself clear,” he said.
He said he tripped and fell and when he got to safety. He was pretty much shaken by the experience.
As the wagons passed him he gave a signal with his own lamp.
Mr George Rush, 51, Oak Grove, Conisbrough, said when the Paddy mail arrived at the loading point he got off. He saw men from the front of the mail turn around and start running towards him.
He knew there was something wrong, as there was a lot of shouting. He ran a couple of yards and saw a clearance in the side and positioned himself there.
Several men passed him, but the last one to pass got about 2 feet past him when the corner of the railcar struck him at the back of his leg and he seemed to fall between the two cars. When the train stopped. I shouted “there’s a man under this car”, witness added.
George Stanley Brandreth, a contractor, qualified in First Aid, of Roberts Avenue, Conisbrough, said Mr Bellingham was unconscious while under the car, but he regained consciousness for a short time while they were transporting him.
Frank Gilliver, a deputy, of 18, Edlington Street, Denaby, said he last examined the workings at 4 AM on the day of the accident. He saw the safety block of sleepers. He said that when the men started work he thought they would put some more safety blocks in nearer to the wagons.
Derek Randerson, 5, Gomersall Avenue, Conisbrough, who gave evidence of identification of his uncle, said he was at the pit top when he heard of the accident and he waited. He saw his uncle brought out of the pit, and went to the ambulance room with him.
Dr Hugh Richmond, pathologist, said that there were several fractures in the chest and death was due to circulatory failure due to multiple injuries.
Summing up, the coroner said that the system would have been more satisfactory if a block, which could be attached to the rail, had been used, or at least a block much nearer to the cars than 60 or 70 yards away.
A member of the jury commented, “I think we ought to complement the young man on the diesel engine that morning. It is quite possible that within staying on the loco. He may have saved some lives.”
The Coroner added “I quite agree.”
Sympathy was expressed to the family on behalf of the National Coal Board, the British Association of Colliery Managers, the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers, and the National Union of Mineworkers.