Denaby Coal Side Burst – “Biggest in 40 years of mining” – Two Men Died

April 1957

South Yorkshire Times April 6, 1957

Denaby Coal Side Burst
“The Biggest I’ve known in 40 years of Mining” – Witness

Colliers who work in the Parkgate seam of Denaby Main Colliery often hear slight bumps –“one of the seams peculiarities” – but the one that was heard in the afternoon of January 9 was described by one man as “ the biggest I’ve known in 40 years of mining,” and was the sound of a coal side burst which killed two men who were working in the D4/B5 heading.

The jury at a resumed Denaby inquest yesterday (Thursday), acting on recommendations Doncaster District Coroner, Mr WH Carlile, returned a verdict of “Accidental Death” on William Jennings (62), deputy, of 11 Brookfield Avenue, Swinton, and Horace Cocksedge(44), Power loader operator, of 37, The Present, Conanby.

The inquest had been adjourned awaited evidence of the third man involved in the accident, Harry Shaw (33), a collier, of 73, Oak Grove , Conanby.

“Very Well Timbered”

Shaw said that on the day in question he went to the Parkgate seam with Cocksedge, and started work with him in the D4/B5 heading. They were both working normally up to the transaction, and had filled seven or eight tubs.

Coroner: “Was the heading secure?”

Witness: “It was very well timbered; there were props and bars across the top.”

Witness went on to say that he and Cocksedge were working about 30 yards into the ending, and were opposite one another.they had both been discussing the extension of the rails when the accident occurred.

“I knew nothing more till I woke up later on,” said Shaw. Asked by the coroner if he was satisfied with the working conditions that existed, Shaw replied that he was.

Two of the men who helped to dig out Cocksedge and Jennings – William Thomas Sanderson, transfer point attendant, and Thomas Betteridge, a shop firer, spoke of the noise and blast the burst caused.

Sanderson said he saw Cox edge and show come out of the ending with a full tub at about 3 p.m. and go back with an empty one. It was then that deputy Jennings followed them in.

As he got to the face the burst occurred.

“It was a terribleterrific bump – the worst I’ve heard in 40 years of mining,” said Sanderson.

“The blast was so great that my helmet was blown off and I was flung into the conveyor belt,” he said.

Sanderson said that he recuperated quickly and hurry to get help for the trapped men.

“Like a Dull Thud”

Thomas Betteridge of Ellershaw Road, Conisbrough, said he was working in the D4 heading, and that about 3 PM he had a bump “like a dull thud.”

he was about 200 yards away,. He saw a light coming towards him, and heard Sanderson say, “Look sharp; there’s been an accident.”

He ran to the scene and came to a heap of coal which was about “six or 7 inches from the roof.”

He heard Shaw say, “I’m fast with my feet; I’ve got another man with me; be as quick as you can.”

Betteridge then found Jennings, whose head and shoulders werebetween an overturned tub and a prop.

The colliery manager, Mr Robert Ditchfield, said on his inspection of the ending he found that the first four bars from the face of the heading on the right and side have been knocked askew. The roof was intact; the coal on the left-hand side and not move. Coal in the face bore signs of having been crushed.

Coal on the right had been pushed out for a distance of about 4 yards. The floor had not moved, but the rails down the centre of the heading had been pushed to the left-hand side. Mr Litchfield described the occurrence as “a shot bump.”

One of its Peculiarities

Question by the Coroner about the safety conditions in this particular part of the scene, Lichfield replied that he had visited the heading on the Monday before the accident, and was quite happy about working conditions.

The Parkgate seam, he said, was subject to occasional bumps. It was one of the seam’s peculiarities. This bump, however, was “most unusual.”

“Considering that the ventilation had been pulled down it was not surprising that there was an amount of gas present,” he said.

Asked by Mr Wormald what precautions have been taken in that heading after the event, Ditchfield replied that this was an occasion when one was wise after the event. Coal taken out was now been replaced by packing.

Summing up, the Coroner said it was obvious that there had been neither negligence nor lack of safety precautions. All concerned were to be congratulated upon the speedy and efficient way they tackle the problem.

Mr Wormald and Mr Titchfield expressed their condolences to the relatives of the dead men.

“These men, said it should,” were all excellent in their jobs, and this was a great loss to Denaby Main.”