Fall of Roof Cadeby Main – Inquest On Walter Collins.

March 1907

Mexborough & Swinton Times, March 22, 1907

Fall of Roof Cadeby Main
Inquest On Walter Collins.

Two interesting points were raised at an inquest held at the Fullerton Hospital on Monday afternoon March 17th, by the Coroner, Mr. D. Wightman.

The whole issue centred round the death of a miner named Walter Collins, who succumbed the previous Friday to injuries received from a fall of `dirt´ at the Cadeby Main Colliery. Somewhat to the surprise of the jury it was gathered that a fellow worker had been aware of the `slip´ in the roof, which had occasioned the disaster, while the deputy passing through the working had failed to detect anything untoward. This called forth from the coroner some pertinent remarks, who in the course of summing up made free use of the phrase `Dereliction of Duty´.

The Chief H.M. Inspector of Mines, Mr. J. Walker was present, and Mr. H.S. Witty represented the Colliery Company.

Evidence of identification was tendered by a check-weighman named Samuel Straw, with whom the deceased, who was aged thirty seven, had lodged. He had last seen deceased on the morning of Friday, when he had left to go two work at the Cadeby Main Colliery at 4-50 a.m.

Robert Dunford, a coal-getter, then gave his story of the fatality, and the events which led up to it. He had known deceased as a collier for six or seven months, and on the day in question had worked with him. Deceased had gone first into the workings, and there witness found had found him in the bank, having been sent there by a deputy named Jas. Springthorpe. In the ordinary course of things, Collins and he, with three other men then commenced work, deceased having, as a preliminary, tried the place.

The accident happened at half past twelve, when they heard a `bump´ in the roof, the `dirt´ falling on Collins, who was standing about three yards from the witness. The weight of the fall was over a ton, and deceased, who was not entirely enveloped, cried, ” Look sharp and get me out,” he was immediately conveyed to the surface, and from thence to the colliery offices, where he was examined by Dr. Foster, upon whose advice he was sent to Fullerton Hospital.

In his opinion the accident was due to the `slip´ in the roof, which though visible prior to the accident, had appeared small and of little importance. The fall of roof occurred between two props standing three feet apart.

Replying to the Coroner, witness admitted that another prop might have prevented the accident ; but would inevitably have had to have been withdrawn in order to clear the road. The deceased however, was responsible for the safety of the party.

Replying to the Inspector, witness said the deputy had been through the place at eleven o´clock that morning.

The Coroner : You did not think it necessary to provide an additional bar because you did not think the roof was going to fall in ? Yes.

The Coroner : It all comes to the same thing gentlemen, It´s being wise after the event.

The deputy, Jas. Springthorpe, said he had gone through the affected workings

prior to the accident and had detected no `slip´ in the roof. At about 12-15 p.m. he was summoned to the scene of the accident, were he saw the injured man, who was subsequently conveyed away. He had examined the place subsequent to the accident and had detected no `slips´. He had absolutely no knowledge of their existence before the accident. Although he had tapped the roof with his stick, and raised his lamp.

Dunford, being recalled, adhered to his statement that he had seen the `slip´ before the accident.

The deputy explained that sometimes a `slip´ could not be seen as it was covered by a thin layer of coal.

Dunford said it was not a big `slip´, he could just see it and nothing more. He did not say anything to the deputy about it.

The Coroner ( to the deputy ) : He thinks you ought to have found it for yourself and so do I, possibly the Inspector too.

The Deputy : I didn´t see it, the roof was practically level.

The Inspector said he thought the deputy should always ask the men if they had seen any `slips.´

The Coroner : Or at any rate ” Is it alright lads?”, that might do.

The deputy said he considered that the deceased was a competent man, and there was sufficient timber set.

The Coroner : Dunford says he saw the `slip´, you as a colliery deputy, it was equally your place to see it.

The Coroner said the deputy had not seen the `slip´, whereas the collier had. Had the position been reversed the collier would probably have been turned away, for the dereliction of duty. But the collier would not do that to the deputy, because the latter was above him. But in the ordinary course, therefore, the deputy should be turned away, and the collier should take his place.

There had probably been an oversight on the part of the deputy who had not seen the `slip´, and also on the part of the collier who failed to notify the existence of the `slip.´

Dunford said he saw the `slip´ in the morning, but it was not his place to report it to the deputy. The Inspector said it was, and that if the witness knew of anything likely to cause danger the first thing he should do is report it.

The deputy : Before the displacement came it was not visible when I went through.

Dunford said he saw it at seven o´clock, and why did he not think it was necessary to report it was because props were under it, and he thought the place was safe.

Mr. Witty asked Dunford if he had called the attention of the deputy to the `slip´, and the collier replied that it was not his duty to do so.

Mr. Walker pointed out that it was his duty to report anything likely to be prejudicial to the safety of the mine.

Reviewing the whole situation, the coroner referred to the character of the deceased held for competency and trustworthiness, and enumerated his duties which such a man was called upon to fulfil. The accident was one entirely unexpected, and had it not been for the fall, everyone, even the Inspector would probably have regarded the place as well timbered. Then they had the evidence of Dunford, who had explained how the accident had occurred, and despite the statement of the deputy, the `slip´ must have been visible or Dunford would have been unable to see it. There was however, a great difference between the points of view before and after the accident, and he had previously said, ” It was easy to be wise after the event.” Therefore he did not think it his duty to take a serious view of the matter. There might have been a dereliction of duty ; there might have been a mistake in the view the men took of what they should do. There was indeed such contradiction in the evidence of the two men that they were bound to take notice of it. If the ( the jury ) thought it was their duty to send Springthorpe or Dunford, or both, to take their trial for manslaughter, they should do so. But he added it was quite likely they would be laughed at for doing so.

The Inspector pointed out that the collier was more likely to detect the `slip´ than the deputy ; and that the former should have reported on the matter.

A verdict of ” Accidental Death” was returned, the jury foreman remarking that the jury did not see that anyone was to blame in the matter.