*** The Capricornian (Rockhampton, Qld) Saturday 7 August 1897
THE MOUNT MORGAN FATALITY. MAGISTERIAL INQUIRY.
A magisterial inquiry was held this (Wednes day) morning by Mr. F. Millican, Police Magistrate, into the cause of the death of John Henry White, who was killed on Monday last by a fall of earth and stone in one of the shoots from the main tunnel of the Mount Morgan mine. Sergeant O'Sullivan conducted the inquiry on behalf of the police department. Captain Bennett, Inspector of Mines, watched the proceedings on behalf of the Mines Department, and Mr. John Dally, Morgan Gold-mining Company.
H. P. Seale, one of the company's mining engineers, produced a plan showing that the fatality happened in No. 17 shoot, and stated that the tracks were loaded in a recess at the end of and under the tunnel, access to which was under the lip of the shoot a height of about 3 ft. 6 in., the floor of the recess being solid ground and the sides timbered with gum slabs secured at the front to uprights 12 in. in diameter, the roof being formed by the angle of the shoot, the back of the shoot resting on a piece of spotted gum or ironbark 9 in. by 2 in. supported by four 9 in. by 5 in. uprights resting on the solid ground, and strengthened by cross pieces securely fastened. In addition the front of the shoot was supported by a piece of timber 9 in. by 3 in. flush with the face of the recess, and nailed and bolted to the shoot and front uprights, which were 12in. round timber, also a support under the lip of the shoot, 12 in. by 5 in., very securely bolted to the front upright timbers. The bottom of the shoot was of spotted gum 12 in. by 2in. placed at an angle of about 45°; the shoot for a distaoce of 47 ft. up was 6 ft, by 5ft. inside, and for the rest of the distance— 37 ft.— it was 4 ft. 8 in- by 4 ft. 8 in., and the shoot was used for passing ore and would hold about 100 tons. From measurements taken by Mr. Seale since the accident he had ascertained that the quantity of ore in the shoot at the time of the accident was about 60 tons, the distance from the bottom of the shoot to where the ore was clogged being about 20 ft. He thought the whole 60 tons came away together, and the force of its contact at the bottom, calculating the velocity at 10 ft per second for a distance of 20 ft, would be about equal to 10 tons per square foot. Up to the time of the accident he was of opinion that the timber at the bottom of the shoot was sufficiently strong to stand such a fall if a little of the ore fell first to cushion the balance, which, as a rule, generally occurred. Mr. Seale was also of opinion that it would be a pre- caution to safety if the recess previously men- tioned were filled, as then the bottom of the shoot would be able to stand any shock that might occur; in damp weather the shoots were liable to choke, but the choking which caused the accident was very rare ; the man at the top of the shoot could not by mere observation tell how much ore was in the shoot, though he would know that it had stuck ; there were no means of signalling the quantity of ore in No. 17 shoot; he was pre- sent when they were trying to extricate White's body, and from what he saw then he thought the accident was caused by a general crushing of the timbers of the floor of the shoot on top of the recess, some of the up- rights being also displaced ; he did not con- sider it safe to go under the shoots, though they were always considered safe ; the delivery from the shoot was through an iron door 4 ft 9in, opened by a lever; the shape of the cut in the upright support in the centre, to which the side supports were fastened, would give it a tendency to split if a heavy compact came on it.
John Worrall, a trucker employed on the mine, gave evidence that he had been so em- ployed for three years : on the morning of the accident he went to work at the usual time, trucking from No 17 shoot; the deceased and another man, John Giles, were working with him, each of them working a truck, which witness filled through the iron door by the aid of the lever ; the other men removed the full trucks, and when the ore did not come freely through the door they loosened it with a bar ; when the trucks were filled they were run to the tip and emptied, witness keeping tally ; fifty trucks had been emptied by 9 30 on the morning of the accident, the stuff being claggy in consequence of the recent rain ; at that time Giles went under the bottom of the shoot and struck it with an ordinary sledge hammer, and got down sufficient to fill three more trucks, which were emptied at the tip; when the trucks were brought back the ore was still hanging, and Giles told White not to go under ; deceased, however, went under the shoot and rapped twice with the hammer, when the whole of the ore in the shoot fell, as witness described, "just as though it had been greased, carrying a rush of air with it" ; it came down so sudden that White had no chance of getting away ; wit- ness sang out "Jack" twice, but when he looked into the recess he fonnd it had been filled up with mullock and broken slabs : he then gave the alarm and assistance arrived immediately, "the men tumbling pell mell all roads;" as many men as could work com- menced moving the ore to extricate White, it being then about a quarter to ten ; work was carried on continuously till about a quarter to four, when the body waa recovered ; it was found in a sitting posture with the legs straight out ; the body was warm, but lifeless; there were no big stones among the stuff which fell, it being mostly sand and rubbish and debris, but it covered White quite tight enough to suffocate him ; the shoots got stopped up now and again in the same way that it did at the time of the accident, and knocking the floor out of the shoot was one of the best ways of loosening it, and witness had done so himself hundreds of times in other shoots the same way as deceased had done; he would have gone under No. 17 shoot that morning had his mates given it up as a bad job ; it was the common practice among the truckers to use the hammer for the purpose, and they borrowed the hammer one from the other to do so ; whenever witness had used the hammer he alwavs got warning by a little of the ore coming at first, and then be got out of the way before it fell in a lump; there were a number of the shoots which the men could not get under, and then when the stuff got stuck they knocked in the front as high as they could reach with the hammer ; but if that did not loosen it witness had put in three or four plugs of dynamite to bring it down ; at No. 20 shoot there was a ladder, and it was customary to go up that and loosen the ore by knocking the end of the shoot ; the ladder would be closed at the top when the ore was being put in ; witness had never before known an accident to occur at any of the shoots during the seven years he bad been trucking on the mine ; it was not possible to tell by knocking at the bottom how far up the shoot the ore was stopped ; he bad never known the bottom of a shoot to even flinch by the ore falling on it ; witness had never been told by any of the bosses to use the hammer ; it was his own plan he found did the most good ; he had never told any of the overseers that he used the hammer, and could not say whether any of them had seen him doing so.
Dr. Brannigan, the Government Medical Officer and Resident Surgeon of the Mount Morgan Hospital, gave evidence that yester- day he made a post mortem examination at the hospital morgue on the body of the deceased : he found the thighs and legs abraided, the upper part of the chest and neck livid, the right forearm broken, there being no other fracture; the cause of death was asphyxia, owing to food sticking in the windpipe, or regurgitating from the stomach to the larynx caused by the pressure on his body ; the fluid condition of the blood, empty condition of the left side of the heart, and the distended condition of the right side were also in accordance with the symptoms of death from asphyxia ; judging from the con-dition of the body when it was brought to the hospital at 4 p.m. on the previous Monday, death must have occurred at least five hours before, and he was of opinion that suffocation was outright immediately after the accident ; there was nothing un- usual in the heat of the body, as the heat of a body sometimes increased several hours after death ; as a matter of fact White's body was warm the following day ; his death would probably have been almost instantaneous, and he would not have suffered much ; he was an exceptionally strong man, apparently about thirty -five years of age ; it was almost incredible that a man's body had been so little injured after such a quantity of stuff had fallen on him, bur witness could understand it by the pressure around the body being so evenly distributed.
John Giles, a trucker on the mine, gave evidence corroborative of that of the witness Worrall as to the wav the accident hap- pened, adding that just before the fall took place he gave a couple of blows with the hammer, but hearing something give way he jumped out of the recess and threw down the hammer ; White picked it up, and wit- ness said to him, "By Jove, Jack, it's dangerous under there ;" White replied, "Oh, go on," and went into the recess, wit- ness saying, "All right, you won't take my word for it." White gave the roof one knock, and witness beard something come away down the shoot ; he threw down a bar he had picked up and ran away, a piece of stone striking him on the leg ; he called "Jack," and receiving no reply, and not being able to see anything for tbe dust, gave the alarm ; afterwards he saw the whole of the recess in which While was full up of stuff.
Charles Horner, miner, working at the top of the shoot, deposed that at twenty minutes to ten o'clock deceased and his mates, asked the time, when he told them. The shoot choked up ten minutes after. The ore in tbe shoot gave way for 15 ft. or 16 ft. Worrall called for help. The shoots often choked up, and were allowed to clear themselves. In his opinion the accideut was caused by the stuff being wet.
John Dally, mining manager, deposed there were eight shoots, into the main tunnel, all of which were made under bis supervision. He considered them perfectly eafe in their con fall of stuff such as caused the accident. The shoots have been worked on the same principle for years. The system of tapping with hammers had never been carried on to his knowledge, or with his consent, and on the morning of tbe accident he checked Giles from using the hammer. If the recesses in three or four shoots were closed up it would be im- possible similar accidents could occur.
Captain Bennett, in the course of some remarks, referred to the bad lighting in tbe main tunnel He did not fear repetition of the accident, which he looked upon as purely accidental. It should be a warning to guard against the weak spots in the mine, and it was to discover such inquiries were principally held.
The inquiry then closed.