Torbanlea Colliery 1900

21/03/1900 - Torbanlea Colliery / Methane Explosion

Reviewing the whole circumstances of the case the Commission have arrived at the conclusion that there is no evidence to prove conclusively to them from what place the gas emanated. 

The Commission, after a very full and careful consideration of the evidence, are of opinion that blame cannot be attached to, anyone for the occurrence of the accident on the 21st March.

The evidence goes to show that the explosion was not a particularly violent one. Two or three empty wagons standing in the dip just where the explosion occurred were not shifted, the trap -doors in the dip and to the left of the dip were uninjured, so also were the props. Some canvas which had been put up instead of a door lower down the dip was ripped off, and that was the only apparent injury done. 

The overman -and the boy Anderson, who were not many yards from the locality of the explosion; felt no shock or violence. 

Saturday previous to the accident the Houstons and others had been working in a level on the left -hand, or return, side of the dip. On the Monday morning they were removed to the right -hand, or intake, side to take out the pillars where the accident occurred. The manager distinctly states that this removal was ordered because the road was beginning to crush, and not because of foul air or insufficient ventilation. 

There is, however, a discrepancy in the evidence on this point, as the overman states that the reason for removing the men from that point was that the air was getting pretty well charged with gas coming from the fault at the bottom of the dip, owing to a stopping having been crushed. 

The working places were examined at about 6 o'clock in the morning by John Caldwell, the overman and fireman, with a safety -lamp before the men entered, and were reported by him as safe. The cavity in the roof formed by the 'fall in the 100 -yards level was also examined and found to be free of gas. 

The Commission have it in the evidence of John Caldwell that he examined the workings a second time that day, about a quarter of an hour before the accident occurred, and he states, when speaking of this examination, that he went down to the particular place where Houston was working and examined it, and that he then left his light with Houston and went with a safety -lamp through the old workings and examined them, and that he found" the mine all clear, just as it was in the morning. 

On the day of the explosion there were, sixteen men in the dip workings namely, the five deceased, who were working out a pillar next to, and on the right hand side of, the dip .; the overman and a boy, who were in a level on the left - hand side of the dip and immediately opposite' to where the explosion occurred ; and nine men in a level 20 yards higher up on the right -hand side of the dip. 

The engineman and one or two. others were in the level at the top of the dip. At the time of the explosion the overman was in charge of the mine, in the absence of the manager, who was away at the Riverbank Colliery. 

From the evidence of the overman, who was not many yards from the place, it appears that the explosion occurred at about 1 p.m., and that the first thing he heard was a rumbling noise followed almost immediately by a rush of air, and by the flame. The flame hovered over him and the boy for a second or two, and then went out. On feeling the rush of air, he said to the boy, " The gas is lit ; lie down."

He also heard the men crying out, and one of them saying, " Put it out," and then " Jack is burnt," meaning the.younger Houston. Caldwell and the boy got up to the top of the dip in the dark, 'where they met D'Arcy, the engineman, and two or three others. Gambie, one of the injured men, had already found his way up the dip. 

After the engineman had got some safety lamps which were kept in the engine - room, he, with three others, went to the rescue of the other four .men, Caldwell waiting at the door of the dip to show them the light. John Houston was the first to be rescued, and he was soon followed by Johnston, and then Alexander Houston. Griggs was the last 'to get to the top of the dip, being brought up by the manager and the overman about half -an -hour after the explosion occurred.

This accident claimed the lives of 5 people, these were: Alexander Houston, Amos Gambie, Frederick Stephen Griggs, James Johnston, John Houston