Chesterfield Deputy Killed

A Pure Accident

Crushed Under a Tremendous Roof Fall

A sad fatal accident occurred at the Bond's Main Colliery of the Staveley Coal and Iron Company, Limited, the victim being James Fletcher, aged 26, of 34, Eyre Street, Chesterfield, a deputy in the Calow section of the pit. The inquest was held at Calow Fold on Wednesday afternoon, by Dr A Green, the district coroner, when the circumstances were fully investigated. There were present Mr H R Hewitt, HM Inspector of Mines, Mr A J Hopkins, representing the widow and Mr R W Cuthbertson, agent for the Staveley Company.

Daniel Fletcher, of Birdholme, a stallman employed at the No 9 pit of the Clay Cross Coal and Iron Company, Ltd, identified the deceased as his son, who was a married man, and left one child, aged about five months. He had been a deputy for some time, and had been employed in this capacity at Bond's Main for two years.

Accident Described

William Percival, of Church Lane, Calow, a stallman in the Calow section of the Bond's Main Colliery, stated that the accident occurred at 9.15a.m. on Tuesday. In describing how it happened, the witness said there was a steep incline, at the head of which was his stall, and tubs were "jigged" up and down it, there being two sets of rails - one for full and the other for empty tubs.

The Coroner: What were you doing at the time?
Witness: I was standing still looking at an empty tub which was coming up the incline. The deceased was standing two or three yards above me and nearer the top of the incline.
What happened? - There was a pair of rails lashed to the back of the tub. Directly the tub got upon a part of the incline which was not so steep, the weight of the rails caused the tub to tilt at the front. It struck a prop set between the two sets of rails.
It knocked out the prop? -Yes.
Then what? - There was a fall.
How much fell? - About ten tons, I should say.
Did it fall on the deceased? - Part of it did.
Did any fall on you? - None.
What sort of roof is it? - A good rock roof, but there is a fault there.
Did the stuff bury him? - I could see one side of him. He was doubled up. It fell in several pieces, but most of it fell at once.
How long did it take to remove the stuff? - About 20 minutes. I had to get some assistance.
Was he alive? - Yes, he died about half an hour after the accident.

"Look Sharp"

Could he understand what you said to him? - Yes. We were in the dark and I spoke to him. He said, "Is that Sam," and I replied "No." He then said "Oh, it's Bill." I asked him if he was hurt, and he said "Yes, look sharp and get me out."

In answer to Mr Hewitt, the witness said that two rails had never been attached to a tub to be drawn up before. Only one rail had been attached usually. The rails did not constitute a danger.

Mr Hewitt: Do think that the "jigger" thought the tub was coming too fast and then applied the brake, and so caused the tub to jump off?
Witness: The tub was not running as fast as usual when it got to the flatter part of the road.
The deceased had helped to pull at the "jig" rope after the tub had been replaced on the rails? -Yes.
You say the tub was going slowly? - Yes, until it got to the flat.
What speed was it travelling at? - I cannot say.
Has this centre prop which was knocked out ever been used as a "jig" prop? - No, I don't think so.
You take extra care in setting "jig" props? - Yes.
And it would require much force to knock one out? - Yes.
Is it usual to have these props in the centre of the road? - No, but this was left because of the fault. The roof looked sound, but we knew of the fault.
Further questioned, the witness said that when the deceased visited the stall he was told that some rails were needed to carry the tub road further. He went to the bottom of the incline and either lashed the rails to the tub or ordered this to be done. The prop had been set for three weeks and would require some force to push it out.

No Negligence

Samuel Turner, of Calow Top Alley, another stallman, said the deceased assisted him in pulling at the "jig" rope to start the tub. When it got to the flat witness went to the brake stick, but it was not the sudden application of this that caused the tub to run off the rails. It was the weight of the rails which did this. After the fall, witness went for the stretcher and the deputy died as he was being lifted on.

Answering Mr Hewitt, the witness stated that immediately after they had got the rails they would have returned and "ripped" down the roof which caused the man's death.

A verdict of  "Accidental death" was returned, the Coroner remarking that there had neither been breach of rules nor negligence.

(The Derbyshire Courier - 17th July 1909)

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