Mexborough and Swinton Times January 20, 1940
Houghton Main Worker Gives His Life
Slag Heap Tragedy
A story by comrades of the efforts they made to stop runaway tubs on the slag heap at Houghton Main Colliery was related at the inquest at Barnsley Road Methodist Schools, Darfield, on Friday, on Charles Ward (36), married, general labourer, of 8, College Terrace, Darfield. Snatched of his feet by the runaway, Ward fell on his face and sustained a fractured skull, being killed instantly.
Witnesses were closely questioned by the Deputy District Coroner (Mr. S. H. B. Gill) on the lockering arrangements.
At the inquest were Mr. J. Taylor (manager), Mr .T.W. Illsley (representing the Houghton Main branch of the Y.M.A.) and Mr J Hawley, H M. Inspector of Mines.
Arthur Ward, general dealer, George Street, Low Valley, a former chairman of the Darfield U.D C. said his son was healthy and both his sight and hearing was good when he last saw him alive on the Saturday before his death. He had been working at the pit only five or six weeks.
Tubs Ran Back.
Harold Perkins, surface worker, 18 Barnsley Road. Darfield, said he and Ward and Nat Shipman were hauling four tube up the muck-stack, using an endless rope The tubs were loaded with sleepers and bricks to be used on constructional work. Walking in front with the clip, witness shouted “Get your lockers ready,” and heard the reply “Aye.” He could not see the other two men as he was bending over the slip. Under the impression that the lockers were fixed he eased the clip. The tubs seemed to stand for a moment and then started going back. He tried to put the clip on again to steady them, but it bounced off. He caught hold of the tub next to him to try to steady it and, looking up, saw Ward and Shipman doing the same at the side. The tubs gathered speed and for three or four yards they went back with them. He heard Shipman shout “We cannot hold ’em, let go ” “I let go,” said witness, “and saw that Shipman had done the same, but Ward was still running at the side of the tubs trying to hold them back.” Shipman again shouted “Let go, Charlie,” and witness started shouting also. Ward did not let go until he got to the end of the gantry and then seemed to realise that he could not hold them
That was the place they found him. The tubs went off the rails and seemed to check themselves with the rails and sleepers. Ward seemed to fall face forward at the side of the first tub. They found him about thirty to forty yards down the slope unconscious and it a crouching position. His head was resting about six inches from the flange of a big pipe which was covered with blood, suggesting that his head had struck it.
The Coroner: Did you think the lockers were in?
Witness Shipman got his locker in, but Ward’s locker was not in. I took it they were in.
The Coroner: What weight of material had you in these tubs?
Witness: Three tubs and a half of sleepers.
The Coroner: Would it not be better to keep the clip on until the lockers are in?-I did keep the clip on until I thought the lockers were in
When witness said he would not like to express an opinion as to how many lockers were necessary to hold the run, Mr. Hawley remarked ‘ It is pretty obvious, is it not, that two lockers were not sufficient?”
Effect of Hard Ground.
Witness referred to “split points,” which acted as a safety device, and said they had thrown one tub off the rails. Owing to the hard nature of the ground, however the tubs ran as fast off the rails as on They did not take that in account. Also it was possible that Ward slipped on the hard ground.
Mr. T. W. Illsley: In view of the experience now gained, don’t you think it is wise to use a drag?
Witness: I do now
Nat Shipman, general labourer, 11, Havelock Street, Darfield, said he had got his locker in when Perkins shouted, but Ward had not. Witness had the only proper locker available: Ward had a piece of wood which he tried to get into the wheel and failed. They all tried to stop the tubs and when witness found they could do nothing he shouted “Let them go,” He was satisfied that Ward’s head came into contact with the flange of the pipe when he fell. Witness said he considered now that two lockers would not have been sufficient even if they had got them in.
Dr P. X. Burmingham said he was called to the colliery to find Ward dead in the engine room. He had a fractured skull and a bruise over the area of the right kidney, The fracture- of the skull would be consistent with his- head having come into contact with the pipe.
The cause of death was shock and haemorrhage from a fractured skull.