FATALITY AT OATLANDS COLLIERY
ADJOURNED INQUEST, YESTERDAY
An adjourned inquest touching the death of John ATKINSON was held
before Mr. J. WEBSTER (coroner), at the Globe Hotel, Distington, on Wednesday
forenoon. Mr. W. D. HARRISON was chosen foreman of the jury.
The first witness called was Mr. A. THOM, jun., M.E., who said he
produced plans of a coal ark at Oatlands Colliery.
By the coroner: Had you anything to do with the erection of this coal
Mr. THOM: No, sir.
The next witness called was Henry WOOD, who said he was an engineman
in the employ of the Moresby Coal Co., where the deceased was also employed as
By the coroner: Under whose orders was the deceased to work?
Witness: Under the surface manager's orders. I had the authority to
direct the deceased man to work at the ark. I first saw the deceased man at
seven a.m. on the morning of the 19th April, and then told him to attend to the
trimming of the coal in the ark.
By the Coroner: Have you any rule in writing as to the working of
this particular place?
Witness: No, not in writing. The man who is drawing the coal from
underneath shouts to the man when he is going to draw coal slack out.
By the Coroner: Have you any contrivance to help a man in case he was
in danger of being sucked down with the small coals?
Witness: We have no provision made for that.
By the Coroner: Did you ever tell the deceased that he was not to go
on to the slack coals?
Witness: I never told him that. The deceased had worked in the ark at
various odd times during the last two or three years.
By a juryman: Has a man named DIXON or MOORE worked in this ark?
Witness: MOORE was employed at the job before I took it. Witness said
he had worked at the place about two years.
G. FREW was examined by the Coroner, as to his experience at the ark.
He said he had worked at odd times for six months in the coal ark.
The Coroner (to Henry WOOD): Did you ever tell these men what they had
Witness: I told them to level the coal as required. Did any of them
say that they had been in danger - No- Did you ever hear tell of a similar case
occurring at Walk Mill Pit where a man was buried in the small coal?
Witness: Yes, I heard about it
The Coroner: Did you take any precautions at your place to remedy
Witness: No, sir. I was present when the deceased man's body was found
at one of the shoots at the back of the ark. He was in an upright position.
By the Coroner: Was it a fact the man's cap was on his head?
By a Juryman: Have you any signal to give when they are going to draw
Witness: No, none.
Mr. NICHOLSON, Inspector of Mines, also examined the witness at some
length. Witness WOOD replied to the Inspectors questions as follows:
I told him to level the coal out. I generally visit them once an hour.
I last saw him at ten minutes to eleven. I then told him to come down. I did
not see him come down to his bait. I missed him at 11.30 a.m. which is
starting time after bait time.
Inspector: What time did you get deceased out?
Witness: about two o'clock.
Inspector: What quantity of coal was taken out before you recovered
Witness: I don't know.
Inspector: How often is it required for a man to trim these coals?
Witness: It depends on the coke ovens.
Inspector: Was there any need for the man to be in the ark at that
Witness: No, none.
George MILLER, surface manager, was the next witness called. He said
he resided at Pica. I heard at 11.30 a..m. on the 19th inst., that the deceased
man was missing. Search was made all up and down the yard for him. I went up
to the coal ark to see if I could find any trace of him. I had grave
suspicions that he was in the ark.
By the Coroner: Why should it suggest itself to you that he was in the
Witness: Well all the other places had been searched. I thought it
possible he might be in the ark. I was present when his body was found at the
middle shoot. The day was wild and windy, so deceased could not be heard shouting
very well if he did shout at all. The nearest workman to the place would have
been about 40 feet off.
By the Coroner: Have you had any accident during your time at the ark
Witness: No, sir.
By the Coroner: Could anything be done or put in whereby a man might
Witness: I would not consider it necessary.
By the Foreman: What position was the coal in when you went up to seek
Witness: There was about five feet of solid coal, then an open space
about nine feet across and 9 feet deep.
Foreman: Was the elevator going at the same time?
Witness: Yes, sir.
Mr. MARTIN, secretary to the Coalminers' Association, put several
questions to the witness through the Coroner.
By a juryman: What means have the men in the ark to know when they are
going to draw the coal out?
Witness: The man who is going to draw gives them a shout.
By the Inspector: Was he a steady, sober man?
By the Inspector: Was he subject to fits?
Witness: Not that I know of.
By the Inspector: Did you ever give men instructions to go into the
By the Inspector: What time were you in the ark last?
Witness: About seven a.m. There was no necessity for the deceased to
be in the ark at the time.
H. WOOD (recalled) said the last time he saw the deceased he was
standing near the window with the shovel in his hand.
J. JOHNSTONE said: I work at the coke ovens and filled the coke ovens.
On the 19th April I was at my work in the Colliery. It was my duty to carry
the coal dust to the ovens. I told J. AITKINSON I was going to draw coal at ten
o'clock. I first spoke to him at seven o'clock. I drew coal out till nine
o'clock. I last saw deceased at ten o'clock. I told him to keep clear, as I was
going down to draw coal. I first heard of the accident at 12.30 o'clock.
G. MILLER recalled, was asked at what time they commenced to search
for the deceased? He replied about 11.30 a.m.
The Foreman to JOHNSTONE: and you drew coal regularly till twelve
Witness: Yes, sir
Foreman: Did you hear any cries?
Witness: No, sir. I went up to him at ten o'clock. I said if he stayed
where he was he was quite safe.
The Coroner to Mr. A. THOM, colliery manager: Has it never struck you
that something should be done to avoid these accidents?
A. THOM: Certainly but it would be an inconvenience to the colliery.
The Coroner: What is an inconvenience to a poor man's life?
The Coroner then reviewed the evidence, and pointed out to the jury
that they could bring in that the deceased came by his death through suffocatio
n, which would be an open verdict. The jury then retired to consider their
The Foreman said they had agreed that the deceased came by his death
by suffocation, and added the following rider: "That something should be done
to protect men while working on small coal in the ark."
Mr. NICHOLSON, on behalf of Mr. HEDLEY, Inspector of Mines, said he
strongly condemned the practice of persons being employed in the ark on the
coals, and he wished the representatives of the Press to give it publicity.