Smith Mine Disaster

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Washoe 59068,Red Lodge Area

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Location: Washoe

Smoke pouring from the mine entrance about 10 oclock the morning of February 27, 1943, was the first indication of trouble. Theres something wrong down here. Im getting out the hoist operator called up. He and two nearby miners were the last men to leave the mine alive.

Rescue crews from as far away as Butte and Cascade County worked around the clock in six-hour shifts to clear debris and search for possible survivors. There were none. The night of March 4, workers reached the first bodies. More followed until the toll mounted to 74. Some died as a result of a violent explosion in No. 3 vein, the remainder fell victim to the deadly methane gasses released by the blast.

The tragedy at Smith Mine became Montanas worst coal mine disaster, sparking investigations at the state and national level. Montana Governor Sam C. Ford visited the scene, offered state assistance and pushed a thorough inquiry into the incident.

Todays marker of the Smith Mine Disaster follows a simpler one left by two of the miners trapped underground after the explosion, waiting for the poisonous gas they knew would come.

Walter & Johnny. Goodbye. Wives and daughters. We died an easy death. Love from us both. Be good.

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