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Five Injured In Dynamite Explosion At Mine

June 4, 1985

SACRAMENTO, Pa. (AP) _ Lightning apparently struck dynamite deep inside at a coal mine Monday, detonating an explosion and injuring five miners, including one critically, officials said.

The explosion occurred around 3:30 p.m., 4,800 feet into the mine near the end of a tunnel. The five miners were the only men working in the area, said Michael A. Benza, manager of the International Anthracite Corp. mine in Hegins Township in Schuylkill County.

″We don’t know how it (the lightning) got down there, but the valley is noted for static electricity,″ he said. ″Two caps went off after lightning had gotten into the gangway somewhere.″

James Shober, director of the state’s Division of Anthracite Deep Mine Safety, said he believed lightning triggered the dynamite.

The mine, which employs about 50 workers, would be back in operation for its second shift Tuesday afternoon, mine officials said.

John Pratt, of Valley View, suffered the most serious injuries in the accident and was flown by helicopter to Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, where he was listed in critical condition.

Michael McAndrew, 37; Larry Latsko, 37; and Dennis Masser, 28; all of the Ashland area, suffered smoke inhalation and were admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital in Pottsville, a hospital nursing supervisor said.

Michael Tichy, of the Ashland area, was hit in the head by rocks but did not require medical treatment.

McAndrew said he did not know exactly what happened except that two sticks of dynamite exploded. He said he and the other four miners had been digging a rock tunnel and were loading the cut they had made when he heard two loud blasts.

International Anthracite Corp. is a subsidiary of Frontier Coal Co., Denver, Colo.