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An Unofficial History of Coal Mining in the Illawarra

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Old Bulli Colliery 1914
Old Bulli Colliery
in 1914

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Bulli Colliery Underground Fire - 1965

Four miners suffocated when a pocket of gas ignited in a panel, several hundred yards from the main shaft, on November 9th, 1965.

The deceased were Frederick Hunt, 50, of Thirroul, Henry Smith, 50, of Bulli, John Murray, 53, of Thirroul and Robert Charles Stewart, 30, of Woonona. Their bodies were recovered at 6pm, about nine hours after the blast. Ten mine rescue teams and the Southern Mines Rescue Station worked through the night attempting to extinguish the fire.

Mr. Kent described how a
wall of flame appeared
between him and safety...

Mr. Stewart's body was not found until the next day, with his final words scrawled on a ventilation tube "Tell wife kids I love them dearly. Can't last 10am. All can think of wife kids. I'm getting weaker. Can't last.Hope can die like man. Can't I..

Three men survived - Barry Kent, 30, of Thirroul, Charlie Stewart and Dale Jones, both of Woonona. Mr. Kent described how a wall of flame appeared between him and safety and he "gambled" on running through it. "I ran at and into the flame, holding my breath and closing my eyes," he said. He suffered burns to his face, scorched arms and singed hair - but he was one of the lucky ones.

Throughout Australia 17 men died in mining accidents during 1965.

(Source - Illawarra Mercury, December 3, 1999, "Supplement of the Century")

A piece of timber was found jammed between the brake disc and the drive shaft coupling of a shuttle car. Evidence suggested that the timber had been raised to a temperature at which incandescence developed and was logically assumed that ignition occurred from that source (NSW Government, 1966)

The ventilation in the section of working, and in particular in the vicinity of the shuttle car shunting station was inadequate. It is quite clear that if adequate provisions had been made to ventilate the shunting area, or if the shunting station had been sited at a different location, the disaster would not have occurred.

(Source - Chatterjee, Prashanta K., 1982. Coal Mining Disasters in New South Wales and Queensland Between 1920-1979 - A Technical Appraisal. Proc. AusIMM. No. 281, March, 1982)


For more information on Bulli Colliery, see also...

Disasters - Bulli Colliery Gas Explosion - 1887
Old Bulli Colliery - History
Photographic Gallery A-L
Minebase 1 (A - C)
Minebase 3 (O - Z)
Timeline 1 (1791-1862)
Timeline 2 (1862-1877)
Timeline 3 (1878-1887)
Timeline 4 (1888-1901)
Timeline 5 (1901-1923)
Timeline 6 (1924-1947)
Timeline 7 (1947-1961)
Timeline 8 (1961-1977)
Timeline 9 (1978-2000)