Not pleasant - but - this IS what happened:
DREADFUL ACCIDENT AT THE BRIGHTSIDE COLLIERY
FIVE LIVES LOST
On Friday night an accident resulting in the loss of five lives, occured at Messrs. Unwin and Shaw's coal pit, which is near the railway station at Brightside, Sheffield, and is generally known as the Brightside Colliery. The pit, like many others in the neighbourhood, is worked by day and for several hours during the night, and the unfortunate men who were killed belonged to what is known as the "night shift." The men on the "day shift" leave at about four o'clock in the afternoon, and night men commence work at eight at night, and continue in the pit till four the following morning. From the time the day men leave work till the night-shift go into the pit the colliery remains idle. At eight o'clock on Friday the deceased men - Thomas Bates, James Fox, George Fox, John Gouldstraw, and Joseph Burgin - went into the pit mouth for the purpose of being lowered down; and it appears that they were the first party of the night-shift men to descend the pit after the day men had ceased working. They got into what is known as a "cage," which is somewhat like a large box or chest protected on the top by a kind of roofing and having several bars of iron at the side to prevent the men from falling out. It may be mentioned that these cages are used for bringing up corves of coal and that as one descends into the pit another rises from the pit bottom. The rope which was used in the ascent and descent was constructed of wire, and was bout an inch and a quarter in diameter; and during the whole of the day and for some time past it had been in constant working, and not the slightest idea was entertained as to any portion of it not being perfect. On the five men getting into the cage, the engine-driver at once proceeded to lower them down the shaft, and it is stated that the cage had not proceeded more than a few yards when the rope, without any previous warning, suddenly snapped and the cage with its living freight went down the shaft, which is 200 yards in depth, with a velocity somewhat fearful to contemplate. Before the men at the mouth of the pit were aware that anything unusual had occurred, they heard an agonising shriek from their companions in the cage, and the next moment the engine-driver found that the weight of the cage and its contents had been taken off the engine. The suddenness and the nature of the accident for a moment seemed almost to unnerve those who were near the shaft, but soon; although it was not expected that any of the infortunate men could survive the effects of the fall, steps were taken to get to the pit bottom. Mr Morton, surgeon, of Brightside, was instantly communicated with, and that gentleman, with commendable promptitude, at once put himself in readiness to accompany the explorers, and to render medical assistance in the event of such assistance being required by any of the unfortunate men at the bottom of the shaft. The explorers entered the mine, not by means of the shaft, for in consequence of the rope being broken too much time would have been occupied in its repair before it could have been used, but they entered it by the "drift way" which was cut out to work the pit before the shaft was sunk. On arriving at the bottom they found that the cage which contained the men was broken almost into a thousand pieces, and that the cage that was being raised as the other was descending was likewise smashed to pieces. The rope and the massive bars of iron at the sides were twisted and wrenched in almost every conceivable shape, and that being the case, it can easily be imagined what was the state of the bodies of the unfortunate men. All of them were horribly mutilated, but some were worse than others. The whole of Burgin's head was cut off from the trunk, with the exception of the lower jaw and the base of the skull. Thomas Bates had one of his arms cut clean off. The limbs of the whole of the men were fractured, and in each case death must have been instantaneous. The explorers at once set to work to remove the bodies, and till a late hour men were engaged in fixing another cage to th
On Saturday John Webster, Esq., coroner, opened an inquest at the Bridge Inn, Brightside, on view of the bodies of James Fox aged 42 years, George Fox, 37 years of age, John Gouldshaw, 26, Joseph Burgin, 17, and Thomas Bates, 60, who were killed. Evidence as to the identity of the deceased was taken and the inquest was adjourned till Wednesday. The coroner said that in the meantime the Government Inspector would have time to enquire into the matter and make the necessary examinations on the spot. He would in all probability attend the adjourned inquest.
At the adjourned inquest, it was first suggested that the engineman had caused the accident by running the rope slack, and thus allowing the cage, with its human load, to overstrain the rope with a severe jerk when it began to descend. On this point the evidence was conflicting. It turned out that of the thirty wire threads composing the the rope, twelve inner threads were spliced nearly together; and the outer threads having become somewhat worn, it was believed that the splicing of the inner threads was unequal to the ordinary strain upon the rope. The jury attributed the breakage of the rope to this defect in the manufacture, and added to their verdict of "Accidental death," a recommendation that the attention of Messrs Shaw and Son, the manufacturers of the rope, should called to the defect.