:: Brackley Pit Tragedy :: Tuesday 16th April 1968 ::

The Event:

Three girls and a fireman died today in a disused mine at Brackley Colliery, near Bolton (Lancs).

They were believed to have been overcome by gas.

The girls were Susan Shaw aged 12, Lorna Shaw aged 10 sister's of Silverdale Road, Farnworth and Sheila Watson aged 13 of Derwent Road, Farnworth.

The dead fireman was leading fireman Jack Liptrott of Devon Street, Bolton. Two other firemen were also overcome by fumes received hospital treatment and made a full recovery.

A police officer said it appeared that the girls were playing in the colliery grounds and had squeezed through a small cavity into the entrance to the mine shaft. Two boys raised the alarm.

Firemen used sledgehammers to knock a hole in the brickwork at the shaft entrance to reach the girls.

A fireman was overcome by gas while making an attempt to rescue the girls after they were trapped.

What Happened:

Well after a lot of research I have finally been able to put the story together.

Susan and Lorna were visiting their friends house Sheila Watson on Derwent Road, Farnworth.

They decided to go out and play as the sun was out and so off they went.

Sheila's brother Keith (10yrs old) was also at the house that day with his friend Glen Lawton (also 10yrs old).

As the girls went off across the fields, Keith and Glen followed them secretly, until the girls eventually saw the boys and took them along to a secret den the girls had found.

The girls led them to the disused drift mine at Brackley Colliery which had closed 4yrs earlier.

There was an opening in the bricks which allowed the children to see into the mine, and a further hole in the roof of the brick work which was easily large enough for the children to climb down into the entrance of the mine, on to an old table type wooden structure.

Once they were all inside the mine, one of the girls started to walk down into the tunnel but, this in itself would of stirred up the heavier then air gas laying on the ground, as she stepped maybe only a few feet she was very quickly overcome by fumes of black damp (the dreaded gas of miners) and collapsed to the ground, a second girl attempted to reach her friend but was also overcome by the fumes of the deadly gas, bravely the youngest of the girls also attempted to rescue her friend and sister, but was also overcome by the fumes.

Keith and Glen watched in horror as all three girls collapsed to the ground, they climbed out as quickly as possible and ran home to get help.

Once they finally made it home Keith told his mother what had happened, who quickly rang the emergency services for help.

A police car arrived and took them all to the colliery, where firefigthers were already trying to smash through the bricks of 14" inches with a sledgehammer in order to reach the girls, leading fireman Jack Liptrot entered into the mine to rescue the girls, however, due to the fact that he was not wearing the correct gas mask Jack was quickly overcome by the fumes and collapsed to the ground.

Two more firemen later received hospital treatment due to them having also breathed in the black damp gas, attempts were made to resuscitate the girls and the fireman but unfortunately they had all died.

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