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Darr Memorial PlaqueThe Darr Mine Disaster


An OnQ Special Edition

On December 19, 1907, a tremendous explosion shook the Youghiogheny River Valley, killing 239 men and boys at the Darr Mine in Van Meter, Westmoreland County. The century-old tragedy remains the worst mining accident in Pennsylvania history. But as time passes, there are fewer people with direct connections to the tragedy, and some of the Darr history is in danger of being lost forever.

Watch the entire special ON DEMAND!

Above left: Darr Mine memorial plaque, Olive Branch Cemetery, Rostraver Township, PA. Courtesy, Ray Washlaski

Darr survivorThis OnQ documentary introduces a small, but passionate coalition of people dedicated to preserving Darr artifacts, and the legacy of the miners who died there. The 30-minute special also includes rare images of the Darr rescue effort, interviews with descendants of a Darr victim, memories of a 96 year old woman who is related to the Darr's only survivor - and the story of how a religious holiday prevented the tragedy from being much worse.

Above right: Tom Williams, widely believed to be the only miner who survived the explosion. (Some sources cite a second survivor.) Courtesy, Esther Budd

Related Links and Contacts:
The Darr Mine Disaster
The Darr Mine and the Miracle of St. Nicholas
The Naomi Mine Explosion Monument Project
The Darkest Month Exhibit, Heinz History Center
Darr Mine historian, Ann Toth: 724-839-7344

Darr Rescuers

Above: Rescue party at Darr Mine explosion, December 19, 1907. Courtesy, Ann Toth

Below: Bodies of Darr miners, their clothing piled on the caskets. Courtesy, Ann Toth

Darr Victims

The Darr Mine Disaster is a production from OnQ's Emmy-winning team of writer/producer David Solomon and photographer/editor Paul Ruggieri, with narration by Michael Bartley.

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featured specials

  • WQED is pleased to partner with Highmark to bring you these special reports on "Men & Cancer" and "Women & Cancer." Every year cancer claims the lives of nearly 300,000 men in America. According to the American Cancer Society, getting the facts about cancer is an important step in taking care of your overall health.