News | DrumhellerMail - Page #11
Last updateFri, 28 Apr 2017 4pm

Family marks centennial of grandfather’s mine rescue

    A century ago, a young miner near Champion named Harry Trentham was wondering whether he was breathing his last breath.
    Today, there are 107 descendants of Harry, and many gathered last weekend at the very site where, for 87 hours, he tapped with a rock to allow rescuers to know where he was and to not lose hope.
    Bob Grenville brought The Mail collection of newspaper clippings and reports recounting the more than three days that his grandfather was trapped. It tells a story of presence of mind, perseverance, and ingenuity.
    At 8:30 a.m. on April 9, 1917, Harry Trentham went to work. He had settled in Three Hills by then, but learned of work in the Champion area. It was his first day, and he went to work at a  small mine about seven miles north and a mile and half east of Champion, Alberta.
    He was working in Room # 9, when at about 10:30 a.m. without warning it caved in. He was literally cut off from the outside world. In a Calgary Herald story 21 years later, Harry talked about the incident. At the time of the cave-in, he was moving a car of coal to the outlet of the shaft. He pushed the car back, keeping ahead of the falling debris until he came to a dead end. He piled rock, sand and anything else he could get his hand on to hold up the roof at the entry. He protected about a three square foot area at the end of the car. It allowed him a small air space, but he could hardly move. There he stayed for 87 hours.
    About four hours after the cave-in, mine inspectors Moses Johnson, and Duncan McDonald, who later went on to manage the Murray Colliery in East Coulee, were called to the scene. They arrived at 6:30 p.m. that evening. The miners on scene worked in earnest, but in the eight hours since the cave in, they were only able to penetrate about three feet.
The Inspectors took control of the operations.  Room 9 was about 180-190 feet from the entryway. Neither of the adjacent rooms  were useful to access Trentham.
    They continued to work trying to penetrate through the cave-in by driving piles ahead, and then putting in timbers when space was made.
    This too, was a slow process and 30 hours after the cave-in they had only managed to move about 30 feet.
    While it seemed hopeless, it was about that time, they received confirmation that Trentham was still alive. While they were digging, periodically they would tap on the pillar of coal in hopes of getting a response.  At 4:30 p.m., on April 11, Trentham knocked back. This was the first sign that he was alive.
    It was more than a knock. From this knocking, they were able to discern that he was using something very heavy to make the noise and that he was approximately 50 -60 feet away from the rescue party.
    They decided to change their tack and sink a shaft from the surface to reach the miner.

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    They were in luck. Mr. Kidd, a surveyor from Drumheller was in the area at another mine.  By working with the overman they pinpointed where to dig, and by 9:30 that night shovels were in the ground. While they were digging above, they left miners working on the cave-in underground so Trentham would hear work and not give up hope. When they reached 14 feet, they ceased digging in the cave-in, but left two miners down to push a mine car back and forth to force air to the entombed miner.
    They continued to dig manually as using an explosive would have been too risky. The shaft connected to room #9 at 3 a.m. on April 13. At 5 a.m., they began to drive a tunnel towards Trentham.
 Eventually they made a connection to the miner with an auger. A 1-inch pipe was inserted in the drill hole. They poured a mixture of water and brandy through the pipe. This was the first drink Trentham had in more than 85 hours.
    They were able to talk to Trentham and he told them that everything around him was caved, so they had to proceed carefully. They reduced the size of the hole a to point that the smallest of the rescue party was able to reach through and grasp Trentham’s hand.
    The tunnels from where they broke into the room, until they reached Trentham, was 36 feet and took 17 hours to construct. In talking to Trentham after the rescue, he said he only lost hope once, where it sounded like the workers were digging in the wrong direction.
    It is not known how much longer he continued to work in Champion, however, he remained a miner. He discovered a seam of coal in a coulee in the Orkney area and there he built a life for his family. He had one daughter and five sons.
    While he was within hours of death during those three days underground, it was Typhoid that struck him and one of his sons down in 1938.
    His family endured and last week at the celebration there were more than 60 gathered including 15 of his grandchildren, Harry’s daughter Marjorie Grenville, 92, and his youngest son Bob Trentham, 89. The family even invented a new drink. Brandy and water is now known to the family as a “Harry Shot.”

What does Terry Fox mean to you?

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37 Years ago on April 12, Terry Fox began his Marathon of Hope.

On the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday, the Terry Fox Foundation is asking students what Terry means to them. They are inviting students to log on to and share their personal feeling on Terry’s legacy.

While his Marathon took place years before any students attending school today were even born, his legacy continues with millions of dollars raised for cancer research in his name. Every year, schools across Canada, and indeed the world, take part in the annual run.

Drumheller schools have always been supportive of the Terry Fox Run, including St. Anthony’s School which out of 1,400 schools in the territory is ranked 13 in fundraising. Because of their effort, Terry’s brother Fred Fox, came to the school to address the students.

St. Anthony’s School run organizer Gavin Makse is encouraging students to log on and share what Terry Fox means to them.  Already dozens of students have shared how Terry’s legacy plays a role in their lives.

The Terry Fox Foundation will be drawing names from the submissions to receive one of 150 exclusive Terry Fox Run shirts.

To share what Terry Fox means to you, click here.


Healthcare survey shows room for improvement

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The results of an independently run online consultation with the community on healthcare reveal that while slightly more that half of the residents are satisfied with the healthcare offered in the valley, there are some areas in which many are not.
 Dr. Rithesh Ram commissioned Abacus Data to undertake an online survey on healthcare in the valley. The consultation took place from February 24 to March 13 of this year and in that short window, it received 1,306 responses. According to Dr. Ram, the number of response is indicative of the concerns.
    “The amount of people that filled out the survey was two and half times more than the company thought would be the case with the timeframe they left it open, so that was a significant sample,” he said.
    The survey showed 74 per cent were satisfied with the quality of healthcare they received at the Drumheller Health Centre, and 69 per cent were satisfied with the care they received outside of the hospital.
    Some areas of concern were wait times to see their family physician (81 per cent dissatisfied), the process of booking appointments (66 per cent dissatisfied), and the choice of physicians in town (61 per cent dissatisfied).
  “It basically says things are good, but there are areas requiring significant improvement,” he said.
Dr. Ram says there weren’t too many surprises in the data.
 “Everyone in the valley has heard or expressed some of these concerns over the last 10-20 years, well before I even got here,” he said. “More than anything it validates what the community has been saying for years.”
    Of those surveyed 6 per cent believed heath care has improved over the last year, while 37 per cent believe it has gotten worse, and 57 per cent believed it has stayed the same.
    The survey also showed that 90 per cent of respondents believed Drumheller needs more physicians, and 70 per cent say there is a need for more female doctors.
    In the end, Dr Ram says “it is up to the community to advocate for their health, and that includes telling the province that Drumheller

needs more doctors, and whatever improvement in services they need to be healthier as a community.”
    The survey also weighs into the area of what is acceptable for wait times for appointments.  About 52 per cent say that time of under 5 days was acceptable for a routine appointment, while 76 per cent felt an urgent appointment should be possible on the same day.
    That data showed of those surveyed, 60 per cent say they have waited almost 13 days for an urgent appointment.