Box Flat survivor Mick Powell reflects on the disaster.
Box Flat survivor Mick Powell reflects on the disaster.

‘Scared the hell out of us’: Big bang that rocked Ipswich

FORMER Queensland Times cartoonist Will Mitchell was known for his humour, but one of his creations from many years ago remains one of the most poignant reminders of Ipswich's worst mining tragedy.

It is also the image that Ipswich Historical Society president Hugh Taylor says sums up why the city pays its respects to the 17 men killed at Box Flat on July 31, 1972.

The Historical Society is behind the annual commemoration of the mining disaster, which will be held 10am this Friday at the Box Flat Memorial at Swanbank.

"It has always been extremely important to me that we never forget these fellows," Mr Taylor said.

"They were probably caught at the start of the modern era of mining where things were more mechanised, production was increasing and there was more potential for an explosion.

"They were part of a harsh, steep learning curve for the industry."

 

A Will Mitchell cartoon which appeared in the Queensland Times, depicting the importance of remembering the lives lost in the Box Flat disaster.
A Will Mitchell cartoon which appeared in the Queensland Times, depicting the importance of remembering the lives lost in the Box Flat disaster.

 

In addition to the 17 men killed on the day of the disaster, Clarrie Wolski died 14 months later from injuries sustained.

Another 13 mine workers were injured on the day.

Mick Powell, who was in tunnel mouth no7 at the time of the explosion, recalled the force of the explosion coming out of the tunnel.

"Me and another bloke were loading sand out of a loader. We felt the air come out first," he said.

"We ducked down beside the loader, and a shed collapsed around us.

"I couldn't see, I couldn't hear and I couldn't breathe. It scared the hell out of us."

 

Former Box Flat mine worker Mick Powell reflects on the day of the disaster, which he was lucky to survive despite feeling the force of the blast from the mouth of No 7 tunnel.
Former Box Flat mine worker Mick Powell reflects on the day of the disaster, which he was lucky to survive despite feeling the force of the blast from the mouth of No 7 tunnel.

 

Mr Powell was lucky enough to walk away from the disaster with everything except his hearing, which eventually came back.

The men killed have been honoured with a special memorial at Swanbank, and more recently at the Ipswich Miners Memorial at Limestone Park.

 

The 47th anniversary of the Box Flat Mine disaster in 2019.
The 47th anniversary of the Box Flat Mine disaster in 2019.

 

The disaster brought about key advancements in mining safety, which mines safety and health consultant Mark Parcell will reflect on at Friday's service.

Mr Parcell said it was important to never forget disaster like Box Flat.

 

Nine members of the Booval Mines Rescue Brigade were among the 18 who died as a result of the disaster.
Nine members of the Booval Mines Rescue Brigade were among the 18 who died as a result of the disaster.

 

"Each generation should not have to rediscover the lessons the previous generation has learned," he said.

Friday's service will be attended by State MPs Jennifer Howard and Jim Madden, as well as Mayor Teresa Harding and councillors Sheila Ireland, Jacob Madsen, Kate Kunzelmann and Russell Milligan.