Robert P. Thompson, 14, schoolboy, died after rescuing John T. Vingless, 13, schoolboy, from a cave-in, Coupon, Pennsylvania, November 2, 1957. While John and Robert were digging for coal in a small pit four and a half feet deep at an abandoned strip mine, one side of the pit collapsed and clay, slate, and coal in a high ridge above it slid onto them. Both boys, who were kneeling in the pit with their heads two feet below the top, were covered chest-deep. John’s hands were pinned, and a lump of slate 18 inches square and four inches thick rested on his head, pressing his face into the clay so that he barely was able to breathe. Although he had sustained serious injuries to his back, chest, and legs, Robert freed his hands and dug himself out. Unable to stand, he began crawling toward a nearby road to summon help, but at John’s pleas he dragged himself back to the pit. Although in considerable pain, he moved the lump of slate from John’s head. John then dug himself out with some assistance from Robert, who removed several small pieces of slate. John walked and Robert crawled 200 feet to the road, calling for help. John’s mother was attracted, and the boys then were removed to a hospital. John sustained a wrenched back and hip injuries but recovered. Robert’s injuries were extensive, including damage to his spinal cord, which caused his death later in the day.
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