Thomas Riley, Jr., helped to save Eldridge R. Hanning from suffocation, Kimberly, Ohio, October 12, 1956. Hanning, 31, a slate picker, and others were excavating coal from an exposed vein on a hillside. A three-foot auger hole had been drilled 40 feet horizontally into the hillside, and it penetrated an entry of an abandoned underground mine in which the air contained insufficient oxygen to sustain life. One of the other men entered the hole and was overcome, falling unconscious with the upper part of his body in the hole and the lower part in the mine entry. Hanning looked into the hole and then called to the others, informing them that something was wrong and that the other man was in the hole. Hanning then entered the hole and crawled 15 feet inside before he was overcome from a deficiency of oxygen. One of the other men looked into the hole, heard labored breathing from inside, and became dizzy. He immediately drove to another coal company a half-mile away and summoned a group of men, including Riley, 34, a slate picker. Those men went to the scene with a rope, and, although warned that the hole probably contained a deadly gas, Riley took an end of the rope and crawled inside, holding his breath. He reached Hanning and tied the rope to his ankle. Calling to those outside, Riley inhaled air and immediately was overcome. Hanning, and with him Riley, who lay atop the rope, then was drawn from the hole as the men outside pulled on the rope. Firemen arrived with rescue equipment. The original victim and another man who had attempted a rescue then were drawn from the hole by ropes tied to them by a fireman equipped with an oxygen mask. They were taken to the hospital but could not be revived. Hanning, who had been in the hole about 15 minutes, was given artificial respiration at the scene and then taken to the hospital, where he regained consciousness. He recovered. Riley, who had been in the hole less than two minutes, revived quickly.
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Thomas Riley, 88, of Nelsonville, Ohio, died on June 17, 2011, at Logan Health Care Center in Logan, Ohio. He was born on Feb. 24, 1923, in New Straitsville, Ohio, son of Thomas F. and Blanche Dewhurst Riley. He was married for 38 years to Marjorie Blair Riley.
Riley, a retired coal miner, served in the Navy as a frogman in World War II. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Nelsonville, a life member of the Nelsonville Elks Lodge, and was a life member of the Nelsonville VFW Post #3467.
He received the Joseph A. Holmes Award and the Carnegie Medal for his actions after a mining accident in 1956.
He was buried in Greenlawn Cemetery, Nelsonville.
(Edited from an obituary published on the Cardaras Funeral Homes in Logan.)