Frank Slide, Alberta
The Day the Mountain Fell

Part 4 - Aftermath

Dan McKenzie was the first man to step out into daylight to see for the first time the horrendous devastation below. The magnitude of it caught his breath and raised a lump in his throat. The north-east face of Turtle Mountain was gone. The rock slide had fanned out into the valley like a giant hand almost 2.5 kilometres (1½ miles) wide and 1.5 kilometres (1 mile) to the tips of the deadly fingers.

John Watkins looked down to where his house should have been. Soon he would discover that his 3 children were safe and that his wife was recovering in hospital.

William Warrington, who was lifted out strapped to a plank, could only stare at the spot where his wife, his 3 children and his friend, Alex Dixon, lay buried beneath a massive limestone tomb.

Gone was the electrical power plant. Gone were the livery stable and the Dawes home. Gone were the Shoe Shop and the cabin where the Lancashire miners were staying. Gone were the construction camp and the homes of both Alex and James Graham.

Gone was all hope for the inhabitants.

When the final tally came in, the numbers were staggering.

The Dead

Among the dead were:

  • Alexander and Rosemary Leitch and their sons, John, Wilfred, Allan and Athol.
  • Charles Ackroyd and his wife, Nancy.
  • John McVeigh, J. J. Scott and Joseph Britton from the McVeigh & Poupore camp, along with an estimated 10 other unknown labourers.
  • James Graham and his wife, his two sons John and Joseph and the two hired Johnson lads from Calgary.
  • Alexander Graham and his wife.
  • The Vandusen family; father, mother, and two children.
  • Six unnamed Lancashire miners.
  • Mrs. William Warrington, three children and houseguest Alex Dixon.
  • George Williams, his wife, his three children, and his brother-in-law, Thomas Locke.
  • Alfred Dawe and his two Welsh friends.
  • Robert Watt and Francis Rochette from the livery stable.
  • Thomas Delap, the engineer working in the power plant.
  • Alex Tashigan and Fred Farrington outside the mine entrance.
  • Alex Clark (killed outside the mine entrance), his wife and six children.
  • Single miners: J. Sietta, Andy Grissick, D. Madigan, T. Foster, J. W. Clark, E. Krusa, J. Gustavus, G. Lemosike and D. Yonack. (There were quite possibly others.)

Rumours persist to this day that there may have been at least 50 other men camped in the valley that night. The truth lies buried for eternity.

Of the 76 known and listed dead, only 12 bodies were ever recovered.

The Survivors

Many people claimed to be survivors of the Frank Slide. People like Lillian Clark, or Ellen and John Thornby, survived only in the sense that circumstances decreed that they would be in another place that fateful night.

The true survivors were those who had 'been in the rocks', and they were pitifully few:

  • Mrs. John Watkins (severely injured) and her three children, Thomas, Fernie and Ruby.
  • Sam and Lucy Ennis and their children, Delbert, James, Arthur, Hazel and Gladys.
  • James Warrington.
  • Lester Johnson, son of Charles and Nancy Ackroyd.
  • Marion, Jessie and Rosemary Leitch, daughters of Alexander and Rosemary Leitch.
  • Annie Bansemer and her children, Alex, Carl Jr., Frances, Rose, Hilda, Kate and Harold.

In all, only 23 people.

The 17 miners could also be added to the list as the slide had meant certain death for them. Only their courage, strength and ingenuity allowed them to survive:

Joseph Chapman; Dan McKenzie; Evan Jones; William Warrington; Alex Grant; 'Shorty' Dawson; Alex McPhail; John Watkins and Charles Farrell. There were 8 others whose names have been lost over time.

One final 'survivor' was one of the mine horses, Charlie. On May 30, a month after the slide, workers had successfully opened the mine. Inside, they found Charlie who had somehow managed to survive by drinking seepage water and chewing on the wooden coal cars and timbers. Charlie was unable to survive the welcome of his rescuers, however, and died shortly after being found from an overdose of oats and brandy.

The mine was reopened temporarily, but was closed permanently in October 1911.

Frank Slide remains a gigantic limestone monument without equal. It lies there still at the base of Turtle Mountain, testimony and reminder of 100 seconds of wind, rock, dust, terror, death and survival.

Part 1 - Prelude to Disaster
Part 2 - The Mountain Walks
Part 3 - Rescue
* Part 4 - Aftermath *

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