Hillcrest was a thriving town in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, near the border with British Columbia. It was one of the many coal mining towns which sprang up along Crowsnest Pass in the early 1900s. It is also the site of the largest mining disaster in Canadian history.
On June 19th, 1914, at 9:30 a.m., an explosion of epic proportions happened in the mine. It completely destroyed the engine house, blowing its roof 40 feet. Eight inch concrete walls were destroyed. All of this damage happened even though the engine house stood 100 feet from the mouth of the pit!
Just two hours earlier, 237 mine workers had entered the mine, starting their day shift. These men were all in danger, and all would have died, except that the general manager reversed the fans, blowing fresh air into the mine shafts.
Still, only 48 men were brought out alive. Most of the rest were buried in a mass grave, spaced about a foot apart. Virtually every family in Hillcrest had lost a family member.