Kansas Mine Collapse Swallows Town's Only Bar

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The collapse of an old mine Monday claimed a 114-year-old tavern and the last remaining bar in this southeast Kansas town.

Mickey Morang, who ran the Green Parrot with his mother and lived on the building's second floor, said the building began sinking into a rapidly growing hole about 7 a.m.

No injuries were reported as Morang was able to get his mother, 80-year-old Opal Currey, and his dog out of the building.

"Every damn thing I own is in that building," Morang told The Joplin Globe as a section of the rear of the building fell away. "There it goes."

Much of the building, which dates back to 1892, was still standing Monday afternoon. But Galena police Chief Larry Delmont said the structure would have to be condemned because it was not longer structurally sound.

More than 800 mine shafts are located beneath Galena, said Dale Oglesby, a former mayor who has studied the mines. He said a collapse like Monday's was inevitable and has happened before, although he added that it's been decades since a mine collapse affected a building.

He said city and state officials have worked to shore up or fill the mines to prevent collapses, but "no one knew about this one."

Formerly known as Nina's Green Parrot and with a sign saying the business was established in 1942, the Green Parrot was the town's last remaining bar.

Morang, 57, said he had just finished renovating the bar, which his mother owns. They were planning a party to celebrate his mother's 25th anniversary of taking over the bar.

He said the initial stages of the collapse woke him up.

"I thought somebody was throwing rocks at my window," he said.

When Morang went outside to investigate, he found a lateral crack had developed in the brick building and he saw a massive hole opening up.

The collapse interrupted water service for some nearby residents, and officials shut off an exposed 4-inch natural gas main.

Delmont said residents living within two blocks of the collapse were encouraged to leave, although he declined to call it an evacuation.

Officials with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Surface Mining Section said it appeared this was a "drift failure," which they described as like a large, unsupported underground chamber, as opposed to a more limited "shaft failure."

Larry Spahn, of the Surface Mining Section, said the old mining region of southeast Kansas, southwest Missouri and northeast Oklahoma is "plagued with things like this."

"Telling where it's going to happen is like winning the lottery," Spahn said.

His partner, Mickey Center, said the dry conditions and low water may have contributed to the collapse because some mines are supported only by underground water.

Spahn said once the hole stops collapsing, they'll probably fill it with rubble, clay and topsoil.