Globe/David Stonner The Green Parrot bar lists Tuesday as authorities wait for the building to topple into the growing mine cave-in.

By Roger McKinney


GALENA, Kan. - A contractor for a state agency on Tuesday began filling in the large cave-in hole that had consumed the back section of the Green Parrot bar in Galena.

A lovebird named Romeo remained inside the building, the town's only drinking establishment.

A large portion of the back section of the building at 319 Main St. collapsed about 7 a.m. Tuesday, said Galena police Chief Larry Delmont. More large pieces fell into the mine collapse after 11 a.m.

The building began falling apart Monday morning, after a mine collapse opened up in the ground behind the building. Mickey Morang, who lived in an upstairs apartment of the building, escaped with his mother, Opal Currey, and his dog before the danger became too great. Currey lived in a ground-floor apartment of the building. Currey and Morang have operated the bar for the past 25 years.

While Morang said Monday that his building was insured, City Attorney Kevin Cure on Tuesday said most insurance policies don't cover damage caused by mine collapses.

Cure had been working to get consent from the owners to allow the hole to be filled.

"I've never seen anything like that," Cure said of the hole.

Delmont on Tuesday said the hole had grown to about 70 feet in diameter and about 60 feet deep.

Delmont said water service was interrupted for some residents Tuesday morning, but it was restored by about 11 a.m.

Larry Spahn, environmental technician with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Surface Mining Section, said the collapse was a drift failure.

Spahn said shafts are vertical holes in the ground, and drifts spread in every direction from the shafts. He said that when the mines were operating, miners would follow the vein of lead or zinc ore and extract it. He said that left large, empty spaces underground throughout the Tri-State Mining District.

"It's just an ongoing problem that's left over from the area's mining legacy," Spahn said. "A lot of money came out of the ore and coal fields. Now we're reaping the problems."

Spahn said his agency, with the cooperation of the city, has filled all the known mine shafts in Galena and capped them with concrete. He said that has not been done for the drifts, because it is too difficult to fill them.

He said the drifts in Galena are shallower than those in Treece, for example.

Spahn said the situation in Galena is probably standard for any town in the former mining district.

"I don't think mine owners had any regard" for where they were digging, he said. "They didn't have the regulations in place that we have today. The mine owners were gods, more or less."

Spahn said he heard Romeo, the lovebird, squawking when part of the building fell away Tuesday. He said there is no way to safely retrieve the bird.

Spahn said people who are considering a building project should drill core samples to determine what's under the surface so they don't build on a mine drift or shaft.

He said he worries about what may happen after all the old miners die and the locations of the mines are forgotten. He said all the living knowledge of the former mines soon will be lost.

Spahn said it was good thinking on the part of city officials to get utilities to the building disconnected, because had they not been redirected before the back of the building collapsed, it could have caused serious problems.

Galena Mayor Marion Davies said Tuesday that the KDHE had agreed to fill the hole at no cost to the city, which Spahn confirmed. Spahn said he wouldn't know how much the project would cost until it was completed.

Davies said city police and work crews did a fantastic job. He said Baxter Springs provided lighting for the building overnight Monday. He said the city was grateful to Crawford and Cherokee counties for their help.

Davies said City Councilman Darrell Shoemaker has contacted the Environmental Protection Agency to see whether someone with the federal agency can travel to Galena and assess the situation for the city.

"This was just an unforeseen situation that we hope won't happen again," Davies said, while acknowledging that with Galena's mining past, it may happen again.

Mine maps

Maps of the former mining areas in the Tri-State Mining District are available at the Joplin Public Library, libraries at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin and Pittsburg State University, and the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum.

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