Kitselas- Tunnel Explosions

Kitselas, British Columbia, Canada

The Three Tunnels - Grand Trunk Pacific Railway at Kitselas Canyon. 1912
Credit: Jack R. Wrathall / Library and Archives Canada / PA-095787

While building the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, Tunnels were required to be constructed at various points.
One of these was at the Big Canyon, not far from Kitselas.

While this tunnel was being built a terrible disaster occurred Feb 3, 1911
3 men were killed by a dynamite explosion.

These men were working for contractors, Foley, Welch and Stewart

Shortly after this terrible accident, on Feb 11/12, 1911
another explosion occurred, killing 5 more men, and injuring 2.

Nikolai Sekulin
aka: Nikolai Sekulna,
aka: Nicola Seculavich
aka: Nickolas Sekulnia
b- 1882
d- Feb 3, 1911, Big Canyon
Headstone was paid for by a Gale Blecich

Per Helene McRae the inscription is in Serbian
another source says it is Cyrillic writing (Russian)
the best translation so far is below:

“Here rests slave of God
Nikolai Sekulin who went to Eternal Heaven
on Feb. 3, 1911,
born in the year 1882 |…| Amen.
With this Gale Blanchich. (Blecich)
Rest in Peace.

another translation, ca 1993
Here rests the servant of God
Representative to God for ever and ever.
Nickolas Sekulnia
Died Feb 3, 1911
Born 1882
Remembered by Halia Blichna and J. Blichna

There is another almost identical cross for the 2nd man, all in plot 240, Kitsumgallum, “Pioneer Cemetery” Terrace BC

Milan M. Londrovich
b- 1887
d- Feb 3, 1911, Big Canyon
His headstone reads
remembered by brother Rozeni, Ylena Londrov

3rd man killed in the first explosion

Risto Boyonich

What is amazing is not much was written about the accident, the GTPR company probably tried to keep it as quiet as possible. It was hard enough to keep workers as it was.

The headstones are made from cement with lead lettering.
Be nice to find the archives of the company that made them.

Article in Victoria Daily Colonist, Aug 19, 1911, claimed one man died and 2 injured in a recent tunnel explosion near Kitselas. Same event? slight delay on reporting?
or was there a 3rd event?

The tunnel was expected to be completed by Sept 1911

M. F. Burgess
b- ca 1883
d- Feb 12, 1911, Big Canyon, age 28
He was the foreman of the crew.
Referred to as station man in newspaper article
Dr. Seymour Traynor's death certificate
shows him at about age 28
Occupation= Rock Man.
Death reported by T. Jones, Prov. Constable. Kitselas.
Death shown caused by Explosion

E. H. Kova
(shown as W. E. Kova in article above)
b- ca 1883 in Finland
d- Feb 12, 1911, Big Canyon, age 28
Dr. Seymour Traynor's death certificate
shows him at age 28 to 35, with E. H. initials.

Charles Quarnstrom
b- ca 1871-1876 in Sweden
d- Feb 12, 1911, Big Canyon, age 35-40
Dr. Seymour Traynor's death certificate
shows him at age 35-40
Occupation= miner
Eli Ogrezovich
b- ca 1881 in Austria
d- Feb 12, 1911, Big Canyon, age 30
Occupation= Drill Runner
Dr. Seymour Traynor's death certificate
shows him about age 30

John Otasovich
b- 1881, Montenegro
d- Feb 12, 1911, Big Canyon, age 30
Dr. Seymour Traynor's death certificate
shows him about age 30
Occupation= Rockman

Article above says Eli and John were related, brothers?, Their Surname shown as Ilazavitch.

As you can see with these names, many spellings exist, which makes it near impossible to trace them.

note- 2nd date recorded as Feb 11 in Court Documents, but Feb 12 in Death Certificates, and newspaper accounts.

Other folks that were researching these men
Floyd Frank
Sally Smaha

If you are related to any of these men, have any corrections or additions, please let me know.
As you can see previous researchers have had trouble finding information, and I have run into the same wall.
If the accident would have been at the end of 1911, we would have the 1911 census to check.
Most of these men would have come from Europe, only a year or so before the work started.
That and the hundreds of variations in spellings, causes grief on researching them.


  • Last modified: 2018/02/12 22:30
  • by dlgent