In Pobrežje Cemetery, Maribor, Slovenia, there is a sculpture on a tomb that represents a young man. Shovel in his right hand, and the circumference of the well underneath the figure are symbols of here buried August Kelnarič’s profession, that was fatal for him.
Digging wells, when this was still allowed in Maribor, sometimes resulted in a tragic end. In 1900, in Cankarjeva Street in Pobrežje, two men were fatally buried alive while digging a well. Nine years later, in the same street another digger died. In 1929, not far away, in 2 meters deep new well was buried one person. And there is another fatal accident echoed between townspeople for a long time.
It was a regular Sunday morning, the 14th of april 1935, when 27-year old August Kelnarič, well digging assistant from the surroundings of Maribor, Slovenia, started digging a well there. At the time, digging wells was a dangerous profession in general, but the terrain that the young man dug was especially unsafe and in fact, when he removed the frame at the bottom of the well, he was flooded with a mixture of concrete and gravel. The unlucky guy was buried up to his neck.
Ambulance were the first to arrive: they put a wooden box on the young man’s head and installed a pipe for air. Then came the firemen, and 20 convicts from nearby penitentiary to help digging.
About ten meters away from the well they started to dig one meter wide canal that was eight meters deep. By that evening, when they almost reached the victim, the earth broke again and buried the unfortunate August, who suffered immense pain, with the earth pressed down on him from all sides. Digging him out again was even more difficult, and the rescue action lasted until 3 a.m., but to no avail.
The digging continued also the next morning and, alongside the convicts, jobless also helped.
As a result, by noon, they dug out the upper half of the young man’s body, allowing him to breathe and also to eat and drink something. That night, when the rescue looked almost successful, the earth broke again, buried him up to his neck again.
On the morning of the third rescue day, August was almost completely undug and only his ankles were stuck in the ground. By noon, only one of his feet was stuck. At that point, they tried pulling him out with ropes, but the man started screaming in pain because his foot was stuck in the wooden mold for casting of concrete. Soon after the unlucky guy was buried by earth once again. They barely managed to excavate his head and arms, and started to give him oxygen again.
On tuesday evening, they started digging out another hole. Fatal mistake because of the ground shaking, and in fact the victim was buried yet again.
He was almost completely unburied again the next morning, but as if he were cursed, he was buried again.
Despite the rescues tried their best, it was too late for August Kelnarič. He died on wednesday, 17th of april at 10 am, after 76 hours of agony in the cold embrace of earth and cement.
The news of his death spread through the town quickly and caused outrage. In the evening hours of that same day, over ten thousand people gathered and protested until late night. The general consensus was that the method for rescue was not right and that they should’ve called the experts from Trbovlje mine.
And that’s why August Kelnarič’s headstone in Pobrežje Cemetery reads “I accuse”.
Images from web – Google Research