1897 coal mine collapses in Wadsworth leading to modern day problems for condo owners

Coal Mine Collapse

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -When a Wadsworth condo development was built it was state of the art.

Since then, it has been a nightmare for residents for residents who own one the Salwa Lane properties.

The condos were built on top of a coal mine that was closed in 1897.

Some owners can no longer live in their units because a coal mine beneath them gave way.

Esther Sommer and her husband David had to move out of their home.

A couple lost the use of their home after a coal mine deep below the surface collapsed.
A couple lost the use of their home after a coal mine deep below the surface collapsed.

“We woke up two years ago on the first of April with the sounds of cracking. The walls the ceiling, everything at 6 in the morning,” Esther Sommer told 19 News.

This house began to shift because of the apparent collapse of the coal mine that is underneath their property.

It shifted so much that the front door cannot be opened.

Cracks are visible throughout the house. When they noticed the cracks they called the Wadsworth Fire Department as a precaution.

“Gentleman from the fire department came over and he saw the whole thing and he said, it’s safe enough to be in here, but I wouldn’t sleep here,” Esther Sommers said.

The fireman said if the house were to shift again a gas pipe might rupture causing a fire or a water line could break and flood the place.

The Sommers downsized two years ago, that’s when they bought the condo for cash.

When the collapse happened they moved in with their son and his wife, who slept on a mattress in their own basement to accommodate his parents.

They found another place to live but the cost has drained their retirement savings. They can’t live in their condo and they can’t sell it.

“This particular mine, as I understand it, was closed in 1897,” Esther Sommers said.

They have homeowners insurance however, they’re not insured for coal mine damage. It would have cost them $5 a year, Sommers said.

Condos in Wadsworth are suffering damage after a coal mine collapses deep below the surface.
Condos in Wadsworth are suffering damage after a coal mine collapses deep below the surface.

“We never heard of it. We did not know. The condo association did not know. If it’s optional, it’s a year or no, but I don’t remember any of that. There should be somebody that would notify people as they move into areas like this of this possibility. Whether it be the city, the state, the realty company. I don’t know who,” Sommers said. “The developer should have known, the developer is long gone.”

Touring the home requires we wear masks because of stale air and possible mold in the house.

“We’re going into my parents condo to see the damage because of the coal mine collapse. I don’t know if you can feel it but when you come across the kitchen floor you can feel that it is bowed. Yeah, I feel a little bit of that,” Karen McFarland said.

As McFarland took us into the basement of her parent’s condo it was easy to see some of the damage.

“There’s water in that corner because the whole foundation issue. Everywhere you look you can see the shifting and the cracking... this is why it’s unlivable,” McFarland said. "This was their savings. They have nothing else.”

McFarland’s heart is broken that her parents have to go through this ordeal at their ages.

“There’s nothing that they can do. I don’t know what to do that’s why I reached out to Channel 19 to try and get it back in the news, get some light on the subject again because I hate seeing my parents go through this. The wear and tear it has taken on my dad’s health especially is very difficult,” McFarland said.

There is a state pool of money for coal mine collapses, but the Sommers said they get the runaround from the government, being shifted from person to person.

Because they didn’t know to buy coal mine insurance they may be out of luck. Unless the state steps up to help.

Questions about Mine Subsidence Insurance in Ohio covers:

Most insurance policies do not cover damage to a home due to mine subsidence. The Mine Subsidence Insurance Fund provides low cost insurance coverage in 37 Ohio counties for homes damaged due to mine subsidence.

  • Report your claim to an agent or the insurance company. Your agent or insurance company will notify the Ohio Mine Subsidence Insurance Underwriting Association, which administers and adjusts the claim.
  • Insurance coverage is mandatory in 26 of the 37 counties, with a low annual premium.
  • Available for 1- to 4-family dwellings having at least 50% of the living area occupied. Mobile homes and farm houses are also eligible.
  • Coverage is the lesser of $300,000 or the amount of insurance coverage for the dwelling.
  • Coverage includes costs of excavation, foundations, some underground utilities, and limited coverage for driveways, sidewalks and private garages.
  • Annual premium is $1 in mandatory counties and $5 in optional counties.
  • Deductible of 2% of coverage available with a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $500.

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