A boy, trapped in the pain of death

The tragic story about endless hours of agony in the cold embrace of earth and concrete.
The tragic story about endless hours of agony in the cold embrace of earth and concrete.

Unfortunate accident

On Sunday morning, 14th of april 1935, 27-year old August Kelnarič, well digging assistant from the surroundings of Maribor, started digging a well there. Digging wells was a dangerous profession in general, but the terrain that the young man dug was especially unsafe. When he removed the frame at the bottom of the well, he was flooded with a mixture of concrete and gravel. The unlucky man was buried up to his neck.

Persistent rescuing attempts

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 soul. He suffered immense pain, 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 the next morning. Alongside the prisoners, jobless workers also helped. 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, they undug his knees, and when the rescue looked almost successful, the earth broke again and again, buried him up to his neck.

On the morning of the third rescue day, Kelnarič was almost completely undug, 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. It turned out that his foot was stuck in the wooden mold for casting of concrete. Soon after the screams became worse as the unlucky man was buried by earth once again. They barely managed to excavate his head and arms, and started to give him oxygen again.

I accuse...

On tuesday evening, they started digging out another trench, which was a mistake - because of the ground shaking, the victim was buried yet again. He was almost completely unburied again by wednesday morning, but as if he were cursed, he was buried again.The rescues tried their best, but 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. That’s why Kelnarič’s headstone in Pobrežje Cemetery (Maribor, Slovenia)reads “I accuse”. 

A tragic destiny

The story of Avgust Kelnarič is just one of the many stories from Pobrežje Cemetery that reveals a particularly tragic end of a life path. Do you know any similar story that is linked to one of the graves at your home town cemetery? Contact us and let us know!

Text and photo source: