Westray, NS Mine Explosion, May 1992
RESCUE CREWS FIND 11 BODIES IN NOVA SCOTIA MINE.
Rescue workers picking their way deep into a coal mine the day after an explosion found the bodies of 11 miners today and were still searching for 15 others.
The bodies were found more than 30 hours after a blast ripped through the Westray mine, about 75 miles northeast of Halifax, hurling twisted steel from the shaft, rattling windows a half-mile away and sending smoke billowing from ventilation holes.
"Based on preliminary reports from the main rescue crews, it appears thse men died instantly as the result of an explosion," said Colin Benner, a spokesman for Curragh Resources, the mine's owner.
Blocked shafts leading to two other work areas hampered rescue efforts, officials said. Cause not determined.
About 100 rescuers, all miners, entered in shifts, working in groups of five, clad in orange suits and helmits, with cumbersome oxygen tanks strapped on their backs.
"They have an awful lot of friends," among the missing, Bill MacCulloch, a training officer for Westray, said.
Donald Cameron, Premier of Nova Scotia, told reporters that outside investigators would hold an inquiry. The cause of the disaster was not determined, but suspicion fell on methane, an explosive gas that seeps from coal.
A spokesman for a union that was seeking to organize the mine's workers said on Saturday that the miners had complained of safety problems. Westray and industry officials said the mine had the latest and best safety equipment for dealing with explosive gases.
Mr. Cameron said it would be a "long time, if ever, before the mine will operate again."
The resuers had had no contact with the missing miners since the explosion during a shift change about 5:20 A.M. on Saturday. As they advanced through the mine Sunday, they found dangerous levels of methane and poisonous carbon monoxide, raising doubts that any miners would be found alive.
Workers were pumping fresh air into the mine, but they did not know if it was reaching the areas where the miners were missing, about a mile from the entrance.
Relatives of the trapped men spent the night at a nearby fire station.
Gerrie Moore, a volunteer helping at a community center, said: "Not knowing is worse than somebody coming and telling you, 'It's over, they're gone.' Most people in their hearts knew it was kind of useless."
Westray is a mile from Stellarton, site of the region's worst mine disaster, at the Allan Shaft in 1918, when 88 miners were killed after an explosion. Sixty men died in the Drummond Colliery in Westville in 1872 and 44 people were killed in the Ford Pit in Stellarton in 1880.
The New York Times New York 1992-05-11
Casualty List From:
Stellarton Miners' Memorial, Pictou County, Nova Scotia.