Bartley, WV Coal Mine Gas Explosion Disaster, Jan 1940
2 KILLED, 85 TRAPPED IN MINE BLAST.
EIGHT RESCUE CREWS BATTLE WAY THROUGH WRECKED SECTIONS TO REACH VICTIMS AT BARTLEY.
EXPLOSION PERHAPS DUE TO CUTTING INTO OLD, GAS-FILLED ENTRY; 47 COME OUT UNAWARE OF ACCIDENT.
Bartley, Jan. 10. -- (AP) -- An explosion, possibly presaging the worst West Virginia mine disaster in more than a decade, killed at least two men and caught an estimated 94 others two miles underground today in the Bartley No. 1 mine of the Pond Creek Pocahontas Coal corporation.
W. C. STURGISS, a district mine inspector, announced shortly before midnight that the number of men trapped had been revised upward from 85.
J. J. HAMMOND, mine official, said after hours of checking it had been almost definitely determined there were 93 men at work on the day shift. Five had completed work and left and two were found dead, leaving 86 unaccounted for.
A tentative list of the trapped men was being prepared.
HAMMOND expressed hopes that at least 40 men were in sections not badly affected by the explosions and might be alive.
Eight rescue crews in relays dug their was toward three blast-wrecked sections of the mine but progress was slow and midnight found them still 2,500 feet from the estimated location of the disaster.
47 Leave Unscathed.
Company officials, headed by Vice President R. E. SALVATI of Holden, remained hopeful that a majority of the men had escaped.
SALVATI reported that 47 men, in the eastern section of the operation, came out unscathed at 4 p.m., unaware there had been a blast.
One of the dead men, whose bodies were found a half mile from the bottom of the 620-foot shaft was identified as CHARLEY MOFFITT. The other was unidentified. The bodies were left below while the crews pressed on.
The valley mining community, scene of the blast, is in the southwestern tip of McDowell county, on of southern West Virginia's busiest and richest coal sections. Two other Pond Creek mines rear their shafts within sight of No. 1, along the banks of shallow Dry Fork river. War, the nearest town, is four miles away and Welch is 20 miles away.
The cause of the blast was undetermined, although STURGISS said it was possible the men had cut through to some long unused, gasfilled entry.
(The department of mines at Charleston said Bartley No. 1 was gaseous, but was thoroughly rockdusted.)
The western area of the mine only was affected. The mine tunnel leaves the foot of the shaft, runs back several thousand feet and then branches. The men who escaped were in the eastern section.
25 Have Chance.
STURGISS fixed the possible location of the explosion in the Main 6 head, from which "four left" branches. He said:
"Twenty-five men in the fourth left have a better chance that any others, providing the explosion occurred in Main 6, and indications are that is true."
U.S. bureau of mines rescue cars were enroute from Eckman, McDowell county, and from Pittsburgh. Oxygen equipment was on hand at the shaft mouth, manned by crews ready to help any who were brought out alive.
N. P. RHINEHART, chief of the state mines department who had been attending a safety meeting in Pittsburgh, was enroute to the mine.
Progress toward the blast sector was slow and mine department officials said the ventilating system had to be rebuilt as the crews moved ahead. The main veltilating system of the mine continued in operation, however.
(At Charleston, H. G. HOUTZ, chief engineer for the department said the chances were "slim" that the men had been able to build barricades and conserve what pure air remained in the affected areas.)
There were reports that the known death lest was seven but both company and mine department officials said nothing was known of the fate of the men, except the two found dead a half mile in.
Ropes 100 yards from the tipple kept back a crowd of between 1,000 and 2,000 persons, while another roped-in area about 75 feet from the shaft was reserved for families and relatives of the men below.
Families Await Word.
The members of the families stood about apathetically hoping for word but knowing it might be hours before anything was known definitely. Crews reported every minute over the mine telephone system but their only word was "moving ahead."