Craynor, KY Coal Mine Blast, Jan 1982


Craynor, Ky. (AP) -- Teams of workers today pulled the last bodies from a family-owned coal mine where seven men, including four members of the family, were killed in a blast that a state official says may have been caused by coal-mining explosives.
It was the fourth mining disaster in the Appalchian coalfields in seven weeks. Thirty-one men have died.
"Oh Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, what am I going to do?" cried Lilly Hamilton, who lost three sons and a grandson in Wednesday morning's blast, as she watched work crews. Her house stands down the hill from the mine that her four sons opened several years ago on the winding left fork of Mink Branch, a tributary of Mud Creek.
"Come on inside now, mother, there's nothing you can do for them out here," Chester Newsome, a relative, said he told the woman.
The coal at the RFH Mining Co.'s No. 1 Mine had been mined with explosives, an old-fashioned but relatively inexpensive technique that also had been used in a mine in nearby Topmost, Ky., where eight peoople were killed in an explosion last month. Officials have speculated the Topmost blast may have been caused by a coal-dust explosion as coal was being blasted from its seam.
One body was removed Wednesday and workers today pulled the remaining six from the mine on a foggy eastern Kentucky hillside.
State Mines and Minerals Commissioner Willard Stanley speculated explosives caused the blast.
The explosion fired debris hundreds of feet and spewed so much coal dust it blackened a hill facing the mine, said Mike Froman, who was on his way to the mine when yellow smoke began pouring from it.
Stanley said the type of explosive used was a
"water gel," and said he was baffled that "it would generate that much heat." Some explosive detonators were not in proper containers, Stanley said.
UMW President Sam Church, who arrived at the mine in a helicopter loaned by West Virginia Gov. Jay Rockefeller, called the accident a "carbon copy" of the Dec. 7 blast 20 miles away at Topmost, Ky., where eight miners were killed. Church had been in Charleston, W. Va., discussing mine safety with Rockefeller.
Church said he talked with Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown, Jr., by telephone Wednesday night and said the governor wanted "to see if there is some way we might have changes in our legislation" to ban the use of explosives in underground mines.
The blast killed brothers BURNIS, DON and JACK HAMILTON, along with WADE HAMILTON,
and THURMAN REYNOLDS. Wade Hamilton was the son of mine co-owner Purvis Hamilton.
Stanley told the miners' relatives that three bodies were found together about 700 feet from the entrance to the mine. The other four were much deeper in the mine, he added.
The mine was contracted to remove the coal, which was owned by Elkhorn Coal Corp. of Wayland, Ky., a subsidiary of Ethyl Corp.

Winchester Star Virginia 1982-01-21