Fire Creek, WV Coal Mine Explosion, Mar 1900
EXPLOSION BRINGS DEATH TO MINERS.
NEARLY FIFTY MEN ENTOMBED IN A WEST VIRGINIA COAL MINE.
TEN DEAD ALREADY TAKEN OUT.
It Is Not Believed That Any Will Be Rescued -- Cause Of The DIsaster Is Unknown.
Fire Creek, W. Va., March 6. -- The most disastrous mine explosion ever known in the New River District occurred at the Red Ash Mine shortly after the miners went to work this morning. Although the most heroic work of the rescuing party as[sic] been going on incessantly all day and night it is impossible to-night to estimate the full extent of the loss of life and property.
The most reliable estimates obtainable put the number of the victims at nearly 50. The capacity of the mine is 175, but there have been only 130 on the pay rolls so far this month. The manager, Superintendent, bosses, bookkeepers, and others are busy with the force of rescuers, but at the same time they are all very reticent as to the extent of the casualties and any other information regarding the disaster.
Ten dead bodies have already been taken out. It is thought to-night that at least forty miners are yet entombed in the wrecked mine, and that they will never be found alive. The explosion happened as the men were going into the mine in groups and in couples in some instances, and they were strung along in this manner for over a mile, so that the work of rescue will require a long time. There were more men near the entrance who escaped than were lost.
Most of the bodies that cannot be identified or recognized have been placed in the large blacksmith's shop of the Red Ash Coal Company, and that place presents the appearance of a horrible morgue. Although the bodies are mangled beyond recognition, yet they are surrounded by those who are in distress and hunting their lost friends.
The general belief is that the explosion occurred by contact of the miners' lights with dust when the miners entered this morning.
Those working on the rescue relays say that the scene becomes more terrible as they get further into the mine. The men become almost faint of heart when they strike a place filled with dead bodies. The work of rescue is being continued during the night, and will be kept up until the mine is clear.
The Red Ash Mine is a large drift, and the explosion occurred near the entrance, which was thus closed by the falling slate. The scene of the disaster is between this place and Thurmond, on the South Branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, and every assistance possible was rendered by the railway company and by the adjoining mining towns. Relief parties from great distances arrived as soon as possible. State Mine Inspector PINCKNEY, with a corps of experts and many workmen, has been on the ground during the day rendering all assistance possible and devoting his attention more toward relief than to an official investigation as to the cause of the disaster.
J. FRED EFFINGER of Staunton, Va., the principal owner of the mines, spared no efforts in the work of rescue and relief, and his manager, FERDINAND HOWELL, had all the men available at work in trying to clear away the debris and rescue the entombed men. The managers and bosses of all the mines in this district came to the scene as soon as possible and joined in the work of rescue.
It is impossible to describe the amount of work done by this concentrated army of men, but they were greatly impeded because of the extent of the enormous blockade at the entrance to the drift. The large, heavy side tires of the entrance were blown out to some distance, together with a lot of heavy timbers. Even mules were blown out some distance.
As many men as could work at one time were digging away with all their might, and were relieved in short relays by other men so as to expedite the work of rescuing as much as possible.
At the mouth of the mine the scene was beyond description. The wives and children and the neighbors of those who were known to be entombed were there in full force, and their anxiety and distress were most intense. While they were all seeking to help those who were rescued and to get the mine reopened, yet these bereaved people were for the most part in the way of the rescuers and had to be held back from the entrance.
After the men got under headway in the work of rescue they reached the first party in less than an hour, but they met greater difficulties after that time. It was then that telegrams were sent to Montgomery, Charleston, and other places for physicians, nurses, and caskets, but during the greater part of the day there was use only for the caskets.
The population of this mining village is only 500. All the men are miners.
The New York Times New York 1900-03-07