Farmington, WV Scores Perish In Mine Explosion, Nov 1968
'NO CHANCE' GIVEN 78 TRAPPED MINERS.
Mannington -- Rescue prospects dimmed late Wednesday for the 78 men now know to be trapped deep in a smoke-filled coal mine rocked by explosions earlier in the day.
The miners are believed to have died about dawn Wednesday when an underground explosion shook the earth for 20 miles and erupted into the sky like a volcano.
Twenty-one other miners, working in distant tunnels, managed to escape to the surface before fire spread inside the mine. But 78 were missing in the flaming catacombs Wednesday night.
"There's not a chance in the world to get those men out," West Virginia Department of Mines Inspector Leslie Ryan said in midafternoon as he viewed the mile-high column of smoke rolling from the burning mine.
Just before midnight, a pocket of gas developed behind one of the openings which had been sealed and blew it open. The opening had been shut off in an effort to control air intake into the mine and help subdue the fire.
Earlier, rescue workers had said chances of finding the men alive were "very doubtful ... very grave."
Scene of the tragedy is the huge No. 9 mine of Mountaineer Division of Consolidation Coal Co. The mine lies beneath Farmington, Mannington, and nearly 24 square miles of Marion County just west of Fairmont. It is an old mine, opened in the 1940s, but it had been modernized to exploit its rich seam of six-to-eight-foot-high coal. Production was 9,400 tons a day.
Main entrance of the mine is on W. Va. 15 at a tiny town called "Consol No. 9, unincorporated." But the center of the explosion was about seven miles away, somewhere in the 600-foot deep labyrinth of tunnels under Llewellyn Run west of Mannington.
"Consol" official Leonard Gross of Morgantown, formerly of Charleston, said about 100 men were at work in the mine on the midnight shift early Wednesday. Most of them were in the newer section near Llewellyn Run.
Between 5:30 and 5:40 a.m., a thunderous blast went off deep in the earth. The elevator of the well like Llewellyn Run shaft was hurled into the sky like a shot from a cannon. Sections of concrete from the shaft entrance were thrown onto nearby cars, smashing one of them. The modern Llewellyn Run portal, built only last year as part of a $1 million improvement program by Consol subsidiary Mountaineer Coal Co., was destroyed. Flame and smoke began to rise from the shaft. A parked car was set afire. The smoke grew steadily thicker until the scene looked like an erupting volcano.
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