Farmington, WV Scores Perish In Mine Explosion, Nov 1968
Shock of the explosion was felt 10 miles away in Fairmont. C & P Telephone Co. official William Withrow said his house shook as he was dressing for work, and he said other Fairmont residents also reported feeling the tremor.
Stragglers began emerging from the mine. Eight men who had been working about two miles from the blast linked hands and groped their way to an air hole. After nearly two hours they made contact with men on the surface and were hoisted to safety by a crane with a scoop bucket attached.
"I helped load them into ambulances," Charles Priester, Jr., of Farmington said. "They were sick and vomiting, and two of them were bleeding from the eyes. The concussion from a blast down in the mines does that to you."
The eight men were taken to Fairmont General Hospital where they revived quickly. Only three were admitted for observation. One of the eight, GEORGE WILSON, recounted:
"... The power went off and we could tell by the swishing of the air and the dust that there had been an explosion ... All the men were made sick by dust and carbon monoxide fumes ... We yelled to each other and decided to go to the air shaft where we thought we had a better chance of being rescued. We were down there for a couuple of hours and pounded on the pipes and yelled and finally made contact."
Others who emerged from more distant entrances weren't injured. In fact, one of them, CHARLES BIAFORE of Fairmont, said he had been operating a noisy mining machine about six miles from the explosion and didn't even know there had been a blast until others told him to flee the mine. Altogether 21 men came out safely.
Consol Executive Vice President William Poundstone of Pittsburgh held a press conference Wednesday afternoon for dozens of West Virginia and national newsman who flocked to the scene. He said it is presumed that natural gas, methane, caused the explosion. He said the mine always had been "moderately gassy," as are many mines in Marion County, an oil and gas region.
Estimates of how many men were missing varied throughout the day, but at a late afternoon press conference a coal company spokesman said the number had been determined to be 78.
If all 78 of the missing men are dead, it will be the worst mine disaster in West Virginia since Jan. 10, 1940, when 91 were killed in a coal mine blast at Bartley, McDowell County.
The worst mine disaster in U.S. history happened only about 10 miles from the site of Wednesday's blast. On Dec. 6, 1907, the lives of 361 men and boys were snuffed out by a mine explosion at Monongah, Marion County.
The ill-fated Consol No. 9 mine was hit by another gas explosion on Nov. 13, 1954, that killed 16 miners. The mine was set afire by that blast, too, and it had to be filled with foam and sealed for a year until the smoldering stopped. A granite monument to the 1954 victims sits beside a church in Farmington.
Only last week, a gas explosion and fire destroyed the Manchin store and adjoining buildings in Farmington, killing three customers and a clerk.
"Some of the volunteer firemen who fought the fire at my dad's store were among the miners trapped in the mine this morning," State Farmers Home Administration Director A. James Manchin said Wednesday.
"We have a lot of misery up here."
SAME MINE KILLED FATHER OF SURVIVOR.
Mannington -- (AP) -- Among the 21 miners rescued Wednesday from the Mountaineer Coal Co. No. 9 mine near here was MATT MENAS, JR., whose father died in a similar disaster in the same mine 14 years ago.
The explosion on Nov. 13, 1954, killed 16 men. The mine at that time was owned by the Jamison Coal Co., and was called the Jamison No. 9.
Here is a list of the other miners rescued Wednesday, all of whom are from the area around Mannington, Fairmont and Farmington:
BYRON JONES; NATHANIEL STEPHENS, 48; CHARLES BIAFORE; NICK KOSE, 23; ROY WILSON; JAMES HERRON; PAUL SABO; WALTER SLAVIKOSKY; HENRY CONAWAY; NEZER VANDERGRIFT, 48; RALPH STARKEY, 41; LEWIS LAKE, 55; GEORGE WILSON, 54; ALVA DAVIS, 29; RAYMOND PARKER; ROBERT BLAND; ROBERT MULLEN; GARY MARTIN; CHARLES CRUMM; BRAD HILLBERRY.
Charleston Gazette West Virginia 1968-11-21
LISTING OF VICTIMS OF THE MANNINGTON MINE DISASTER (1968)
ARTHUR A. ANDERSON, JR.; JACK O. ARMSTRONG; THOMAS D. ASHCRAFT; JIMMY BARR; ORVAL D. BEAM; JOHN JOSEPH BINGAMON; THOMAS BOGGESS; LOUIS S. BOROS; HAROLD W. BUTT; LEE E. CARPENTER; DAVID V. CARTWRIGHT; WILLIAM E. CURRENCE; DALE E. DAVIS; ALBERT R. DeBERRY; GEORGE O. DECKER; HOWARD A. DEEL; JAMES E. EFAW; JOE FERRIS; VIRGIL "PETE" FORTE; H. WADE FOSTER; AULDA G. FREEMAN, JR.; ROBERT L. GLOVER; FORREST B. GOFF; JOHN F. GOUZD; CHARLES F. HARDMAN; EBERT E. HARTZELL; SIMON P. HAYES; PAUL F. HENDERSON; ROY F. HENDERSON, SR.; STEVE HORVATH; JUNIOR M. JENKINS; JAMES JONES; PETE J. KAZNOSKI, SR.; ROBERT D. KERNS; CHARLES E. KING; JAMES RAY KNICELEY; GEORGE R. KOVAR; DAVID MAINELLA, SR.; DENNIS N. McDONALD; WALTER R. MARTIN; FRANK MATISH; HARTSEL LEE MAYLE; JACK D. MICHAEL; EMILIO D. MEGNA; WAYNE R. MINOR; CHARLES E. MOODY; PAUL O. MORAN; ADRON W. MORRIS; RANDALL R. PARSONS; RAYMOND R. PARSONS; JOSEPH MUTO; NICHOLAS PETRO; FRED B. ROGERS; WILLIAM D. SHEME; ROBERT J. SIGLEY; HENRY J. SKARZINSKI; RUSSELL D. SNYDER; JOHN SOPUCH; JERRY L. STONEKING; HARRY L. STRAIT; ALBERT TAKACS; WILLIAM L. TAKACS; DEWEY TARLEY; FRANK TATE, JR.; GOY A. TAYLOR; HOY B. TAYLOR; EDWIN A. TENNANT; HOMER E. TICHENOR; DENNIS L. TOLER; JOHN WESLEY TOOTHMAN; GORMAN H. TRIMBLE; ROSCOE M. TRIPLETT; JAMES H. WALTER; WILLIAM T. WALKER; LESTER B. WILLARD; EDWARD A. WILLIAMS; LLOYD W. WILSON; JERRY R. YANERO.
The mine was permanently sealed in April 1978 with 19 of the bodies never recovered.