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33 Feared Dead in Fairmont Mine Blast
The Charleston Gazette, West Virginia
March 18, 1925
Fairmont, Mar. 17. -- Thirty-three men, composing a night crew of coal cutters and their assistants are believed to have lost their lives when Mine 41, of the Bethlehem Mines Corporation, located three miles west of this city was wrecked by an explosion. At midnight, the electric light plant, wrecked by the explosion had been gotten in operations one of the two main fans of the mine was forcing air into the plant and a bucket was being rigged to send rescue men to the bottom.
Superintendent Benton Mitchell, at this hour expressed the opinion that all men in the mine at the time of the explosion were dead. That the entire mine was wrecked and on fire. Among the expert miners who are supervising the rescue work the opinion was expressed that the explosion was caused by ignited gas and not from dynamite as was first believed.
The explosion was one of the most terrific in the history of the Fairmont mining region. Windows of the miners’ homes in the village were broken and the houses partially wrecked; the shock was felt over a radius of 20 miles. In Fairmont houses shook, lights went out for an instant and great excitement was created. In the immediate vicinity to the shaft the wheel house of the mine was wrecked, as were the engine house, office and store building and superintendent's residence.
Idle Some Time
The mine, which had been idle for a number of months, began operation on the open shop basis on October first. It gave employment to 250 men. Of this number about 38 coal cutters worked on the night shift, the others during the day. This mine was wrecked by a gas explosion on October 19, 1916, in which ten men were killed.
Immediately following the explosion tonight, great crowds gathered at the plant, but were held in check by deputy sheriffs and the members of company A of the state police who arrived from their headquarters near Fairmont, within a short time. Ropes were stretched and none but officials and rescue men were allowed near the opening.
From the minute of the first explosion the fear was expressed that there would be another from the gas generated by the burning coal. It was considered hazardous to venture near the opening of the wrecked shaft.
Lambie on Scene
Benton Mitchell, superintendent of the plant, and Robert M. Lambie, chief mine inspector of West Virginia, had left Fairmont earlier in the evening for Charleston, but were intercepted and returned before midnight, the latter taking charge of the rescue work and the situation on the surface.
In the meantime, rescue men with equipment were arriving from Fairmont and other plants in the field, and before midnight fully 100 expert miners were anxiously waiting on the surface to go below.
Hoist Is Wrecked
The hoist was completely wrecked by the force of the explosion and the shaft filled with debris. At midnight a bucket from another mine arrived and it will be lowered down the shaft as far as the debris will allow. In this way the rescue forces hope to clear the shaft and get to the bottom. Until this is done, no estimate can be formed of the damage done inside and until then nothing can be learned of the fate of the men, although the general belief is that the explosion swept every portion of the interior with great force and that all are dead. Some of them were working fully a mile and a half from the bottom of the shaft and it may be possible that some live.
Lambie Scouts Bomb
Immediately after the explosion the report was current that the explosion was occasioned by a dynamite and glycerin bomb dropped in the shaft, but this view was scouted by Chief Lambie upon his arrival. At midnight, a report that dynamite had been found at a distant entrance to the mine drew a number of state police to this scene for an investigation. They have not returned at this hour. The mine was inspected Tuesday by Deputy Inspector Welton, of the state department of mines, who reported it safe in every particular.
Rumblings Come First
The first intimation of the trouble was a rumbling noise followed by an explosion which shook the earth, wrecking the company store near the mine entrance and blowing the doors and windows from houses across the county road 300 feet or more away.
Then came a sheet of flame from the pit mouth which lighted the heavens and extended hundreds of feet into the air. Then followed dense clouds of black smoke. The tipple was wrecked and the fans put out of commission. The electric lighting system at the mine was wrecked and all was in darkness.
Investigators revealed that one fan was not seriously damaged. The steam pipes were broken but it is believed, repairs can be made in a few hours and the fans started again.
Crews of expert electricians from the local traction company and from surrounding mines were rushed to the scene to repair the electric lines and get lights in the mine.
Ready to Enter Shaft
Rescue crews from Barrackville and other nearby mines in the Fairmont field equipped with gas masks and all necessary apparatus are on guard ready to enter the mine at the earliest possible moment.
Ambulances are on the scene and physicians and nurses are ready to give aid to any whom may be found in the mine yet living, but little hope for the rescue of any living thing from the mine is held out by those in charge of the rescue work.
State police and county officers rushed to the scene and ropes were stretched about workings keeping the crowd in the county roads. Frenzied women and crying children pressed close to the ropes and moaned and lamented as they tried to get some word of comfort as to their loved ones in the ill-fated mine.
It is believed that by morning some semblance of order may have been restored and that some time tomorrow the rescue workers will be able to force their way into the plant.
Fear is held on that additional explosions may follow. The mine is a gaseous coal and it is feared it is on fire and that further accumulations of gas may cause additional explosions.
Death Roster in Mine Explosion
The probable dead:
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