Gaseous Condition Blamed in Blast Which Took 11 Lives in Coal Mine
Pulaski Southwest Times, Virginia
January 19, 1951
Kermit, W. Va. (AP) -- A "gaseous condition" spotted by federal mine inspectors only a few days ago was blamed for the explosion that killed 11 men and injured two more in the Burning Springs mine here.
State Mines Chief Arch Alexander, who attributed yesterday's blast deep in the 32-year-old pit to the "gaseous condition," said state mine inspectors had reported the mine in good condition earlier this month.
There was no amplification on these statements. And around this small mining town on the Tug River that separates West Virginia and Kentucky, talk seemed a bit futile.
The explosion hit three families hard. Tom Moore and his son, Tom, Jr., were among the dead. Charley Sparks was gone, along with his son Proctor. And the two Dalton brothers, Conrad and Delbert, were killed with their brother-in-law, Walter Johnson.
The Moores and the Sparks were from Kermit, and the Daltons and Johnson from Inez, Ky.
The others were Sherman Fields of Beauty, Ky., Lashly Mounts of Warfield, Ky., Charlie Porter of Dunlow, W. Va., and John Chafin of near Kermit.
William Bownes of Steptown, W. Va., was in critical condition in a Williamson, W. Va., hospital with burns, a brain concussion, possible skull fracture and back injuries. The blast tore off most of his clothing.
Joseph Hinkle of Warfield, Ky., was knocked unconscious but apparently suffered no serious injuries. He was expected to be released from the hospital sometime today.
Hinkle couldn't throw any light on what happened.
"I just don't remember," he said from his hospital bed. "The first thing I knew," he added, "they were carryin' me out."
The explosion ripped through one section of the mine at 1:10 p.m. It was several hours, however, before rescue teams could dig their way past barricading slides to reach the victims.
The diggers were handicapped by accumulation of blackdamp and had to stop periodically to ventilate.
After they finally dug through, they found eight bodies. That appeared to be the toll of dead until scouting parties discovered three more victims back in an unnoticed corner of the area.
Around the mouth of the small hollow where the mouth of the mine is located, small knots of silent watchers stood or slumped awaiting the news. There was the same knot-in-throat expectancy many had felt before when the cry came through -- "We've found them."
And there was the same hysterical weeping from a wife or child when a mangled body emerged from the dark opening.