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Mine Disasters in
the United States


Clinchfield Coal Company
Compass No. 2 Mine Explosion

Dola, West Virginia
April 25, 1963
No. Killed - 22



See more Clinchfield Coal Company Disasters:   Clinchfield No. 2 Roof Fall, May 20, 1948
Mars No. 2 Mine Fire, Oct. 16, 1965
Moss No. 3 Portal A Mine Inundation, Apr. 4, 1978
McClure No. 1 Mine Explosion, June 21, 1983


Compass Mine Disaster Memorial
Compass Mine Disaster Memorial
From the Google News Archives:  External Link
(news links open in a separate window)


14 Bodies Found in Upstate Mine
Raleigh Register, Beckley, West Virginia
April 26, 1963

Dola (UPI) -- Rescue teams about noon today found 11 more bodies deep inside the explosion-torn Clinchfield No. 2 Mine, bringing to 14 the number of men known dead.  Eight trapped miners still were missing.


Dola, W. Va. (UPI) -- The bodies of three men were found deep inside an explosion-torn soft coal mine today and fears of a pending disaster mounted in this small northern West Virginia coal belt town.

Nineteen miners still were missing following an explosion of methane gas or coal dust late Thursday night at the Clinchfield Coal Company's Compass No. 2 Mine.

Thirty others were working the same shift in other sections of the mine and felt the shock wave, but scampered to the surface safely.

Announcement that three bodies had been found caused an immediate saddening effect at the pithead, where relatives of the trapped men were huddled anxiously awaiting word of loved ones sealed deep below.

Discovery of the bodies did not bode well for those still missing, veteran mine officials hinted.

A spokesman for the mine's management disclosed shortly before noon that 24 rubber sheets had been ordered from a nearby mortuary.

But in the tradition of coal mining, rescue teams pushed forward against time in an attempt to reach the men still unaccounted for.

Significantly, the Compass No. 2 Mine is located only a short-distance from the scene of this country's worst mining disaster.  On Dec. 6, 1907, 361 miners lost their lives in a mine near Monongah, W. Va.

The first hint of Thursday night's explosion came when men working in other sections began coming to the surface.  Their clothing was covered with coal dust, indicating the blast was of violent proportions.

One foreman on the surface was quoted as saying "It would be impossible for any of them to have survived that explosion."

John Morabito, who was below ground but about a mile from the point of the explosion, said the concussion "knocked a shovel out of my hand and threw men to the floor."

"I didn't waste any time getting out of there," Morabito said.

Another miner, beltman Harry Williams, reported the force of the blast ripped the coat off his shoulders, and he was four miles away.

Within minutes after the grim news was passed, relatives began gathering at the mine office near the main shaft.

All 22 of the trapped men were married.  Seventeen of them had a total of 39 children.

West Virginia Mines Director Leonard Timms motored to the scene from his headquarters in the state capital at Charleston.  Upon arriving he gave this picture:
"The missing men were believed working in two separate groups, a mile to a mile and a half from the main shaft.  Thirteen in one group were mining by conventional methods.  Seven men in the second group were operating a continuous mining machine.  Each group had a foreman.  The two entry ways separated by a wall of coal."
Officials said the explosion was feared to have occurred "in the same general area" where the two groups were working.

A veteran miner at the scene said the men who made it safely to the surface were covered with rock dust.  He said this could indicate an explosion of major proportions.  Officials added that a rockfall also may have occurred.

"Twenty-two men are trapped," company Vice President Steve Canonico reported shortly after the accident occurred at about 11 p.m.  He confirmed that the explosion was caused by either methane gas or coal dust.

"We didn't blow any whistle (after the explosion occurred)," Canonico said.  "Quite a few (men) got out safely and they passed the word around.  Word travels fast at a time like this."

The company official reported that "just a few" of the families were standing by at the mine office awaiting news from the rescue units.

"They seem to be taking it well," Canonico said.  "They appear hopeful that their relatives will be found safe."

From initial accounts, the missing miners appeared to be sealed off in a passageway beyond the point of explosion.

Unfortunately all 22 missing miners perished.

Officials of the Clinchfield Coal Co. today identified the men killed by an explosion deep in the No. 2 mine here.  They and their dependents were:
  • Adam Aldridge, 53, Smithfield, wife, two children
  • Gunther Bardarrek, 33, Clarksburg, wife, three children
  • William Bullough, 34, Clarksburg, wife
  • Kenneth Burnside, 35, Salem, wife, one child
  • Ralph Cabo, 46, Clarksburg, wife, two children
  • Delbert Chapman, 38, Clarksburg, wife, one child
  • Carsie Crayton, 47, Shinnston, wife
  • Dorsey Fincham, 56, Clarksburg, wife, four children
  • William Fowler, 40, of Flemington, wife, four children
  • George Grogg, 49, Lumberport, wife, two children
  • Roy R. Hanna, 51, Brown, wife, three children
  • Glenn Haught, 35, Lumberport, wife, two children
  • Harold Haught, 45, Lumberport, wife
  • Denzel Hawkenberry, 47, Mt. Clare, wife, two children
  • Roy Kerns, 45, Lumberport, wife
  • James Lester, 50, Owings, (foreman), wife, two children
  • Jim Maxwell, 55, Galloway, wife, two children
  • Ralph McCloy, 46, Rosemont, wife, two children
  • John Reed, 40, Wilsonburg, wife, four children
  • Ralph Smith, 59, Center Point, wife, one child
  • Raymond Swiger, 50, Wallace, wife, two children
  • Robert Welch, 47, Flemington, wife
The two Haughts are brothers and Chapman is brother of mine superintendent Harry Chapman.



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