At 2:10 p.m., and explosion in No. 5 mine killed every man in the mine; and in No. 6 mine, working the seam above, 8 men were killed by afterdamp and 66 escaped, but 1 died later from injuries sustained while getting on the cage.
The explosion originated in No. 5 mine, and there the heat and violence were so great that few of the 171 men in those workings could have lived any considerable time after the explosion.
About 10 minutes after the first explosion, a second but less violent explosion occurred, carrying debris out the No. 5 shaft.
The first and more violent explosion, accompanied by flame, carried timbers and quantities of mud up both shafts and blew of the explosion doors of the funhouse at No. 5 shaft, but did not damage the fan.
The explosion wave in No. 5 mine traveling toward No. 6 shaft blew a large quantity of water from a depression near the shaft up the shaft. This quenched the flame and prevented it from entering No. 6 mine. Rescue workers entered through No. 6 shaft.
Crews from other mines and Bureau of Mines men in apparatus assisted in exploring and in restoring ventilation.
A contractor had blasted out a coal barrier 4 feet thick between 2 mine sections, causing the air to be short-circuited in 1 section. Gas accumulated and was ignited by the open light of the contractor or by a blown-through shot of permissible explosive. The explosion was carried to other parts of the mine by dust.
Although the mine was well ventilated, gas was occasionally found by fire bosses. Open lights were used, but a change was made to Hirsch electric cap lamps after this explosion.
Two men were employed in sprinkling throughout the mine, but the State Inspector had reported dusty places requiring more efficient watering.
The second explosion probably occurred when gas came in contact with fire resulting from the first explosion.
Use of safety lamps, removal of dust, and the application of stone dust on entries were recommended.
||Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I
Disaster at Eccles, West. Va., Ascribed to Ignition from Miner's Lamp
|Eccles Mine Disaster Historic Marker|
The New York Times, New York
April 29, 1914
Charleston, West Va., April 28. -- Successive explosions occurred to-day in mine shafts, Nos. 5 and 6, of the New River Collieries Company, belonging to the Guggenheims, located at Eccles, Raleigh County, eighty-five miles northeast of here.
There were 191 men in mine No. 5, with the exception of one taken out dead, that are entombed, and there is no hope for their rescue, as fire has developed. In No. 6 there were seventy-six, fifty-nine of whom were rescued, while four bodies have been recovered, so that there are thirteen men entombed in that mine.
A rescue car from the National Mine Bureau at Pittsburgh is being rushed to the scene, and is expected to reach there before noon tomorrow.
The known dead taken from Mine No. 6 are Carl Warden, A. W. Gaughman, and F. J. Lingerton, all white natives, with the body of an unidentified white.
Nick Jones, a Hungarian, was found dead near the bottom of the shaft in No. 5, the only body rescued from there.
Both mines are filled with poisonous gas, and the rescue parties are having difficulty in reaching any of the rooms. The passageways are all choked except No. 6, and a survey of the mine has not resulted in the finding of any miners.
Three successive explosions in No. 5 wrecked the interior in such a way that if gas has not killed the men many of them have been crushed by falling timbers, earth, and coal. Timbers were thrown from the shaft mouth a distance of more than 200 yards, wrecking the buildings at the exit.
Mine No. 5 is burning fiercely, with Government, State, and volunteer rescuers working desperately tonight to subdue the flames, but had to abandon their task through being unable to force their way into the burning shaft.
The depth of the two main shafts is 600 feet, and the mines are connected underground. There are two other shafts into the mines, but the explosion totally wrecked three out of the four. The lone entrance leads into Mine No. 6, and by means of it the rescues were made. No. 5 mine apparently is completely shut off from the surface.
The first explosion occurred in No. 5. The two shafts of this mine were demolished. It is believed the explosion traveled through this mine into No. 6. One shaft of the latter mine was wrecked, but the other remains intact and was the salvation of the workmen, who escaped.
It is believed that the explosions were caused by a pocket of gas being ignited by a miner's lamp, enveloping both mines in flames. Debris was hurled forty feet in the air by the impact. No. 5 was wrecked by explosions which occurred fifteen minutes apart. Only one explosion occurred in No. 6.
Gas Checks Rescuers
A rescue party was rushed to the scene of the disaster from Beckley, which is only two miles away, but after removing two men from the debris of No. 6 their activities were checked by the deadening fumes of coal gas. Later the party were more successful in bringing forty more men to the surface. Two were P. M. Ellison and N. Jones, both coal miners. They are seriously injured.
Telephone connections between Charleston and Eccles have been bad since the first message reached the mine department here. Gov. Harfield and the State mine chief, Earl Henry, are rendering all the assistance in their power.
Eccles, which is a little mining community of 1,500 inhabitants, was shaken by the muffled rumbling of the explosions, which brought women from their cottages in a panic and strated the entire population not at work to the tipples of the ill-fated mines. At first there was no smoke, but men on the tipples knew that far aground the toll of death was being taken.
Supt. Thomas Donaldson of Mine No. 8, Local Supt. M. E. Kent and Gen. Supt. F. B. Bayles of the company were on the spot within a short time.
Supt. Donaldson, an experienced miner, with an expert rescue crew, was lowered down the shaft of No. 6 mine. For a time the steadily growing crowd of frightened women and children waited in suspense, but soon the signal came to hoist away and the cage responded. It bore two men badly hurt, a few of the rescue party, and two bodies.
The other trips were made as rapidly as possible, and each time blackened and burned miners were brought to the surface. The injured were assisted to near-by houses, where physicians waited to care for them.
The rescued men expressed doubt whether the remaining thirteen miners in No. 6 would be taken out alive. Some of the men stated that portions of No. 5 mine were badly wrecked, and they believed that the entrance connecting with No. 3 mine had been completely destroyed. Half the miners employed are Americans, the remainder being negroes and foreigners.
A Government rescue car reached the mines from Bluefield, West Va., at 5 o'clock and another will arrive here from Pittsburgh, Penn., at noon tomorrow.
The rescue parties worked with all their might during the evening directing their efforts to Mine 5, where the 190 men were entombed. Nothwithstanding the feverish haste of the rescuers, they could make little progress because of the intense heat and gases.
Fan And Air Circuit Put In
Men on the rescue car from Bluefields installed a new fan and an air circuit in No. 5, which will permit the rescue work to be done more safely, and gives rise to the possibility that by early tomorrow morning some of the victims can be reached. To tear away the fallen timbers and make the underground passages safe for the rescuers requires a great deal of time.
Two carloads of coffins have been ordered from Cincinnati, and will arrive at Eccles by the time the bodies of the entombed victims can be moved.
The mines are operated by the Guggenheim interests, and have been considered among the safest in the West Virginia fields.
The disaster is the first of considerable extent in West Virginia for several years. It is probable that it is second only in fatalities to the Monongahela horror in December, 1907, when 366 miners lost their lives.
While the loss of life here will be heavy, there is a relief for the families of the victims that was not in force when former disasters occurred. The new workmen's compensation act provides $20 a month for the widows of the dead, and each of the surviving children, not to exceed three, is entitled to $5 a month.
The four bodies taken from Mine No. 6, although somewhat burned, were examined late tonight. Death in each case was due to suffocation, an indication that the deadly gases did their work before the flames.
A search of Mine No. 6 has failed to disclose the men known to be in that operation. It is believed their bodies will be found under debris.