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Explosion Kills 13 Coal Miners
Galveston Daily News, Texas
December 9, 1981
Palmer, Tenn. (UPI) -- A mineshaft explosion killed 13 coal miners nearly a quarter of a mile deep in a remote Tennessee mountainside Tuesday, bringing to 25 the death toll in six days of Appalachian mine disasters.
William B. Allison, president of Tennessee Consolidated Coal Co., announced about 10 p.m. EST, nine hours after an explosion ripped through a shaft of its No. 21 mine, that rescue teams had reached the miners and "there were no survivors."
Mine disasters in West Virginia and Kentucky had already killed 12 men since last Thursday.
Company officials broke the news to the miners' sobbing wives and children, who had gathered in a lunchroom of the mine office to await the dreaded announcement.
"There were 13 miners working in the area," Allison said. "Recovery operations were started immediately. All 13 miners were located and there were no survivors."The 13 men were buried 1,200 feet deep in the mineshaft, about 30 miles northwest of Chattanooga, authorities said. Rescue teams with oxygen respirators worked half-hour shifts in bitterly cold weather to reach them.
Roy McCarter, deputy commissioner of the state Labor Department, said in Nashville the men were trapped in an area about 1,200 feet from the mouth of the shaft, which extends horizontally through a mountainside. The rescue teams, he said, were digging through the rubble in the shaft rather than trying to bore a new tunnel. There was no indication, he said, of how extensive the collapse was.
About 40 wives, children and other relatives of the trapped miners were secluded in a room at the company headquarters, about three miles from the mine. Four company workers guarded the door to the room and refused to allow reporters to talk with the relatives.
Barricades were set up on a road about a mile from the mile and only emergency personnel were allowed beyond the barricade. Sheriff's deputies, evidently taking their cue from the mine company, refused to talk to newsmen.
Mike Caudill, information officer for the State Civil Defense Office, said the men were working gingerly to reach the miners.
"They had to go in with self-contained breathing apparatus because of the atmosphere in the mine. What they are digging with, I couldn't tell you. They do have jackhammers and this type of equipment but since they are working in a collapsed mine they have to make sure it doesn't collapse on them, too," Caudill said.Caudill said the Civil Defense, which set up a command post near the mine, flew a third rescue team to the mine by helicopter from nearby Caryville to join the first two teams. He said workers were also brought generators and lights to the desolate mountainside.
List of the victims, all of whom lived in the area of Palmer are:
Danny Cooley, his brother
Jimmy Wayne Rogers
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