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Lambie Begins Probe of Blast that Killed 19
Twenty-One Rescued Last Night from Farmington Mine Fully Recovered
Charleston Daily Mail, West Virginia
January 16, 1926
Fairmont, Jan. 16. -- With the death toll standing at 19, investigation into the cause of Thursday night's explosion at Jamison No. 8 mine at Farmington started today. Of the 48 men in the mine at the time of the blast eight were near the shaft escaped immediately and 21 others were saved by barricading themselves from poison fumes in the stables, almost 10,000 feet back in the mine. They emerged late yesterday.
Robert M. Lambie, chief of the West Virginia mine department, in charge of the investigation by state and company mine inspectors, said it probably would be completed today as the explosion was confined to one section, and damage to the mine probably would be insignificantly small compared to the blast at Barrackville last March. After the investigation has been completed, a date will be set for the coroner's formal inquest, which probably will be set for early next week.
Prayed, Discussed Bible
When things looked darkest for the 21 men entombed in an air lock following the explosion, their uppermost thought was of God, and a greater portion of the 18 hours they spent in their underground prison was devoted to discussion of the Bible and in prayer. This was revealed by John H. (Jock) McNeil, 60-year-old compressor engineer, who, with Lee Fetty, a foreman, supervised the construction of a baled hay barricade to protect the little band from the mine gases which were fatal to 19 of their fellow workmen.
"Every single man was a perfect Christian gentleman during the long ordeal," said McNeil, who explained that although some of the miners could hardly understand what the others said, because of the varied nationalities represented, all seemed to comprehend the situation and unite when appeals were made for divine guidance and aid.
Originally there were 28 in the group rescued, but two of them, both negroes and one, a minister, perished in an attempted dash for the mine shaft soon after the men had taken refuge in the air lock. Before the minister left them, he led them in prayer, McNeil said. Afterward McNeil served as leader.
"When I was down in that little dungeon I expressed the intention of reading my Bible more if I ever got out," McNeil said, and added that Fetty and some of the others declared, "yes, and so am I."
Gave Food to Younger
McNeil, a robust man whose experience and coolness is generally credited as having been the dominating factor in saving the miners, was said by one member of the group to have given his share of the food to younger men who appeared more in need of it. The lunches of the men were equally portioned when they were first entombed. The small supply of water was carefully guarded but not used until one of the number became faint from impure air. To the sick man was then given a drink as a restorative.
None of the 21 men appeared to have suffered greatly from his experience underground and almost without exception they were able to walk from the top of the elevator to the emergency hospital located nearby. McNeil alone fainted, but was quickly revived, whereupon he asked for his pipe. Obtaining his pipe and a light, he went home.
Plans for the funerals of the 19 victims of the explosion were being made by relatives and friends today. Whether a combined service will be held or rites conducted for each individual had not been definitely decided.
Fresh Air Felt
It was about 4:15 o'clock Thursday afternoon that the imprisoned men reported they first felt the welcome current of air. Knowing that rescue was close at hand and that ventilation was being restored in the mine, they tore down their barricade and went forth to meet their saviors. The first man reached the surface yesterday at 5:05 p.m.
Touching scenes then were witnessed. Brawny men, begrimed with the coal and dust of the mine, greeted each other like children. They hugged one another and tears streamed down their faces.
"Dad" Fetty came out with a son on each arm. John and Harry had been members of the rescue crew that had worked all day and had again entered the mine late in the afternoon. Just before entering the workings, the boys had asked W. C. Dobble, general superintendent of the mine, whether he thought their father was still alive. Mt. Dobble encouraged them, and the boys went to their work with renewed vigor. It was only a short time afterward that they emerged triumphantly with their "Dad."
"Everything worked like clockwork," said Mr. Lambie. "The men answered the call like a well trained fire department."
The entire work of rescue was accomplished in little more than 20 hours. The forces at the mine during the early stages of the rescue work were in charge of William R. Riggleman, Fairmont, and Evan Griffith, Clarksburg, district mine inspector. A state mine rescue car stationed at Clarksburg and a car from Fairmont arrived in less than 42 minutes and another from Morgantown arrived shortly afterward.
When Mr. Lambie arrived on a hurried dash from Mount Hope, he found the entire rescue organization working smoothly, and it was only a few minutes later that the rescued men were found.
The twenty-one rescued were: John McNeil, married; Lee Fetty, married; William Flucker, single; J. C. Green, single; Martin Grehal, single; Sergi Herman, single; Charles Inch, single; Frank Krust, married; Mike Kurson, single; Ned McCormick, single; William McGraw, married; Walter Neal, married; John Phillips, married; W. H. Robertson, married; Mike Rudy, single; Frank Shapp, married; Allan Staunton, single; Mike Trotsky, married; Roosevelt Wiggins, married; Alex Yarashank, single; John Zeman, married.
The dead: Louie Ben, married; Charles Fanner, single; Wassell Froskaff, married; Leo Cutlip, married; P. J. Seel, married; John Thomas, married; Nick Zapolortoney, married; William E. Myers, married; Joseph Fluharty, single; W. T. Carr, single; John Denah, single; Arch Cutlip, married; Coy Lough, single; F. D. Luster; John Stareneky, married; Frank Fanner; and two unidentified.
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