Firefighting crews were formed after all miners were withdrawn from the Katherine No. 4 mine to fight a fire discovered there at 11:00 p.m. A subsequent explosion of methane and coal dust occurred, killing everyone in the
mine at the time. Buildings were rocked and windows were shattered in homes two miles away.
Explosion in Mine Kills 16
Lime News, Ohio
March 26, 1944
Shinnston, W. Va., March 25. -- (AP) -- An underground fire generating clouds of poisonous and explosive gases barred the way tonight to the bodies of 16 men who died in a shattering early morning mine blast while they were vainly trying to stop the blaze.
Fighting the flames which broke out in the No. 4 mine of the Katherine Coal Company, the 16 were caught by a terrific explosion that tore up a surface area of half an acre.
All hope was abandoned for the men and tonight crews began sealing the mine to extinguish the underground blaze. Jesse Redyard, state mine chief, said that it would be five or six weeks before crews could be sent into the mine to recover the bodies.
The death toll had been placed at 15, but John Hogue, mine superintendent, said a recheck had established that 16 had perished in the explosion.
Work crews were equipped to combat the deadly carbon monoxide generated by the fire, but highly explosive methane gas also filled the entryways. Watchers also were fearful of another explosion.
The fire broke out late last night 3,800 feet underground in the main entryway of the newly-opened mine near this central West Virginia town. Seventy-five miners on duty came out safely before the salvage crew went in.
Shortly before dawn a sheet of flame shot out of the mine shaft -- flame so fierce that it charred telephone poles, partially melted steel railroad cars and burned up automobiles 150 feet away. The blast spewed rock, slate and other debris over a wide area. Flames licked out of the entry for some time after the blast and smoke still seeped from the opening tonight.