Cause of Blast at Keystone in which Eight Died Sought
Charleston Daily Mail, West Virginia
April 3, 1928
Keystone, April 3. -- State mine inspectors went into the No. 2 mine of the Keystone Coal and Coke Company today seeking the cause of the explosion yesterday in which eight men, one of them a company inspector, met death. Of a total of 275 miners underground at the time of the blast, all the others made their escape safely through various entries of the mine which extends for several miles under the mountain.
Chief R. M. Lambie, of the state mining department, who made a hurried automobile trip from Charleston to the scene, termed the explosion a "local" one extending possibly 2,000 feet from the point of origin.
While the state mining officials made their investigation underground, preparations were being made for the funeral of the victims. Their bodies were removed from the mine late last night. The mine inspectors will present the results of their investigation to a coroner's jury at an inquest to be held next week.
Work of cleaning up that portion of the mine affected by the explosion was also started and company officials expected that work would be resumed within a few days.
Two pit bosses, Albert Burnett and Coy Hash were hailed as heroes today as survivors of the explosion recounted how they lead groups of miners to safety. Burnett, in charge of the section where the blast occurred, gathered eight of the crew together and led them around the "bad air" to the main entry. Hash, working in another section ran through the passageways, after the explosion telling miners he met to be calm and wait where they were until he returned. He finally assembled a crowd of fourteen men and reached the surface with them through the Pinnacle entry, five miles away.
As mine inspectors Thomas Stockdale, William Prentis, W. D. Lee, and Percy Gillio, explored the wrecked section, Chief Lambie and company officials questioned survivors of the explosion in the company offices. The inquest was set definitely for next Monday.
The mine was one of seven recently purchased by the Keppers Company of Pittsburgh from Col. T. F. Houston of Cincinnati, and yesterday was the first day the new owners had been in charge of the work.
The victims are:
Fred Platser, company inspector
E. M. Hall
A. N. Sturdevant
J. V. Cochran
Walter Wade, the last four being Negroes
The explosion occurred early Wednesday morning in a section of the mine about one and one-half miles from the entrance. First reports were that but one or two men were unaccounted for but when two bodies were located it was found six other miners were missing. Their bodies were found shortly before midnight.
What caused the explosion was not known this morning. Several different versions were advanced. Garnett Flippen, motorman, who was in the mine was a string of empty cars when the blast came, said he heard a noise which his experience underground told him was an explosion.
A strong gust of air followed the blast and Flippen said he remembered that after a first explosion there is generally a second, so he crawled under a coal car and awaited it. When it did not come, he said, he started hunting a way out and finally escaped through an exit far from the main artery.
Mining department officials, who are on the scene, will begin an investigation today.