The explosion occurred at 8:30 a.m., resulting in the deaths of 114 men inside the mine and 1 outside.
Fifty-four men afterward escaped alive from the mine. Seven came out from 2 to 5 hours after the explosion; 5 more escaped unassisted at 8 a.m. on March 6, and 42 others were rescued an hour later.
Of those killed, 44 died from suffocation. The store porter passing the drift mouth at a distance of 100 feet at the time of the explosion was hurled against a post and killed.
The force of the explosion bursting from the drift mouth shook buildings and broke windows in the vicinity. The drift mouth was wrecked and the fan doors blown off.
The foreman and superintendent immediately called on men that were nearby and patched up the fan doors, started the fan, and patched an overcast a short distance inside the mine.
State mine inspectors, officials from other mines and the Bureau of Mines were called on for assistance, and men and equipment were rushed to the mine.
Organized rescue and recovery work was started with brattice crews; apparatus crews explored ahead of them as soon as they arrived. By direction of the mine officials and State mine inspectors this work was turned to the sections of the mine away from the origin, thinking that in these sections there was a better opportunity of saving lives.
The explosion extended over the major portion of the mine, and progress was difficult and dangerous.
In reestablishing ventilation, it became necessary to reverse the air in No. 3 main entry; on the night of March 5 the fan was stopped and all working parties were withdrawn until morning.
This change in the air cleared the afterdamp from the No. 3 main, which had been on the return, permitting 5 men who had barricaded themselves in 9th left off No. 3 main to open their board stopping and walk out through the entry. They did not know of any other live men in the mine, but rescue parties soon found and brought out 42 other men from behind the gob stoppings they had built on 10th left. These men reached the outside by 11 a.m. on March 6.
The action of these men in barricading themselves off from the deadly gases following the explosion was an example to other miners who might be entrapped.
In 10th left, the leadership of a younger miner, John Whalen, prevailed on many of the starved and sometimes fear-crazed men to stay inside the barricade until help came or the air outside became safe.
Recovery work was completed on March 8, except for bodies remaining under heavy falls.
An accumulation of gas on 4 left off No. 4 mains was thought to have ignited by an open light, which resulted in an explosion propagated by coal dust to other sections of the mine.
Gas was encountered infrequently, and no attention was given to maintaining ventilation on that account.
No fire bosses were employed. Black powder was used, tamped with coal dust and bottom dirt. Top cuts were made by picks. No sprinkling was done.
A text or handbook was issued by the Bureau of Mines in 1916, for instructing rescue crews and disseminating advice and suggestions for the best conduct of rescue and recovery operations. The details of such operations and the Bureau's place in them were explained clearly and carefully.
The efforts of the Bureau were divided between education on saving lives after disasters and in protecting them by preventing disasters. Training of rescue crews, in wearing breathing apparatus and teamwork, had been carried on since 1908.
In 1911, a circular describing the use and care of mine rescue breathing apparatus was issued by the Bureau in connection with this training. In 1912, a pamphlet was published presenting in detail the Bureau's method of training rescue crews.
||Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I
165 Men Entombed by Mine Explosion
The New York Times, New York
March 3, 1915
Hinton, W. Va., March 2 -- Rescue parties late tonight had brought out ten men alive and recovered the bodies of nine victims of the explosion which entombed 182 miners in the Layland mines of the New River and Pocahontas Consolidated Coal Company, seven miles from Quinnimont, early today.
The work of rescue is continuing, and is aided by rescue car No. 8 of the United States Bureau of Mines, which reached the scene tonight. From all available sources it is estimated nearly 165 men are still in the mines.
The rescued men were unconscious when brought to the surface. Several suffered bruises and cuts.
A temporary morgue was built near the entrance of the mine. It is believed that the striking of a pocket of gas by one of the miners led to the explosion.
From outside evidence, the force of the explosion must have been terrific. The stone arch over the main entrance of the workings was destroyed; windows within a radius of 300 yards were broken, and the explosion was felt for miles around.
Adnar B. Cooper, who was delivering groceries to a house within seventy-five yards of the mine entrance, was blown against a telegraph pole and killed.
The first rescue party which penetrated the mine found bad slate falls. They reported the air courses good. Guard lines have been established about the workings, and only workers are permitted within them.
Company officials refuse to give out any information
Most of the entombed miners are of foreign birth, but there are also a large number of Americans. Hugh R. McMillen, assistant mine boss, is among the missing.
The mine in which the explosion took place connects with another mine, each employing eightly men, all of whom are believed to have been in the pits. Rescue parties were at once organized, and the fans were set going within fifteen minutes after the explosion.
The explosion occurred in Mine 3, great volumes of smoke pouring out of the openings. Throngs of excited people hurried from near-by mining towns, and rescue parties were formed to penetrate the workings in the hope that some of the entombed men might be found alive.
As the day wore on additional volunteers entered the mine, and by noon two forces of twenty men each were clearing away the fallen coal and rock in the main entry of mine No. 3. Half a mile from the opening they came across a miner who was badly hurt and unable to tell anything about the explosion. Here they encountered a mass of debris.
Assistance was hurried to the mine from nearby towns, and a rescue car of the Bureau of Mines was ordered from Glenallum, W. Va., to the scene.
List of Fatalities from the Department of Mines Report on the Layland Mine Disaster:
Adnar B. Cooper
M. L. Day
A. P. Ponton
L. L. Shaffer
J. E. Simmons
J. H. Smith
G. O. Weeks
John L. Wimmer