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Lillybrook Coal Company
Lillybrook No. 1 Mine Explosion

Lillybrook, West Virginia
January 19, 1930
No. Killed 8

Successful Rescue

After an undisclosed period, the bodies of eight men, six of whom were Negroes, were recovered.  R. L. Meadows, one of the injured men, was found lying with the dead.  He was considered by physicians to have a chance for recovery.


Blast That Killed Eight Being Probed
Charleston Daily Mail, West Virginia
January 20, 1930

Beckley, Jan. 20. (AP) -- An examination of the No. 1 mine of the Lillybrook Coal Company, 10 miles from here, where an explosion yesterday claimed the lives of eight miners and injured four, was started today by W. D. Lee, of Welch, district mine inspector.  Following his inspection of the section where the blast occurred, Lee was expected to set a date for the inquest.

The bodies of the eight men, six of whom were Negroes, were recovered yesterday.  R. L. Meadows, one of the injured men found lying with the dead, today was considered by physicians to have a chance for recovery.  Yesterday it was believed that his chance for life was slight.

The blast was described by J. B. Clifton, president of the company, as local in character, occurring far back in the mine.  Miners 300 feet away reported that they scarcely heard it.  The explosion was believed by company officials to have been caused when a fall of slate released a gas pocket.

Six of the dead were Negroes.

Company officials said they believed the explosion was caused by a fall of slate opening a pocket of gas.  Investigation got under way today.

Those killed were:
  • W. C. Garbett, Jr.
  • James Henderson
  • Jesse Johnson
  • W. J. Thompson
  • John Owes
  • Sherman Holland
  • Walter Hooker
  • E. T. Davis
Their bodies were badly burned in addition to being mutilated by the force of the blast, and rescue workers said they had been killed instantly.

All of the men killed were named in a group insurance policy recently obtained by the LillyBrook Coal Company for all of its employees.  Under the policy, the life of each employee is insured for the sum of $1,000, company officials said.  In addition to carrying the group insurance policy, the company is a subscriber to the state workmen's compensation fund.

Ice covered roads hampered rescue workers in reaching the mine.  The first rescue teams to arrive were those from Glen White, Stotesbury, and Glen Rogers.  Other teams arrived later.  Work of the rescue workers was directed by W. D. Lee, mine inspector from Welch, and Everett Stover, of Ameagle, appointed a week ago as a district mine inspector.  Rescue equipment in addition to that provided by the crews, was supplied by Stover, who drove a Department of Mines rescue car to Lillybrook from Welch.

The explosion was described by R. E. Ritter, one of the injured men, as "two flashes that seemed to last about a minute."

"It came so sudden," Ritter said in a hospital here.  "I hardly knew what caused it.  There were two flashes that seemed to last about a minute.  The other two men started down toward some old workings in the mine.  I yelled to them to come back and follow the rail out.  The air was bad but when we got to the entry it was better but still seemed to be mighty dusty.  The three of us then came out of the mine on the motor with the night boss.  He wanted to get help and get us treatment."

Ritter's companions were Ben James and James Leadbetter, both Negroes.  All were seriously burned.



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