united states mine rescue association Mine Disasters in the United States
McAlpin Coal Company McAlpin Mine Explosion
McAlpin, West Virginia
October 22, 1928
No. Killed – 6
Six Miners Meet Instant Death in Blast at McAlpin
Charleston Gazette, West Virginia
October 23, 1928
Beckley, Oct. 22 (AP) -- Six miners met death today in an explosion in the McAlpin Coal Company's mine at McAlpin, ten miles from here. Their bodies were recovered tonight by rescue crews.
Rescue crews who located the bodies six hours after the explosion occurred, said that the mine was not seriously damaged and that but little difficulty was experienced in reaching the explosion area, approximately two miles from the drift mouth.
The blast according to Robert Lilly, state mine inspector, who led the rescue crews, occurred when a miner in removing slate fired ten sticks of dynamite without tamping the explosive. The miner, Lilly said, who failed to place the explosive in a hole before firing the shot, was B. B. Burkhold, who was working at the time in number four room on eight right entry way.
Approximately sixty miners were employed in the immediate vicinity of the explosion, company officials said, but only those close to the spot where the actual blast occurred were affected. One man was taken from the mine, overcome by gas but was expected to recover. Rescue crews later located the bodies of six other men and said that all of the men in the mine had then been accounted for.
The bodies of the six miners were found in the room where Burkhold was alleged to have fired the dynamite. Three of the bodies, those of Burkhold, and of T. T. Durham and his son Richard Durham, were badly cut, burned and bruised, indicating that they met instant death when the shot was fired, while the others, Laurino Reez, John Harriston and Alfred Davis, the latter two negroes, were believed to have been suffocated by smoke and gases following the explosion.
A narrow escape from death was experienced by three other miners who were working in a room adjoining that in which the explosion occurred. They heard the blast and felt the air becoming bad. Unwilling to chance an attempt to leave the mine, they rushed into another room where they bratticed off the bad air with rocks and lumps of coal and awaited the coming of rescue crews.
These rescue crews came to the mine from Glen White, Killeythen, Balleywood, Helen and Stotesbury. Their efforts to rescue the missing men or to locate their bodies, were conducted under the leadership of Robert Lilly, of Mount Hope, and W. L. McGinnis, of Beckley, mine inspectors.
The mine, under normal conditions, officials said, employs 248 men. A major portion of the normal force was at work, but the majority of them, company officials said, were in the number one entry, going out of the mine at the end of day shift hours, when the explosion occurred.
The McAlpin mine is the property of the Laing coal interests and is directly managed by A. W. Laing, of Charleston, where the company maintains its principal offices.