Rick Wolfgang helped his injured brother from the No. 2 Slope of the MS&W Coal Company, but perished
when he returned to the 4-foot wide tunnel to try to save his father, Gene Wolfgang. Toxic gas flooded the area
after the men set off a dynamite charge in the mine. Frank Benner also perished in the accident.
By December 11, 1985, miners had finished developing a 150-foot-long slant in the No. 2 Slope Mine,
an anthracite operation. This slant was located off the first miner heading at the No. 9 breast.
Pillaring in the slant led to a 75 foot by 75 foot void, which had been excavated. However, unlike the
mine's other pillared slants that had been connected by back entries to previously mined areas that acted
as bleeder systems, this void remained poorly ventilated and without a bleeder system.
At about 2:00 p.m., miners in the No. 2 Slope fired explosives in the solid coal near the edge of the
void and on top of rocks in the slant. Immediately after, a methane explosion occurred. This explosion
killed three miners, all of whom had been positioned approximately 115 feet from and in-line with the
charged shots. A fourth miner sustained serious injuries, and a fifth miner remained uninjured.
MSHA investigators determined that the volume and velocity of air required to ventilate the slant off the No. 9 breast of the first miner heading had been insufficient to dilute, render harmless and carry away
methane. The resulting explosive methane-air mixture was ignited by the detonation of explosives in the
Other contributing causes to the disaster included a failure to conduct methane testing before
detonating explosives, the lack of bleeders off the No. 9 breast, and a failure to clear miners from the detonation area.
Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume II