united states mine rescue association Mine Disasters in the United States
Raleigh Coal and Coke Company No. 4 Mine Explosion
Beckley, West Virginia
December 17, 1940
No. Killed – 9
Mine Blast Toll Hits 7; 5 Others Seriously Hurt
Charleston Daily Mail, West Virginia
December 18, 1940
Beckley, Dec. 18 (AP) -- All mines of the Raleigh Coal and Coke Company in the New River field were closed today while officials waited an additional 24 hours before beginning investigation of an explosion which killed seven men and injured five others.
Without definite knowledge of the cause of the explosion yesterday in the No. 4 mine just outside Beckley, officials said the inquiry would be started tomorrow.
The company's other mines, following custom of the southern fields, closed in respect to the dead.
The blast occurred two miles back in the "slope" mine, actually under the streets of this southern West Virginia city in the heart of the coal fields.
Five men were brought out soon after the blast and taken to hospitals.
Rescue crews found seven bodies four hours later.
Officials said they could not determine the cause of the blast, whether it was from gas or coal dust. Superintendent Ellsworth Shriver said the mine was not gaseous and safe lamps were used.
Meanwhile, there was new agitation in Washington for action on the Neely-Keller bill for inspection of coal mines which has passed the senate but has been in a house committee for several months.
Senator M. M. Neely, governor-elect of West Virginia, co-author of the measure, said the blast just outside Beckley was another reminder to opponents that "more innocent blood is on their hands."
Representative Joe L. Smith, Democrat, West Virginia, whose home is in Beckley, left last night for Washington, saying he was going primarily for a meeting of the house mining committee which he heads, a meeting called before the explosion.
Officials listed the dead in the blast as:
W. M. Kirk, 41
Ernest Anderson, 28
John P. Yost, Jr., 20
Charles Patrick, 52
Ernest Hill, 36
Charles Hairston, 59
Luther Pack, 41
The injured were:
Physicians said Sexton may die but the others probably will recover.
There were about 70 men in the mine at the time of the explosion, but all but 12 were in unaffected areas. The company employs about 300 men in its mines in the county.
Yost and Anderson had been setting sights for water drains, and ordinarily would not have been in that section of the mine. Except for Patrick, the other men in the blast area were working on a conveyor.
It was the first serious accident in the mine in 40 years of operation.
The workings were not damaged by the explosion, Shriver reported after returning from the blast area with N. P. Rhinehart, chief of the state mines department.
State Mine Inspectors C. M. Meadows and Robert Lilly directed crews from Kilsyth and GLen White in bringing out the bodies.
About 200 gathered about the entrance, among them relatives of the trapped men, but there was no hysteria and only two screams were heard as ambulances started up the road to town.