united states mine rescue association Mine Disasters in the United States
Peabody Coal Company River Queen No. 1 Mine Explosion
August 7, 1968
No. Killed – 9
Lives of Nine Miners Claimed by Coal Shaft
Progress-Index, Petersburg, Virginia
August 8, 1968
Greenville, Ky. (AP) -- Rescue workers began the slow process today of carrying out the bodies of nine miners reported killed Wednesday in a fiery explosion in a coal mine shaft near here.
A mine employee, who asked to remain unidentified, said the rescue workers had found eight bodies in one area of the mine. The body of the ninth miner was found nearby, he said.
The employee said it would take some time for the workers to bring the victims to the surface because the shaft area was small. The first body was discovered at about 4 a.m. EDT today -- 14 hours after the accident was reported.
Throughout the rescue operation and the reported finding of the bodies, mine officials, police and other authorities have refused to discuss the accident with newsmen.
The entire area lading to the River Queen mine entrance was cordoned off soon after the accident and newsmen have not been permitted in.
The mine, owned and operated by Peabody Coal Company, is just south of this small coal-mining community in Western Kentucky.
About 300 persons -- women, children and miners -- lined a road leading from the mine area to seek out loved ones, relatives and friends among those being carried out.
One of those bystanders, a middle-aged man wearing a green work uniform said: "I've been in mining all my life and my brother-in-law is down there and I know there is no chance."
The explosion rocked a shaft inside the mine with a series of blasts. A miner who had been working in a nearby area, said, "The blast knocked you down every time you got up -- just like a cyclone."
Rescue operations, coordinated by the Kentucky Division of Mines and Minerals, began soon afterward.
It was estimated that the trapped miners were nearly 8,000 feet back from the entrance to the mine and about 90 feet beneath the surface.
Initial attempts to enter the mine were hampered by debris that clogged the entrance, thick coal dust and intense heat. At one point rescuers reported the underground temperature in several adjoining shafts end tunnels to be above 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rescuers who discovered the first dead miner said he probably died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Mine company officials refused to make any statement on the cause of the explosion.
Listing of the casualties:
Bobby English, 34, of Beech Creek
Ernest Miller, 45, of Central City
Paul Creekmore, 44, of Central City
James Harris, 33, of Sacramento
Frank Epley, 45, of Greenville
Dennie Salig, 58, of Echols
James Bryant, 25, of Cromwell
William Rice, 31, of McHenry
Robert Fridinger, 36, of Madisonville