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Mine Disasters in
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Siltix Mine Explosion

Mount Hope, West Virginia
July 23, 1966
No. Killed - 7

From the Holmes Safety Bulletin, March/April 2012 Edition

A gas explosion occurred in the Siltix mine of the New River Company, Mount Hope, West Virginia, about 8:45 a.m., Saturday, July 23, 1966.  Seven men were killed by the explosion; all died from burns and/or forces.  Two of the other 41 men in the mine at the time of the explosion were injured, one only slightly.

Eleven men in the 6 left section heard the explosion, but they were unaware of what actually happened, and they erected a barricade in the return entries about 250 feet from the entrance to the 6 left section when they encountered smoke and fumes in the return entries.  The men remained behind the barricade until they were rescued about 10:30 a.m., July 23.  The men were in good physical condition when they were rescued.  After leaving the barricade, seven of these men assisted in recovery operations in the 2 left mains section; two of these seven employees and three additional men were overcome by smoke and fumes and were removed from the mine.

Bureau of Mines investigators believe that the explosion originated in the shuttle car haulway about 100 feet outby the faces of No. 4 room off No.1 entry, 2 left mains, where an explosive mixture of methane and air was ignited by electric arcs and sparks from a shuttle car.  Forces of the explosion extended throughout the 2 left main section into 6 left and 6 right off 2 left mains and were dissipated after traveling about 1,700 feet outby in 2 left mains.

The day-shift crew (7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) consisting of 48 men, entered the mine about 7:30 a.m., July 23, 1966, and they were transported in mine cars to their respective sections without incident.

Employees of the 6 left and 1 right butts conventional loading sections reached their working faces promptly and were loading coal when the explosion occurred.  The continuous miner and shuttle cars in the 2 left main section had been moved back from the faces of the rooms at the end of the shift near midnight July 22 to clean up fallen roof rock in the pillar split (shuttle car roadway) between Nos. 3 and 4 entries.  The continuous miner and shuttle cars were left at this location to be trammed back to the room faces by the day-shift crew.

Two electricians worked their entire shift, 12 midnight to 8 a.m., preparing electric face equipment in the 2 left main section.  The electricians stated that only two other men visited the section during their shift, a roof bolter and the fire boss.  They stated further that neither they nor the roof bolter traveled to any of the working faces, that they worked their entire shift in the vicinity of the belt tailpiece.

The day shift crew in 2 left mains, consisting of a foreman, continuous miner operator and helper, electrician, roof bolt machine operator, and three shuttle car operators, arrived on the section about 8:20 a.m.

Company rules require that the section foreman notify the superintendent or the tipple foreman on the surface of the condition of the section and/ or that coal-producing operations have been started.  Dallas Ayers, 2 left main section foreman, called to the surface about 8:30 a.m. and informed the superintendent that they were "loading."  This was the last verbal contact the 2 left mains employees had with other mine employees prior to the explosion.

Before entering the mine on July 23, Ayers was instructed to finish driving a crosscut tight off No. 4 room into the gob and then begin extracting the room pillars between Nos. 4,5, and 6 rooms.

Lloyd Marcum, beltman, was shoveling coal spillage onto the belt conveyor at 6 left off 2 left mains when the explosion occurred.  Marcum stated that prior to the occurrence, about two shuttle cars of coal and material passed by him on the 2 left mains belt conveyor.  He stated further that the material appeared to be coal and dust from the roadways rather than fresh coal.  Marcum stated that while he was shoveling, a terrible blast of air tossed him about 60 feet outby along the belt conveyor.  He said that smoke and dust suspended in the air prevented him from seeing for some time, although he did not see any flame.

Marcum moved along the timberline adjacent to the conveyor belt until he reached the 6 left telephone and notified superintendent Keaton of the occurrence.  Keaten instructed Marcum to remain at 6 left until he received assistance.

On the morning of July 23, the mine foreman, Maxwell Wallace, rode underground in the 6 left man trip with the section foreman and a crew of 10 men.  The 6 left section crew began producing coal promptly, and coal was being loaded when the explosion occurred.  Wallace and Wiley Cullop, section foreman, were near the 6 left belt tailpiece when they felt an unusually strong blast of wind.  Immediately thereafter, they observed dense dust suspended in the air.

Neither Wallace nor Cullop were aware of what had occurred or had any idea of where the occurrence might have originated.  Wallace instructed Cullop to assemble his crew near the telephone at the 6 left tailpiece and to keep the crew there until he received further instructions.  Immediately thereafter, Wallace began traveling outby along the 6 left belt in an attempt to learn what had occurred.

Cullop assembled the crew at the telephone, and he then began calling the surface buildings on the telephone.  The general superintendent answered Cullop's call, and after Cullop had explained what had occurred, the general superintendant suggested that possibly a roof fall had occured in an intake air course and he (Cullop) was to ascertain if a fall had occurred.  Thereafter, Cullop ordered the crew to remain at the telephone while he traveled outby.  Cullop travelled about 1,000 feet in the belt entry toward the mouth of the section, and after observing nothing unusual, he returned to the telephone and began calling on the phone.

The general superintendent again answered, informed Cullop that an explosion had likely occurred in the 2 left mains section and that he was to take his crew to fresh air at the entrance to 6 left.  The 6 left crew immediately proceeded along the belt entry toward the entrance of the section; the crew traveled about 1,000 feet when they encountered thick black smoke moving inby in the intake entry.

To circumvent the smoke, the crew traveled through a man door in a permanent stopping between Nos. 2 and 3 entries and then traveled in No. 2 entry, a return air course, toward the entrance to the 6 left section.  Upon reaching No. 1 entry, at left mains, dense smoke was again encountered, blocking the escape route.

When it appeared that all escape routes were blocked by the dense smoke, the section foreman and the crew decided to locate a suitable place in No. 2 entry, 6 left and construct a barricade.  Members of the crew began searching for barricading materials in the return air courses.  The barricade was constructed at a crosscut between Nos. 2 and 3 entries, 6 left, three crosscuts inby the mouth of 6 left.  It consisted of three plies of brattice cloth supported by wooden timbers and nails and was shaped in a semi-circle.

One end of the barricade was attached to the inby corner of the crosscut and the other was attached to the outby corner of the crosscut.  The rear wall of the barricade was formed by a permanent stopping between Nos. 2 and 3 entries.  From measurements taken during the investigation, the cross-sectional area within the barricade was about 580 square feet.  The 11 men entered the barricade and remained therein for approximately 45 minutes; they were rescued about 10:30 a.m.  The men remained calm while confined and all decisions made were agreed upon by all members of the crew.  None of the men showed ill effects from their confinement, and all were in good physical condition when rescued.

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