On September 9, 1981, an explosion rocked the Warrier Mine, an underground exploration gold mine. At the time of the accident, two miners - Glen A. Bedard and Morgan Owen - were working underground, and Bedard's wife happened to be waiting nearby at the surface.
Alarmed by the shaking of surrounding buildings, Mrs. Bedard quickly proceeded to the portal area. After failing to find any signs of her husband or Owen, she summoned the mine foreman, Rocke Wilson, who was working about 30 miles away, and the owner of a nearby mine, Ardy Johnson.
Upon arriving at the mine at about 7:00 p.m., Wilson and Johnson descended together in search of survivors. Shortly thereafter, both men were suddenly overcome by carbon monoxide. Arriving at the mine at about 9:00 p.m., the general partner and mine manager resumed the search. During this effort, Johnson was found 75 feet from the portal and Wilson was found 100 feet from the portal. Subsequent CPR attempts revived Wilson, but Johnson never regained consciousness.
On September 10, rescuers recovered Bedard, who had died of carbon monoxide poisoning, and Owen, whose injuries indicated that he had been fatally injured in the explosion.
Because of the lack of surviving witnesses to the explosion, MSHA investigators found it difficult to determine exactly what had happened. However, investigators suspected that after mucking out, Bedard and Owen drilled another round, and then loaded it with an ammonium nitrate-fuel oil mixture and dynamite.
Static electricity could have been generated and introduced into Owen's body during this loading, or could have been transferred from the clothing or rain suit that he had been wearing. If, while bearing such charges, Owen returned unused explosives to the day box, the static electric buildup could have detonated a primer that could have detonated remaining explosives. The multiple-fatality explosives accident could thereby have been triggered.
||Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I