united states mine rescue association Mine Disasters in the United States
Island Creek Coal Company Whitman No. 20 Mine Explosion
Holden, West Virginia
November 3, 1931
No. Killed – 5
Searchers Find Third Victim of Mine Blast
Bluefield Daily Telegraph, West Virginia
November 4, 1931
Logan, W. Va., Nov. 3. (AP) -- With bodies of three miners recovered, rescue crews tonight pushed ahead in their search for two other men missing following an explosion in a temporarily abandoned section of Island Creek Coal Company, Whitman Mine No. 20.
The bodies discovered were those of William Dingess, 48, father of nine children; David Amos, 36, father of four children, and Alonzo Napler, 29, father of six children. All were timbermen.
Virtually all hope was abandoned by rescue crews for the recovery alive of the two missing men, Charles Frye, 31, fire boss, and James Hobbs, 33, timberman.
The men were retimbering the unused section of the mine when, rescue workers believed, a slate fall occurred, breaking an electric wire and liberating a quantity of gas which was ignited by a spark from the wire. Rockdust in the mine, R. M. Lambie, chief of the state department of mines said at Charleston, prevented the explosion from spreading through the mine which extends underground for several miles from the foot of a 250-foot shaft.
Dust flying through the air gave warning to 241 other miners that an explosion had occurred some place in the workings, and they hurried from the mine uninjured. One man was injured slightly when he was blown against a trap-door by the force of the blast. He had been working near the explosion area.
Rescue crews working under the direction of J. F. White, state mine inspector, and H. P. Farley, district safety director for the department of mines, located two of the bodies, those of Dingess and Amos, about two miles from the foot of the shaft where they had been engaged in retimbering. Several hours later after groping their way through thick fog composed of rockdust, coal particles and smoke, they found the third body, Napler, near the spot where the others had been located.
With the recovery of Napler’s body, a slight hope that he and the two other missing men might have escaped injury in the explosion and barricaded themselves in a mine room to keep out gas and smoke, was abandoned. Rescue workers, describing the conditions in the explosion area, said that although dust was so thick that it was "almost impossible to tell a man from a lump of coal."