Tuesday, August 21, 2007


On the morning of January 15, 1946 the New River & Pocahontas Coal Company, No. 9 Mine, Havaco, West Virginia, became the scene of disaster when the mine exploded killing 15 and injuring 37. The McDowell County mine explosion amazingly left 200+ underground miners unhurt. Many of the dead and more severely injured were working at or near the bottom of the mine shaft and eleven of the injured men were working at the tipple. Casualties could have been much worse if the explosion had taken an underground course like the Jed explosion, but luckily for many, most of the force was directed outside of the mine. The fact that 215 miners escaped death during this devastating event is a miracle. The majority of men underground at the time of the blast were working a mile or so from the main shaft. With all other avenues of escape blocked or destroyed the miners had to climb a 275 foot escape stairway in the air shaft to freedom. The first survivors walked out of the mine nearly an hour after the blast. Some of those who came later were nearly unconscious and had to be carried or dragged. The miners with more serious injuries had to be transported outside by a hurriedly arranged cable and bucket assembly. The last body was recovered from the mine at about 5:00 p. m. The ignition source for the explosion was never officially determined, but federal and state agencies stated in preliminary reports that the explosion had been caused by coal dust. There were reports that during the blast flames jumped three hundred feet into the air and bystanders were knocked to the ground. The blast destroyed the tipple at the mine and also smashed doors and shattered windows in many of the houses and other structures in Havaco. Windows were reportedly broken as far away as Welch, located almost 2 miles away. Around 550 men were employed at the Havaco mine, split between two shifts. Of that number all but about 50 worked underground.

Ira Alderson, Ab. Amburn, Earl Belcher, Ernest M. Bell, Walter Bell, Lawerence Carper, William Cooper, James A. Gibson, Clarence Hale, Thomas Cleveland Hale, Albert R. Miller, Pete Morgan, John L. Smith, Luther Talent and Luther Tolley