May 7, 1968: Rescue efforts at Hominy Falls mine disaster
The rescue of 6 men from a flooded Nicholas County mine in 1968 is one of the most dramatic stories in West Virginia's coal mining history. 25 miners were trapped in the mine owned by the Gauley Coal and Coke Company after a worker operating a continuous mining machine accidentally bored into a wall of water. The miners were working with inaccurate maps and tapped into an abandoned mine filled with acid water.
A massive recovery effort began before dawn on May 7. 15 miners were rescued after 5 days. The other 10 were feared dead. Rick Jarrett, who has been researching West Virginia mine disasters for a pictorial history, says rescuers didn't expect to find anyone else alive.
Jarrett: Of course, they just continued to pump the mine to get the bodies out. So, finally on the tenth day, the water was getting low enough to where the rescuers could get close to the end of the section where the bodies were and one of the guys was kinda crawling, or hunched over walking, and he saw a footprint in the mud. A fresh footprint. So he went back out and he said, `Guys, I think there's somebody alive.' So they brought in a crew and they went up and they found, of those ten men, six of them were still alive after ten days. And that was called the miracle of Hominy Falls.
Larry Lynch, one of those rescued, was interviewed the day he and the five others finally emerged from the mine.
Reporter: Larry, do you recall your first reaction when you came out of the opening of the mine this morning?
Lynch: Yes, sir.
Reporter: What was that?
Lynch: I fulfilled a vow to God. I told Him when I got outside that I would thank Him and give Him praise for delivering us sound and alive. Not just me but the other five men who were with me."
The survival story of those courageous miners has come to be known as the "Miracle of Hominy Falls."
For more information:Dillon, Lacy A. They Died for King Coal. Winona, MN: Apollo Books, 1985.