Saxsewell No. 8 Mine
Gauley Coal and Coke Company
Saxsewell Division Hominy Falls, Nicholas County, West Virginia
May 6, 1968 -
4 Killed An inundation (water) of part of the active workings of the Saxsewell No.8 mine occurred at 9:40 a.m., Monday, May 6, 1968.
There were 26 men in the mine at the time of the occurrence. One man escaped from the mine unassisted, but the others were en- trapped in the mine by the inrushing water. Fifteen men were rescued 5 days later and six others were rescued 10 days after the inundation occurred. Four men were fatally injured or were drowned by the in-rush of water. The victims were brought to the surface on the morning of May 16, 1968.
The inundation occurred when a continuous miner (Jeffrey 100-L) holed through into the workings of an abandoned mine while cutting the face of No.3 room left off 2 right off south main entries.
The Saxsewell No.8 mine of the Gauley Coal and Coke Company, Saxsewell Division, is located on Hominy Creek, approximately 5 miles south of Leivasy, West Virginia, off highway route No. 20, and is served by autotrucks and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
The Sewell coalbed on this property was leased by the Gauley Coal and Coke Company from Eugene and Thomas McKenzie of East Rainelle, West Virginia, April 24, 1962. The McKenzies had operated the No. 4 mine, Sugar Grove Coal Company, prior to their leasing the tract of coal, and they retained part of the property for 5 years to continue operating the No.4 mine. The McKenzies operated the No.4 mine until 1963, and several different contractors mined coal on the reserved boundary until March 1966, when the No.4 mine was permanently abandoned. After acquiring the property, the Gauley Coal and Coke Company leased tracts of coal to small mine operators in addition to operating the Saxsewell No.8 mine.
The mine was being developed through drifts into the medium-volatile Sewell coalbed, which averaged 32 inches in thickness locally. A total of 68 men, 66 underground and 2 on the surface, was employed on 1 maintenance and 2 coal producing shifts a day, 5 days a week. The daily production averaged 1,200 tons of coal, all loaded mechanically.
Mine Conditions Immediately Prior to Inundation
John Moore, Jr., day shift foreman, examined Nos. 1, 2, and 3 rooms at the beginning of the shift shortly after 7:30 a.m., approximately 2 hours prior to the flood. He observed that there was a small stream of water flowing out of the No.3 room and that the rooms were damp. However, he did not consider that this was an unusual condition as the mine floor generally showed evidence of moisture.
Several of the face employees stated that water had seeped through the coal near the face of No.1 room on the last work day, Friday, May 3, prior to the inundation and that some water had accumulated near this face; however, none of the employees or officials were particularly concerned about the water seeping from the coal as they were of the opinion that they were in solid coal.
Evidence of Activities and Story of Inundation
The day shift crew entered the mine at 7 a.m., May 6, 1968, and they were transported in rubber-tired mine cars hauled by battery-powered mine tractors to their respective sections without incident.
The two continuous miner crews working in the main entries performed their normal mining operations without incident until about 11:25 a.m., when they were notified of the inrush of water by telephone. These men were instructed to travel to the battery charging station near south mains belt head and wait at this location for further instructions.
The two continuous miner crews in 2 right off south mains, including John Moore, Jr., foreman, arrived on the section about 7:30 a.m. Moore stated that he examined the three working places (Nos. 1,2, and 3 rooms) at the beginning of the shift and thereafter remained in the No.3 room while the crew performed work preparatory to loading. When they began mining coal in No.3 room, Moore traveled to No.1 room where the "paddle chain" was being repaired on No.5 miner.
The miner in No.2 room was not being operated at the time of the inrush of water, and no one was working in the place at the time.
Gene Martin, supplyman, was the only survivor of the five men working in No.3 room at the time the miner holed through. Martin stated that the miner was making the third run across the face, cutting left to right, and had mined about 12 feet in depth when the inrush of water occurred. He was on the right side of No.3 room near the tail of the bridge conveyor when he heard William Burdette, timberman, who was working on the right side of the miner, yell. Martin turned toward the face to look for Burdette and the water struck him (Martin), carrying him out of the place and then toward the mouth of No.2 room. Martin observed water coming through the lead auger at the roof but has no other recollection of the events until the men from No.1 room helped him out of the water and into No.2 room.
The other four members of the No.3 room crew were carried out of No.3 room by the water. Three of the victims were later found alongside the belt conveyor in No.2 entry and one was recovered near the mouth of No. 17 room right.
The force of the inrushing water moved the continuous miner about 17 feet outby the face and washed the pans and chain for the chain conveyor line out of the room and piled them up in No.1 entry.
John Moore, Jr., foreman, Jennings Lilly, miner operator, Richard Scarbro, miner helper, Larry Lynch, beltman, and Joe Fitzwater, electrician, were working on No.5 miner in No.1 room when they heard the inrush of water and the shouts of No.3 miner crew.
They immediately went to the mouth of No.2 room, where they met the water and assisted Gene Martin from the water. Moore stated that the water was coming out of No.3 room at a terrific force and of sufficient volume to fill the entire room. After this crew attempted to get through the water and failed, they collected three dinner buckets, three jackets, and brattice cloth, and thereafter retreated into No.2 room.
The men constructed a shelter 5 feet wide and 8 feet long of three layers of brattice cloth near the face of No.2 room. The six men remained in the shelter for the greater part of the time they were entrapped, leaving only to obtain drinking water and to check on the water level. Moore stated that on Monday morning, May 13, they thought they might be able to travel to the surface and they traveled outby in No.1 entry for a distance of about 400 feet, at which location they found the water roofed across the entry. They then returned to the shelter in No.2 room and remained until rescued.
The entrapped men's food supply was exhausted Thursday, May 9, and they drank mine water thereafter. The men stated that they had no difficulty in breathing and that the. air always seemed to be of good quality. They mentioned further that their greatest discomfort was coldness, resulting from the mine temperature, dampness, and inactivity.
Franklin Davis, superintendent and mine foreman, did not ride the man trip on the morning of May 6, and he was on the surface when Andy Walton and Ernest Fitzwater, supplymen and operators of the battery-powered mine tractors, returned to the surface at 8:30 a.m.
Ernest Fitzwater entered the mine with a trip of supplies about 11 a.m., and when he had traveled about 1,050 feet inby the portal, he observed an unusual amount of water apparently flowing outby in the belt entry; after a fast glance at the water, he left the tractor, jumped onto the belt conveyor and rode to the surface.
On the surface, Fitzwater immediately began telephoning for Superintendent Davis. As Davis approached the south mains belt head, he heard himself "paged" and observed water flowing out of south main entries. Davis answered the telephone and directed Fitzwater to call T. A. Salvati, general manager, and inform him of the water and the need for pumps. Davis then called the beltman in the main entries and told him to bring the two crews to the battery-charging station as soon as possible.
Davis then instructed Edward Rudd, beltman working in the area, to travel with him into south mains to try to determine the source of the water.
When they arrived at 2 right belt head, Davis telephoned the surface and T. G. Spurlock, District State mine inspector, answered.
Davis informed Spurlock that the water was coming from 2 right entries and that he and Rudd were going to travel into 2 right via No.1 entry as far as possible. Traveling in No.1 entry, Davis and Rudd found that the water was roofed in No.1 entry about 500 feet inby the mouth of the entry; whereupon, they returned to 2 right belt head and telephoned the battery-charging station. Davis learned that the men from the mains section had arrived and that the water was within 12 inches of being roofed near the mouth of south mains. He was advised further that they would have to hurry to get through to the main entries. However, Davis and Rudd failed to reach the battery-charging station because of the depth of the water at the ventilation doors and the presence of fumes over the top of the water from transformer oil. The two men then returned to the higher elevation at 2 right belt head, where they arrived about 12:05 p.m.
The main entry crews were unable to travel to the surface because of the water at the south mains belt head. However, they were able to communicate with surface employees by telephone and they remained near the charging station inby the water until they were instructed on the morning of May 8 to travel to No.5 room left off 2 right mains where a borehole (No.2) was being drilled from the surface. The group of 13 men, as well as Davis and Rudd at 2 right belt head, were able to maintain telephone communications with the surface at all times until their rescue.
On May 7, sections of 4-inch plastic pipe were filled with food, drinking water, and blankets, sealed with plastic, securely fastened to the main belt conveyor, and sent back to the 13 entrapped men in the main entries. This procedure was followed in supplying these men until a 5-5/8 inch borehole was drilled into No.5 room left 2 right off the main entries at 2:15 am., May 8, and such materials were thereafter lowered through the borehole.
About 3:15 p.m., May 7,1968, a 3 inch borehole reached the coalbed near Davis and Rudd. An air compressor was put into operation discharging air through this borehole for the purpose of ventilation, and the compressor was operated 20 minutes out of each 30 minutes. About 5 a.m., May 8, a 5-5/8 inch borehole reached the coal near the 2 right south mains belt drive, and the two men were supplied through this borehole until they left the area and joined the men in the main entries.
Two attempts were made on May 7 to reach the 2 right section through the abandoned No.4 mine, Sugar Grove Coal Company, by State and Federal inspectors. These efforts were unsuccessful because of water being roofed across all entries.
Continuous pumping in the main entries of Saxsewell No.8 mine lowered the water sufficiently in the south main entries to permit Davis and Rudd on May 10 to join the 13 men in the main entries. On May 11, the water in the main entries had receded sufficiently to permit a recovery team from the surface to wade through the water in the No.4 entry by traveling close to the right rib. This water was about 18 inches in depth and extended for several hundred feet in length. The recovery team reached the 15 men in the main entries about 3:30 a.m., May 11, and the rescued men arrived on the surface about 5:20 a.m. by way of the No.4 entry. At this time, the Nos. 1, 2, and 3 main entries remained blocked with water.
About 1 a.m., May 16; a rescue team waded through the remaining water in No.1 entry of 2 right and discovered fresh footprints inby the water. This group of men explored about 650 feet inby the water and returned to the rescue base. After discussion, another team waded the water and found six men alive in No.2 room left off 2 right entries about 2 a.m., May 16. The six men were in reasonably good condition and they and the rescue team crawled about 1,000 feet outby to a location where they boarded a man trip. The man trip arrived on the surface about 4:30 a.m. and waiting ambulances transported the rescued men to the Sacred Heart Hospital West Virginia. The bodies of the four remaining men entrapped by the inrush of water were located and identified, and they were brought to the surface about 8:30 a.m.
The 21 entrapped men survived because of differences in elevations at the locations where they were working at the time of the inrush of water and the areas of the mine that were flooded.
The 21 men entombed in the Saxsewell No. following the inundation displayed remarkable self-control, good discipline, and remained well during the entire time they were entrapped. Each man is commended for his courage and self-control. Especially commendable was the courage of the 6 men during their 237-1/2 hour ordeal.
Mine Maps as a Factor in the Inundation
The map of the Saxsewell No.8 mine, posted in the mine foreman's office on the day of the inundation, had not been brought up-to-date 1968. This map did not show or indicate abandoned and active mines in close proximity to the 2 right entries.
Although the 2 right entries had be driven 1,850 feet, the superintendent decided to stop the faces at 1,741 feet and turn rooms left oft No.1 entry. This was done without consulting higher officials or the engineering department.
Usually, the engineering staff of the Saxsewell No.8 mine extended the map posted, in the mine office upon completion of their weekly surveys. During the investigation, Franklin Davis, superintendent, stated that the posted mine map was usually 3 to 4 days behind, but at the time of the inundation, the engineers had not visited the Saxsewell No.8 mine for about 10 days. Foremen did not carry a map of the mine or section of the mine under their supervision, and none of the foremen extended their mine development daily or at any other time on the map posted in the mine office.
Cause of Inundation
This inundation was caused by an inrush of impounded water following the unintentional "holing through" of a room into inaccessible workings of an abandoned mine. Surveying and map errors at the two mines and inadequate communications between the engineering department and local mine officials contributed to the occurrence.
News Accounts'Wall of Water' Traps 25 Miners in NicholasBy James A Haught, Staff Writer
HOMINY FALLS--Millions of gallons of stagnant acid water that had collected like a subterranean lake in an abandoned coal mine suddenly burst through into a new mine Monday and trapped 25 miners underground. Fifteen of the entombed men were temporarily safe in air pockets, and managed to make sporadic telephone contact with the outside.
But 10 miners who had been working at the breakthrough site, two miles deep in a mountain, hadn't been heard from and little hope was held for their survival. The State Department of Mines was leading a hurried rescue effort late Monday night. A dozen pumps were striving to empty the flooded mine enough so some of the trapped men might wade out. State Mines Chief Elmer C. Workman said some of the miners may be reached "sometime during the night." As for the men deeper in the mine, he said only: "We fear the worst."
LATE IN the evening, during one of the brief moments when voice-powered telephone contact was possible to the interior of the mine, trapped foreman Frank Davis told listeners on the surface: "The air is getting tight." Workman said he didn't know how long the air supply would last for those in various air pockets underground.
The disaster site is the Saxsewell No. 8 mine of Gauley Coal and Coke Co. It is located in a strip-mine-ruined valley near Hominy Falls, Nicholas County, roughly in the center of a triangle formed by Summersville, Richwood and Rainelle.
Monday began normally at the mine when a crew of 28 men went to work underground at 7 a.m. More than a dozen of the men working at a spot a mile inside the slightly sloping "drift mouth" entrance. Foreman Davis and another man were at a spot a half-mile farther in. And the 10 lost men were still a half-mile deeper.
"Those 10 men were operating a low-coal continuous loader," state police Lt. H. E. Parks said. "Nobody knows what happened, but it's assumed they cut into the old Straley Coal Co. mine under an adjoining tract of land. The Straley mine was an old-timer, started about 1909. It was abandoned two years ago and must have filled with water."
MINES DIRECTOR Workman added: "Some of the underground maps must have been wrong. According to the Gauley Coal and Coke Co. chart, the crew was staying 200 feet away from the property line, as the law requires. Either the old Straley map or the Gauley map must have been wrong."
The first warning that something had happened inside the mine came at 11:30 a.m. James Little of Richwood, an outside worker, was sitting on a cinderblock beside the mine office eating lunch when he saw the conveyor belt that brings out coal suddenly go slack. A young miner named Fitzwater, who had been working underground but had come out for a moment, started back inside and found the tunnel flooding with water. "Even though a drift-mouth mine goes into a hill horizontally, the tunnels aren't always level," Mines Director Workman explained.
"They go up and down in what we call 'swags'. The men who are all right were working in high places. The water just ran by them and filled in the low places, filling the tunnel clear to the roof and leaving them trapped."
(Transcriber note: The next section of this article appears to have been cut. I have attempted to interpret what it should be but please leave room for errors in interpretation. Where translation was required, I have enclosed the word in brackets.)
VOICE-POWERED telephones are stationed along the tunnel at various points. Rescuers (on) the outside were able at tim(es) to talk to foreman Davis and (a) miner named Edward Rudd (who) were trapped a mile and a half underground. Davis and Rudd (had) reported that they were able (to) talk to 13 other men only a (mile) underground. The telephone contact was lost several times (but) regained intermittently.
Davis reported earlier in the evening that the "air is getting tight" -- but company officials said at 9:30 p.m. that all 15 (of) the contacted men were "u(n)harmed, high and dry and safe." Pumps were brought in from mines all around central West Virginia to help in the draining attempt. By 9 p.m., (many) pumps were in operation. Earlier, some of the pumps had been knocked out when water seepage short-circuited them. Also late Monday night (transcription note…article is cut off at this point but picks up in the next column.
The remainder of this paragraph is missing.)
The Saxsewell No. 8 mine is a "low coal" mine. The coal seam is only about four or five feet high. Men cannot stand fully erect while they work, and are hauled into the tunnels by shuttle cars. That means the trapped men awaiting rescue are all in crouching or kneeling positions presumably in pitch blackness, and must crawl if they want to move from one spot to another.
Mine Mouth Watchers Voice Age-Old Despair, FutilityBy Holger Jensen
As grim, coal-stained miners lugged water pipes into the yawning black shaft, two women stood on a mountainside and sobbed. "Coal mines is coal mines," said Mrs. Martha Rudd, her arm around the other woman. "My father worked in one. His father worked in one. My husband's in there now, and God knows he'll die in it."
Mrs. Rudd's husband, Edward, had been trapped for 10 hours in the Gauley Coal and Coke Co. No. 8 mine here. He was working with mine foreman Frank Davis one and a half miles in the horizontal shaft when another mine crew accidentally cut into an abandoned mine which flooded the new cut. With Mrs. Rudd was Mrs. Johnne Amick. Her husband, Glen was also trapped in the mine, with another group of 13 men closer to the surface.
Mrs. Rudd is the mother of nine children. Mrs. Amick has two sons. "God will bring them out," said Mrs. Amick. "They aren't telling us anything around here. We just have to sit and wait. But I know they're okay."
A SHORT distance away an older woman stood shaking her head. "Ottie Walton is my Sunday school teacher," she said. "He's got a wife and five children. Who's going to feed them now?" Walton is another of the 13 trapped a mile down the shaft. "Most of these folks around here go to school and then straight down that damn mine," said Hazel Flippen of Quinwood, a nearby town. "A few with brains get out. But the rest live in them damn mines and it looks like some of them are going to die in them too.
"I lost a brother in a coal mine at Leslie (Greenbrier County) back in '45. Now I've seen all these young boys going down there . . . and after all this is over, they'll still be going down there."
Trapped Miners NamedBy (Author not named)
HOMINY FALLS--(AP)--This is a partial listing of some of the miners trapped in a mine near here on Monday:
At the two-mile point: Frank Burdette, Joe Fitzwater, Jennings Lilly, Eli Walker, Ravic McClung, Oscar Dillon, Ottie Dillon, James Moore, Gene Martin, Claude Dodd, all believed from the Quinwood area near Richwood. None of the above has been contacted by surface parties.
At the one and one-half miles point: Mine foreman Frank Davis and Edward Rudd.
At the one mile point: Fifteen miners, none yet identified but ground parties have been in constant contact with them.
Removal of 15 Miners Again Halted by WaterBy Holger Jansen
The rescue of 15 of 25 men trapped since Monday in a flooded coal mine was delayed again Friday night by water in the mine's passageway.
Officials who had predicted the men would be out by 10 p.m. revised their estimate as that deadline passed to "sometime after midnight." "We goofed it," said an official, who declined to be identified." "There are at least two more moves to be made."
The 15 have been waiting rescue for five days. The other 10 men are presumed dead. He referred to forward movement of the big pumps that have slowly inched deeper into the mine shaft as the water level dropped. A long water filled trough separates the 15 men from the dry passageway and freedom. "Moving the pumps forward takes time," the official said.
MORE THAN 500 relatives and friends, who had gathered at the site about 5 p.m. waited through the chilly night. Dr. Lee B. TODD, the mine physician, arrived at the floodlit scene about 8 p.m. raising hopes that rescue was near.
Federal mine inspectors went into the passageway early in the evening to check its safety. The word from rescue crews was that the miners would crawl a few hundred feet to a conveyor belt -- then ride the belt to the outside if there were no obstructions. Six ambulances were standing by to take the men to hospitals nearby.
C. E. Richardson, president of the company that owns the mine, said the trapped men would be taken out through the entrance. A tunnel that was being drilled as an alternate route had not been completed at the time.
The wall of an adjoining abandoned mine burst Monday sending millions of gallons of water coursing through the shaft, which is only 3 feet high in spots. Giant pumps have been at work for days. The water level finally lowered enough Friday to give hope for early rescue. Earlier in the day, the 15 miners who had patiently waited out days of disappointment in darkness 400 feet underground gathered at one spot.
IT WAS ALMOST certain that 10 others, deeper in the mine, died in the terrifying surge of water that flooded the passageway Monday when the walls of an abandoned mine were breached. Mine foreman Frank Davis and miner Edward Rudd, crawled a half-mile through 10 inches of water Friday morning to the group of 13 huddled a mile in from the mine entrance. Between them and the entrance was a "swag"--a water-filled trough hundreds of feet long--that is being emptied slowly despite 24-hour pumping effort.
THE MINE passage is shaped roughly like a lower-case "h" with the entrance at the foot of the left leg. The 15 were just above the point on that leg where the passage turns right--at a level higher than the water. Davis and Rudd had been at the end of the horizontal portion where the shaft makes another right turn. The 10 who are believed dead were at the foot of the right leg. Borings from above Thursday showed that area filled with water.
The conveyor belt, which has operated even when the flood was at its greatest, was a doubtful possibility for rescue because of debris in the passageway. The prospect of freedom at last was made even sweeter for the miners by a realization that they have earned time-and-a-half overtime for all the hours over 40 they have spent in the mine this week.
DOCTOR ON JOB
Miner Gets Ulcer Treated by PhoneBy Holger Jensen
-The doctor was perched on a mountaintop, 437 feet above his patients. "Take one every four hours." "Will do, doc." It sounded like any other doctor-patient conversation. However, getting the medicine to the patient wasn't exactly like walking to the corner drug store.
Dr. Lee B. Todd of Quinwood was rushed to the flooded Gauley Coal and Coke Co., No. 8 mine here Wednesday when mine officials learned that one of the 25 men trapped underground was vomiting and experiencing severe stomach spasms.
The sick miner was Ottie Dillon, 35, of Nettie in Nicholas County. He had been one of Dr. Todd's regular patients at Quinwood. After talking to Dillon on a radio-telephone, the doctor diagnosed his ailment as an active stomach ulcer. He prescribed antacids.
Bottles of the medicine were hastily bound in water-proof materials, placed in long steel tubes and lowered down a five-inch breathing hole to the sick man. "Most of the boys down there have been my patients at one time or another," said Dr. Todd. "In fact, I brought some of them into the world." "I've watched them grow up and go down that mine," the doctor said.
Dr. Todd is the only physician in Quinwood, a small mining town four miles from Hominy Falls. He has practiced in the area since 1934. Mrs. Dillon was among a group of wives of the trapped men, expectantly waiting around the doctor as he talked on the radio-telephone. "It's not serious," she said of her husband's condition. "But he's had ulcers for some time." When the doctor completed his medical consultation, it was the wives' turn on the phone. "How are you feeling, honey?" shouted Mrs. Eldon Collins. "With my fingers," was the cocky reply. Mrs. Collins laughed with relief.
BILLIE WHITE, daughter of Lonnie Bennett, cried when she heard her father's cherry [not a typo on my part] "hi" crackle over the wire. "Come up soon, daddy -- we're waiting," she sobbed. "Don't cry, honey," reassured a coal-blackened rescue worker standing nearby. "They are all well down there and we want them to know you're okay, too."
The trapped miners in Dillon's group asked their wives the standard question in cheerful voices - "how are the kids? Are they in school? Are the neighbors treating you okay?" When each woman finished her brief allotted time on the phone, she handed the receiver to another standing in line. Each left with the reassuring thought that her man was safe.
Water Fills Mine Chamber Where 10 Believed to be TrappedBy George Steele Staff Writer
HOMINY FALLS -
A huge drill ground through 230 feet of earth above Gauley Coal and Coke Mine No. 8 Thursday and broke into a chamber where 10 men were believed to be trapped. It was filled with water. The discovery reinforced fears that the 10 men are dead, because rescuers had been unable to contact them by mine phones since millions of gallons of water burst into the tunnel Monday.
The men were working two miles from the entrance of the mine Monday. It was at that point that water from an adjoining abandoned mine burst into the passageway. A group of 13 men are trapped by the water one mile from the entrance. Two others are trapped 1 1/2 miles inside. Rescuers have been able to contact them and they are believed to be safe. The two contacted groups are on the high sections of the mine, which dips up and down. Water fills the low places.
HOWEVER, crewmen who man the seven pumps near the entrance to the mine said Thursday the water level was rising. Up to that time, the pumps had reduced the volume of water and recovery seemed imminent. The cause was attributed to another break in the mine wall which allowed more water to flood the tunnel. Rescue officials wouldn't deny or confirm the report.
The earliest time that the trapped miners can be reached has been set at about 6 p.m. today by C. E. Richardson, president of Maust Coal Co., the firm that owns Gauley Coal and Coke. The previous tentative recover time was 6 p.m. Thursday. Skindivers have been standing by near the mine. They haven't been put into use. Elmer Workman, director of the West Virginia Department of Mines, said he doubts that the divers will be able to maneuver inside the mine wearing their equipment because the passageway is only 36 inches high at places. Rescue hopes have been pinned on a tunnel that is being gouged toward No. 8 from another adjacent abandoned mine. Richardson said he doesn't know when the tunnel will be finished, that "others are taking care of that."
A prayer meeting was conducted before noon for the relatives of the trapped men and others who desired to offer supplications. Either the service or the lowering water level seemed to comfort some of the waiting women Thursday morning - their faces were relaxed, their manner less automated.
BUT WHEN the report of the rising water level began circulating, the women resumed their knotting in groups, apparently gathering courage from the numbers.
'IMPOSSIBLE TO BE SAFE'Miner Sure 10 of His Pals DeadBy George Steele Staff Writer
Ernest Fitzwater knows every turn and undulation of Gauley Coal and Coke Co. Mine No. 8. He says it was impossible for 10 miners to have reached safety when water flooded the mine Monday. "The only way I'll believe it is if those 10 men come out and stand right here and speak to me," Fitzwater said Tuesday. One of the men is Fitzwater's brother, Joe.
The 10 men were in the part of the mine nearest to the wall that burst, allowing millions of gallons of water to gush into the mine. Fifteen other miners were inside. They have been in contact with rescuers. No one has heard from the 10. Nearly 200 men showed up at the mine Tuesday to volunteer to take part in rescue operations. Early in the morning, before daylight, bulldozers gouged a one-half-mile long road through the forest on the hillside east of the mine entrance.
THEN A RIG owned by a Summersville core drilling company was driven up the soft road to a point directly above a section of the mine where foreman Frank Davis and miner Edward Rudd were isolated. George Ritchie, one of the men operating the drill, said the trapped men were about 170 feet below the surface. By 10:40 p.m., the drill was down 40 feet. Between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m., the drill broke through.
Meanwhile, efforts to drill a similar shaft to 13 men trapped in another part of the mine were slowed when the bit reached a layer of shale. The second drilling, which began later in the day, had been scheduled for completion by 4 p.m. Operating simultaneously with the drills were three powerful stationary and four portable pumps at the mouth of the mine. The seven pumps together spewed about 6,500 gallons of fater [I am sure this should be water.] per minute from the bowels of the mine, according to a man operating a fire truck relay pumper.
THE WATER, which was nearly crystal-clear even after the pumps had stirred it, had receded about 75 feet along the mine floor by 2 p.m., according to a man who had just emerged from tending one of the 2,000-gallon-per-minute machines. The full output of the pumps couldn't be utilized, rescue workers said, because of the long distance the machines had to pull the water.
C. E. Richardson, president of Maust Coal Co., the parent company of Gauley Coal and Coke, acted as official spokesman for the rescue workers. He was unable, however, to determine the rate of water recession, he said. But nearly everybody else on the mine property was guessing. Estimates varied widely.
Richardson made trips to the drilling sites and supervised the work much of the time from inside a shanty which carried the sign "Mine Office." At noon, soup and sandwiches were readied.
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Search for 10 Men Goes On After 15 Miners Are FreedBy Holger JensenThe Associated Press
HOMINY FALLS - (AP) - Fifteen miners - weary, blackened and chilled - stepped into a predawn mist Saturday and ended five days of entombment in the flooded passageway of a coal mine. They were the lucky ones. Another 10 men, not heard from since Monday when millions of gallons of water poured through a wall breach, are presumed dead. Efforts to reach them continue.
A team of mine safety engineers belly-rode a conveyor belt through the low tunnel to reach the men and led them to safety at 5:20 a.m. The men had been in the Gauley Coal and Coke Co. mine 118 hours, crammed in a coal pocket not high enough for a man to stand.
Ambulances whisked the 15 to their homes minutes after the rescue and a preliminary medical checkup. Nine later went to a hospital in nearby Richwood for examination. "They are strong men and all appear to be none the worse for their experience," said Sister Mary Monica, administrator of the Sacred Heart Hospital. "Some are suffering from minor dizziness and a weakness in their legs, but this is only to be expected."
The breakthrough to the men - marooned one mile inside from the mine entrance - came suddenly. It followed a frustrating night when rescue directors had to set back the estimated rescue hour time again.
THOUGH OFFICIALS knew the men were on high ground and dry, they wanted to water level in the flooded passageway as low as possible. Giant pumps, capable of draining 3,200 gallons per minute from the shaft, labored through the week to lower the water.
The miners, once the safety engineers reached them, climbed aboard the slow-moving conveyor belt, lying as flat as they could, and moved toward the mine opening where families and scores of newsmen waited.
Elwood O'Dell was the first man out, then another, then a group of six. Another few seconds and the final seven followed. Rescue teams tossed blankets around the shoulders of the chilled men while Dr. Lee B. Todd gave each a hasty checkup. "This is really it," shouted Mrs. Lonnie Bennett, "this is really the best time."