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Adkins Coal Company
No. 11 Mine Explosion

Kite, Knott County, Kentucky
December 7, 1981
No. Killed - 8

MSHA Final Investigation Report  (4.0 Mb)  PDF Format

On December 7, 1981, at approximately 2:50 p.m., a coal dust explosion occurred on the south main working section at the No. 11 Mine, Adkins Coal Co., located at Kite, Knott County, Kentucky.  The accident resulted in the death of all eight miners who were underground at the time.  The accident occurred while the face and right crosscut were being blasted simultaneously from the solid in the No. 1 entry of the active working section.

MSHA investigators concluded that a coal dust explosion occurred when a blown-out shot from the right corner blasthole of the No. 1 entry face on the south main section ignited coal dust that had been put into suspension by the blasts of this face and the face of the right crosscut.

Coal dust deposited on the floor, roof, and ribs from previous mining operations was also placed into suspension by the blasts, igniting and contributing to the propagation of the explosion.  The blown-out shot occurred in the last hole in the sequence of shots that were initiated by delayed electric blasting caps having a nominal delay time of 25 to 700 ms.  The blown-out shot was caused when the second hole from the corner failed to completely detonate, leaving the corner hole overburdened.  The remainder of the partially failed hole, 1.88 m (74 in.) in depth, contained a continuous train of undetonated explosives without a blasting cap or stemming.

Conditions and practices that contributed to the explosion and its propagation include:
  • Charging each blasthole with about 2.72 kg (6 lb.) of explosives and using a 22.7 kg (50-lb.) case to blast each face.

  • Slitting the paper wrappings around the explosive cartridges before inserting them into the blastholes, tamping the deformed cartridges into the holes, and blasting without stemming.

  • Not applying water, with or without a wetting agent, or other effective methods, to coal dust on the ribs, roof, and floor, particularly at distances less than 12.2 m (40 ft.) from the face, to reduce dust dispersibility and to minimize the explosion hazard.

  • Not applying sufficient quantities of rock dust to the mine surfaces to render the coal dust inert to prevent the explosion from propagating.

  • Permitting coal dust (including float coal dust) and loose coal to accumulate along the entries in the working section in areas immediately outby and in entries developed to the left of the section loading point.

  • Failure to install and maintain line brattices or other approved devices in the working places to remove the coal dust that was dispersed into suspension when coal was blasted from the solid in the faces of the entries and connecting crosscuts.

Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume II

Explosion Rips Through Mine, Killing 7, Leaving One Missing
Galveston Daily News, Texas
December 9, 1981

Topmost, Ky. (UPI) -- A powerful explosion ripped through a coal mine Monday and killed seven miners a half mile underground. Rescuers searched into the night for one miner still missing.

Kentucky State Police spokesman Bill Riley of the Hazard post said rescuers who found the bodies of five men 2,500 feet underground at 10 p.m. EST located two more victims about an hour later.

Riley said there was no way of knowing if the eighth and last miner would be found alive.

The blast occurred in an independent mine in the heart of the southeastern Kentucky coal fields, and state officials said explosives being taken into the mine by a late-shift work crew apparently blew up.

"I presume there will be a temporary morgue set up," said Riley. "No names are being released pending identification of the bodies and the next of kin."

Albert Alexander, district supervisor for the Kentucky Department of Mines and Minerals, said earlier rescue workers had dug about 1,000 feet within four hours of the blast.

Willard Stanley, state commissioner of mines and minerals, said tests showed there was no methane in the mine. Stanley said the late-shift miners were carrying powder.

Alexander had said earlier the miners had "about a 50-50 chance" of surviving the explosion.

Authorities said the explosion occurred about 3 p.m. when the night shift was coming on duty. They said at least one miner had made his way to the surface after the explosion at the Adkins Coal Co. No. 18 mine.

"We're doing awful well, but the closer we get to them the slower it will be," Alexander said.

"More than likely we'll hit areas with bad carbon monoxide soon and the roof may have fallen in, so its hard to get in."

Alexander said the coal shaft led into the side of a mountain and that the men were believed to be about 2,400 feet from the entrance.

Alexander said what the crews encounter along the shaft will determine how quickly they will be able to reach the trapped miners.

"At the rate they are traveling now, we're real hopeful," Alexander said.

The mine is located about 25 miles northeast of Hazard, Ky., near the small community of Topmost.

Families of the trapped miners reached the mine site and were housed in a nearby elementary school.

Roy Conley was the miner who made it safely to the surface. His brother, Wesley Conley, said Roy had entered the mine with the other eight.

"He was working a scoop shovel when the shovel broke down," Westly said. "He had been in the mine just a few minutes."

"He backed the shovel up and as soon as he left the entrance to the mine, the mine exploded."

The atmosphere at Beaver Creek Elementary School where about 100 friends, relatives and neighbors awaited word resembled a funeral parlor -- people sobbed softly or simply stared at the ground.

Newton Johnson said one of those trapped was Bob Stone, 39, of rural Knott County.

"His wife, Orie, was to give birth this week," Johnson said. "He has seven other children, ages 3 to 20."  Stone's mother-in-law, Susie Johnson, said.  "The doctors thought it best that she not come to the school because she could have the baby any time."

The victims were:
  • Bob Stone, 39, Topmost
  • Roy Perry, 22, Pine Top
  • Clarence Perry (brother), 28, Pine Top
  • Dillard Ashley, 40, Mousie
  • James Gibson, 24, Pippa Passes
  • Keith Crager, 25, Hueysville
  • Tommy Centers, 31, Vicco
  • David Stone, 25, Kite

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