Mine Safety Training Repository
united states mine rescue association
Mine Disasters in the United States

Tank's Poetry

Father Time
See more disasters
from this year
Calendar Image
Mine Disaster Calendar

Pocahontas Fuel Company
Bishop No. 34 Mine Explosion

Bishop, Wise County, Virginia
October 27, 1958
No. Killed - 22

USBM Final Investigation Report  (2.7 Mb)  PDF Format

Additional Pocahontas
Fuel Company
Boisevain Mine Explosion, Feb. 27, 1932
Bishop No. 34 Mine Explosion, Feb. 4, 1957
Pocahontas Mine No. 31 Explosion, Dec. 27, 1957
Itmann No. 3 Mine Explosion, Dec. 16, 1972

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
(news links open in a separate window)

Successful Rescue

An explosion occurred in this mine and resulted in the death of 22 miners.  Thirty-seven others erected barricades and remained behind them until they were rescued.

(From Bureau of Mines report by W. R. Park, E. M. Lewis, G. Noe, and E. Menta)

Shots fired at the face of No. 6 place, 2 Left off Pine Ridge section, blasted through to No. 5 place (No. 3 Drainway entry) and ignited an explosive mixture of methane and air at 8:28 a.m., resulting in the death of 22 men.

None of the other 185 men in the mine at the time of the explosion was injured, however, 37 men in the inby Pine Ridge left and Pine Ridge main sections observed forces, dust, and fumes from the explosion enter their working areas.  These men erected barricades and remained behind the barricades until rescued.  The men in the Pine Ridge main section were removed from behind the barricade at about 9:35 a.m. and the men in the Pine Ridge left section were removed from behind the barricade at 10:15 a.m. on the day of the explosion.

The disaster resulted from the ignition of a large quantity of methane that was liberated during blasting operations in No. 5 working place (No. 3 Drainway entry).  The ignition occurred when one or more shots from the face of No. 6 entry of 2 Left entries blasted through into No. 3 Drainway entry, where the face had been blasted shortly before.

The victims of the explosion, all found within 875 feet of the faces of 2 Left section, were burned severely.

Coal dust in the areas inby the mine-car loading point entered into the explosion and aided in its propagation.

The 2 Left off Pine Ridge Left section (explosion area) consisted of a set of 6 entries turned off pine Ridge Left entries and driven a distance of about 2,900 feet.  Until shortly before the disaster, the 6 entries were ventilated with intake air coursed through the Nos. 3, 4, and 5 (center) entries, split right and left near the faces, and returned through Nos. 1, 2, and 6 entries.

During a Federal ventilation survey of the mine in September 1958, 49,000 cfm of intake air was coursed through the 3 center entries; 28,000 and 21,000 cfm of air was measured in the immediate returns, Nos. 1 and 6 entries respectively.

After the ventilation survey was completed, a new set of entries (Drainway entries) was turned right off 2 Left entries, and the 2 Left entries and the Drainway entries were developed simultaneously with one set of face equipment and one loading ramp.  The turning and driving of the Drainway entries with the 2 Left entries required ventilation changes in the immediate face regions.  Previous to turning the Drainway entries, 3 entries left and 3 entries right of 2 Left were ventilated with separate splits of air; whereas on the day of the explosion, the left split of air ventilated 5 entry faces, and the right split of air was coursed past 4 additional entry faces.

Providing adequate ventilation for the additional entries necessitated the use of additional check curtains and line brattice, which in turn increased the hazards of air leakage and ventilation interruptions.

The diluting and quenching effect of the rock dust applied was the principle factor in preventing further spread of this explosion.  Other factors that helped limit the explosion were the cooling effect of the extensive rib, roof, and floor surfaces of the numerous entries in the path of the explosion and ample open areas for expansion of forces.

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

22 Trapped as Explosion Shakes Bishop Mine
The Raleigh Register, Beckley, Raleigh County, West Virginia
October 27, 1958

Bishop, Va. (AP) -- An explosion at 7:50 a.m. today shook the Bishop mine on the Virginia-West Virginia border, where 37 miners were killed in a blast in February 1957.

A.V. Sproles, president of the Pocahontas Fuel Company confirmed there is "trouble in one section of the Bishop mine."  He did not say what section was involved.

Later, a company spokesman said 188 men were at work in the mine.  All but the 22 trapped miners emerged without injury, according to information received by the West Virginia mines director's office at Charleston.

The mine entry is in Virginia although most of the underground diggings are on the West Virginia side.  Virginia state mining officials said the mine is considered a West Virginia operation. The 1957 Bishop explosion came at 1:55 a.m. Monday, Feb. 4.  Rescuers found the first bodies a little more than an hour later.

West Virginia Mines director Crawford Wilson left immediately with several aides upon receiving first word of the new explosion.

Meanwhile in Washington, the Bureau of Mines was informed that "something had happened" which probably affected three sections of the mine.

James Westfield, assistant director for health and safety, said he had not been informed there had been an explosion.

"There were probably three sections affected," Westfield said.

"The men on two sections have been contacted and are barricaded and okay."

"There is one section we were told they have been unable to contact.

"Normally there are 12 to 15 men in a section."

Westfield said he probably would go to Bishop later in the day after he is able to contact Bureau Director Marling J. Ankeny who left this morning for a week's trip.

Mine officials at Bishop said the extent of the damage or the condition of the trapped men could not be determined immediately.

The trouble disrupted communications to the section.

Roland C. Luther, vice president of the company, said the "disturbance" apparently was not very powerful because it was hardly felt at the elevator shaft a little more than a mile from the scene.

Misplaced Dynamite Charge is Blamed in Bishop Disaster
Raleigh Register, Beckley, Raleigh County, West Virginia
October 28, 1958

Bishop, Va. (AP) -- A Pocahontas Fuel Company official said today a misplaced dynamite charge was the probable cause of Monday's blast that took the lives of 22 coal miners in the company's Bishop mine.

The official who declined to be identified, was in the mine with rescue parties for a considerable time.  He said the physical situation in the blast section and the way the bodies were found indicated the cause.

The dynamite normally is placed fully into the face of the coal.  If a portion of the charge sticks out beyond the face, he explained, powder is likely to be blown into the air and gas ignited.

Some of the 166 weary miners who survived the explosion said they were certain investigators would find human error was responsible.  The explosion occurred in the same section of the Bishop mine where 37 miners met death in a gas blast Feb. 4, 1957.

The unidentified miners told a reporter that in their opinion a charge of improperly-inserted dynamite set off the blast.

Their comments came as a five man team of federal and West Virginia mine authorities descended into the mine for an official investigation.

And in a company office near the top of the mine's shaft, government, company and union officials conferred behind locked doors.

Authorities said the 22 victims would be buried individually.  Mass burials for mine disaster victims are not customary in this section of the country, they explained.

Crawford Wilson, chief of the West Virginia Bureau of Mines, called it a shocking disaster and said: "We will uncover the cause."

A formal public hearing will get under way Wednesday.

See more about these products