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Vail Coal Company
Vail Mine Explosives Detonation

Afton, Caribou County, Wyoming
February 11, 1938
No. Killed - 5

USBM Final Investigation Report  (4.9 Mb)  PDF Format
Description:  Mining was discontinued at this mine on December 20, but five men remained to re-grade the main entry and extend the back entry.  A violent explosion resulted in the death of all five men.  A violent explosion of dust from a blown-out shot of black powder had blown cars and three of the bodies out of the mine, but damage to the mine was slight.  Cause of Explosion: Blown out shot igniting a coal dust cloud.

Official list of the deceased:
  • Henry Ash
  • Bill Baker
  • John Baker
  • Rulin Ivy
  • Henry Malbrom
Source: Wyoming Mining Accidents, 1869-1973  PDF Format

Five Believed Dead as Explosion Traps Coal Mine Operators
Ogden Standard Examiner, Utah
February 12, 1938

Kemmerer, Wyo., Feb. 12 -- (AP) -- Rescue workers and forest service officials rushed today to the Vail Coal company mine on Grey's River, 100 miles north of here, where one man was killed and four others are believed to have lost their lives in an explosion late Friday.

First reports of the blast were received here this morning by short wave radio at the Wyoming national forest headquarters from a forest station near the scene of the blast.

The forest service reported that Henry Ash of Star Valley, Wyo., had been killed when he was blown completely out of the small mine by the blast.

The report added that the fate of four other men John Baker, his son Bill, Rulin Ivy and Henry Malbrom, all of Star Valley -- is unknown.  Both tunnels to the small mine were blocked by the blast and rescue workers and forest service officials have been unable yet to open them.

Rescuers from here must travel 160 miles in a round-about route to reach the scene of the blast.  They are not expected to reach the mine until late this afternoon.

The mine is operated for the Vail Coal Company of Pocatello, Idaho, by Dan Schitzh of Kemmerer.  Only a few men are employed at the mine which last year turned out 7,000 tons of coal.  The mine is known as a truck or wagon mine.

State Mine Inspector Hugh McLeod and Lincoln County Coroner Ted Kirkwood planned to leave for the scene of the blast shortly after noon.

What caused the explosion or the exact time it occurred was not known at the forest headquarters.

All reports on the blast are being handled by short wave radio as there are no telephones in the vicinity.

Regional Forester R. H. Rutledge said today he has instructed Supervisor C. B. Arentson of the Wyoming national forest to throw all needed forest service, and CCC resources into efforts to rescue four men reported trapped in the Blind Bull coal mine by an explosion which killed one.

Arentson telephoned here this morning that word of the disaster was telephoned by a woman who walked seven miles from the mine to the Meadow Creek ranger station on Grey's River.  Rutledge said he expected enrollees from the Alpine CCC camp, about 35 miles from the mine, to be pressed into service.  Rescue efforts will be hampered by snow which reaches 10 to 15 feet in depth there.

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