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Trotter Coal Company
Bunker Mine Explosion

Cassville, Monongalia County, West Virginia
October 15, 1951
No. Killed - 10

USBM Final Investigation Report  (2.7 Mb)  PDF Format

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Explosion Wipes Out Ten-Man Crew Working in Mine near Morgantown
Charleston Gazette, West Virginia
October 16, 1951

Morgantown, Oct. 15 -- (AP) -- A gas explosion killed 10 men in a coal mine today just as they were about to start for the surface after working an overnight shift.

Wiped out by the blast was an entire crew working in a section two and one-half miles underground from the entrance of the Trotter Coal Company's Bunker Mine, about 10 miles northwest of here.

Thirty or 40 more miners were at work in other sections of the mine which were not affected.  They were evacuated to the surface immediately after the explosion at 7:05 a.m. (EST).

Company President James F. Trotter of Morgantown said the accident was the first major one at the mine since it opened in 1918.

The state mines department at Charleston said that three men suffered burns at the Bunker Mine in a "gas ignition" on Sept. 13.  The operation employs a total of about 250 men.  Trotter said "the cause of the explosion was unknown, but a broken cable or almost anything else could have touched off the gas."

The explosion followed a "normal fall" where the men were cutting down coal at the working face, Trotter said.  He added that this apparently opened up a gas pocket.

Nearly four hours passed before rescue crews, their progress hampered by an accumulation of gas after the explosion, could reach the scene and locate the bodies of all the dead miners.  The last bodies were brought to the surface early in the afternoon.

List of the Casualties:
  • Joe Slavensky, Section Foreman, 33, Morgantown, survived by a wife and two children
  • Albert Morant, 45, Osage, wife and three children
  • Shallis E. Shirley, 25, Star City, wife and one child
  • Lawrence A. Aronholt, 20, Pursglove, wife
  • James W. Keener, 29, Cassville, unmarried
  • Lee E. Brown, 35, Galloway, wife and two children
  • Leroy H. Compton, 29, Mona, wife and three children
  • Walter Pozza, 29, Morgantown, wife
  • Donald L. Shaw, 22, Morgantown, unmarried
  • Ernest J. Sanders, 25, Morgantown, wife and two children
None of the 10 victims was badly burned.  They apparently were killed outright by the concussion.

State and federal mine officials, including State Mines Department Chief Arch J. Alexander, began an immediate investigation on the scene.

Trotter said "we won't operate until their investigation is completed, however, we could operate tomorrow."

The mine is located in the Scotts Run section of Monongalia County.  The area is one of sparsely wooded hills and scattered mining camps a few miles from the Pennsylvania border.  There is no mine community at the immediate scene of the Bunker mine, however.

State police and county officers kept the crowd from pressing closer to the mine entrance, where ambulances, rescue workers and a handful of Trotter miners and company officials stood by.

Among these people was 26-year-old Arthur Sexton, who went to work last midnight as one of an 11-man crew in "section six south" where the explosion took place.

Sexton suffered an eye injury at work and came out of the mine shortly after 2 a.m.  He told reporters today:
"I sure feel lucky to get out of there.  I never thought I'd be the only man living on the crew this morning."
One of the 10 men killed, 29-year-old Leroy Compton, had worked regularly in another section of the Bunker mine and only last night had switched to the section where the blast was touched off.

The search for the bodies underground was carried on by two mine rescue teams from the Osage and Pursglove No. 15 mines of the Christopher Coal Company.  Supervising the two six-man teams were Arnie Corder, Richard Mulligan and Kay Maize.

The lack of a roof-fall after the explosion kept the mine passages from being clogged with debris.  Officials said what hampered rescue work was the necessity of getting air into the explosion area ahead of the crews.

Had the explosion occurred 15 minutes later, the 10 men would have been on their way to the surface at the end of the overnight "cat eye" shift.

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