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New River and Pocahontas Consolidated Coal Co.
Berwind No. 11 Mine Roof Fall

Capels, McDowell County, West Virginia
August 6, 1948
No. Killed - 6

USBM Final Investigation Report  (1.1 Mb)  PDF Format

Slate Fall Kills 5 Capels Miners
Bluefield Daily Telegraph, West Virginia
August 7, 1948

Capels, W. Va. -- (AP) -- There was no evidence of company negligence in the slate fall which killed five coal miners near Welch early today, E. L. Chatfield, state mine inspector-at-large reported.

Chatfield made the announcement after a day-long investigation of the accident in the New River and Pocahontas Consolidated Coal Company Mine at Capels, three miles west of Welch.  He said no formal hearing would be necessary.

A section of slate estimated by Chatfield to weigh 16 tons fell from the roof of the mine onto a string of cars carrying men.  The men were going off the job at the end of last night's 4 p.m. to midnight shift.

Killed were:
  • Fred Cooper, 45
  • E. E. Mullens, 41
  • Alex Flourney, 50, Negro
  • Haywood Saunders, 36, Negro
  • Emmett Pompey, 47, Negro
Eight other miners were hurt.  Six were still in Welch hospitals tonight and three of there were described as seriously injured.  The three were George Arnold, 41; McKinley Broadnax, 52, Negro, and Nazarene Mays, 44, Negro.

Approximately 45 miners were aboard the "man trip" which was hit by the slate and two other trips loaded with men had passed the spot a few minutes earlier, miners reported.

The accident occurred at a level 340 feet below ground.  It happened at a point about 8,500 feet from the foot of the shaft, where the men were to have boarded a cage lift to the surface, Chatfield said.

He said the section of slate -- 12 feet wide, 27 feet long and a foot thick -- fell onto three cars about a third of the way back from the head of the 25-car train.

Uninjured miners aboard other cars in the train joined in rescue efforts.  They told investigators they had to use jacks to lift the slate from the bodies of the dead, who apparently were instantly killed.

Also in hospitals but not listed as seriously hurt were Charles N. Hall, 59; Robert Jenkins, 48, Negro, and John White, 48, Negro.

Roosevelt Chambers, 45-year-old Negro, got treatment at a Welch hospital and was released.  C. J. Smith, 29, also Negro, was slightly hurt but was able to remain at the mine and help rescue crews.

Taking part in the investigation with Chatfield today were John Hansford, administrative assistant in the state mines department; David Lee and Walter White, district mine inspector; federal inspector John Zelesky; C. E. Jones of Beckley, UMW safety director for the Pocahontas-Tug River district, and Ralph Mulkey, superintendent of the Capels mine.

In announcing that the investigation absolved the company of blame, Chatfield said inspectors did have some safety recommendations to make for the mine, but added that they were not necessarily connected with today's accident.

The mine employs 390 men, 126 of them on the 4 p.m. to midnight shift.

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