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New River Coal Company
Carlisle Mine Explosion

Carlisle, Fayette County, West Virginia
February, 6, 1915
No. Killed - 21

Both the MSHA Fatality Archive Database External Link and the CDC/NIOSH Disaster List External Link refer to this operation as the Carlisle Mine.
Bureau of Mines Investigation Report  PDF Format
Historical Facts, Documents, and Photos  External Link
From the Google News Archives:  External Link
(news links open in a separate window)
Oakwood Mine Complex Marker
Location: 37° 57.878′ N, 81° 11.425′ W.
Marker is near Oak Hill, West Virginia, in Fayette County.  Marker is at the intersection of West Virginia Route 612 and Torrey Fork Road (County Route 15/2), on the right when traveling west on State Route 612.  Marker is in this post office area: Oak Hill WV 25901
Photographed by PaulwC3
Source: The Historical Marker Database  External Link
See more mine disaster markers, memorials, and monuments.

Successful Rescue

Twenty-one men were killed and four were rescued soon after the explosion by parties led by company officials.  One of the rescued men, suffering from burns, was sent to a hospital.  Source document 1External Link  Source document 2PDF Format

Twenty Miners Die in Explosion
Logansport Journal-Tribune, Indiana
February 7, 1915

Fayetteville, W. Va., Feb. 6 -- Twenty miners were killed and 169 escaped death in an explosion in the Carlisle mine of the New River Coal Company today.  That so many men escaped after being entombed was due to the fact that cage and shaft were not damaged.  While many were brought out by the cage, some managed to climb out through the air shafts.  Four men were rescued by searching parties who penetrated the mine soon after the explosion which is believed to have been due to the ignition of a pocket of gas from a miner's lamp.  One of the rescued men, suffering from burns, was sent to a hospital.

Six bodies were found by the searchers near where the explosion occurred.  The names of the dead have not been ascertained.  It is reported the interior of the mine was damaged only slightly and that operations can be resumed within a few days.

A more extended search of the mine late today, after the clearing away of debris, led to the finding of 14 more bodies.  All had been killed by the afterdamp, while at work.

State mine inspectors, who took charge of the mine, learned that 180 men had gone into the workings this morning.

All of the victims were of foreign birth or negroes.

Death Claims Twenty at Carlisle
Fayette Journal
February 11, 1915

Twenty lives were snuffed out and one man seriously injured at seven thirty last Saturday morning when an explosion of gas occurred in the fifth left entry of the Carlisle mine, at Carlisle, an operation controlled by the New River Company.

From their dwellings, scattered around about the mine, just after finishing their morning meal, one hundred and seventy-three miners, had bid goodbye to their loved ones and acquaintances, and coming through the darkness, gathered at the mouth of the shaft, and were lowered four hundred and fifty feet into the bowels of the earth, to go to the different entries and rooms for their day's work.  They were met at the bottom of the shaft by fire bosses, Raleigh and Capri, who had just completed their regular morning inspection of the mine.  The men were told that gas had been found in room No. 11, of the fifth left entry, and warned not to enter that room.  In addition to warning the men, the fire bosses also placed danger signals at the entrance of the room.

After receiving this notice the men proceeded to their tasks, and within a very short time thereafter the explosion occurred, but the concussion was so slight, that most of the miners did not know it, and kept working until notified to come out.

Mine Superintendent, William Neal, was not in the mine at the time of the explosion, but close at hand, and immediately went in to direct the rescue work, which, however, had already been started by William Bilkinston, the mine foreman, who happened to be at the bottom of the shaft when the gas let go.

News of the explosion was immediately telephoned to the general offices of the company at Macdonald, and General Manager S. A. Scott, and assistant General Superintendent T. C. Thomas hurried to the scene on a special train, and assumed charge, going into the mine and personally urging and directing the men engaged in the rescue of their fellow workmen.

By noon the after damp had sufficiently cleared away, and the work of recovering the bodies was begun.  Upon entering the fifth left entry, and approaching room eleven, the rescue party discovered the lifeless bodies of the two men were assigned to work that room, lying on the floor of the entry, showing that they had not entered the room, but had waited outside for further orders.  The body of one miner was, however, found in room eleven.  How he came there is a mystery, as that was not his room, and his presence there cannot be accounted for.

The indications all point to room eleven as the place where the explosion originated, and that it was purely a gas explosion, put to a miner's open lamp, and not caused by any shooting, for no shooting could possibly have been done so early in the morning and so shortly after the men went to work.

The majority of the men were killed while working in the rooms leading off from entry five by after damp.  The force of the explosion blew out some stoppings and brattices, and this prevented the fan from supplying this entry with pure air.  The bodies were in good condition when found, only two of them being badly burned, thus showing clearly that it was the after damp that got in its deadly work.  The other parts of the mine were not affected by the explosion, and the damage was confined entirely to this one entry.

Safety lamps have already been placed in most of the shaft mines, of the company but as this mine has never been known to generate gas in sufficient quantities to become a menace, the installation therein of such lamps has not been considered, nor had the state mine inspectors requested such installment.

The fact that the explosion did not extend beyond the one entry indicates that the mine was in good condition, and free from gas and dust.

All bodies were recovered by nightfall and brought to the surface.

A United States Mine Rescue car was brought over from Matoaka by special train, but did not arrive until evening, and too late to be of any service.

Chief Mine Inspector Earl Henry, and Deputies Absalom and Holliday were at the mine Sunday and inspected the workings, and did all that could possibly be done towards relieving the conditions following the disaster.

The work of rescue was carried on in a rapid and systematic manner, and results were achieved in a remarkably short time.  One man only came out alive from entry five, Renus Chandler, colored, and he was hurried off to the McKendree Hospital, suffering from a fractured skull.

Repairs to the wrecked entry are being rushed and the entire mine will again be in operation in a few days.

Of the twenty miners killed, six were Americans, and fourteen foreigners.

The Carlisle mine is connected with the Oakwood operation by a drift, the two mines being about 3,000 feet apart.

The burial services of the unfortunate victims of the explosion were held Monday, and the remains interred in local cemeteries, at the expense of the Workmen's Compensation fund. Four of the miners were married, and leave families, who will be looked after by the compensation fund.

An inquest is being held at Glen Jean before Justice Jasper, this Wednesday afternoon.  The jurors are: M. C. Bibb, Oak Hill; J. M. Mc-Vey, and Dr. J. L. Lykens, of Thurmond; W. R. Gray and J. E. Garrett, Mt. Hope, and Lacy Hanger, of Scarbro.

Included among the dead:
  • Leo Vitochi
  • Frank Smith
  • Victor Comminski
  • Albert Kopinski
  • Frank Erstine
  • Andrew Garten
  • Douglass Scarbro
  • Jack Custer
  • Jack Saunders
  • Montague Thomas
  • William Comminski
  • Mike Sonneberg
  • Joe Sabola
  • Fred Solvey
  • Lindsay Johnson
  • Fred Pannel
  • Charles Kebert
  • William Gray
  • James Ora
  • John Makers
Note: The official number of dead listed by NIOSH for this disaster is 21.

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