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Mine Disasters in the United States


Koppers Coal Company
Carswell Mine Explosion

Kimball, McDowell County, West Virginia
January 22, 1941
No. Killed 6

USBM Final Investigation Report  (3.0 Mb)  PDF Format


See also:   Carswell Mine Explosion, July 18, 1919

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


(From Bureau of Mines Report, by W. J. Fene and F. E. Griffith)

A localized gas and coal-dust explosion killed 4 men and injured 14 others about 4:30 a.m.  Two of the injured died later.  The 127 men in other sections were not aware of the explosion and were called out without difficulty.  No appreciable property damage was done.  One of the survivors in the affected section telephoned the dispatcher, who called the outside.  A rescue party was sent in within half an hour, followed by an apparatus team and other officials.  Most of the injured men were assembled and helped out of the smoke by the section foreman, also badly burned.

Two mine officials found and removed two other victims, who were unable to walk.  The four bodies were recovered by 10:00 a.m. without using apparatus.

An accumulation of methane occurred in room 36, 2 left, after a canvas check curtain and canvas regulator had been torn down on the preceding shift.  An arc from the nips of a machine cable at the connection to the main power cable ignited the gas when it drifted out onto the entry.

This ignition was seen by survivors.  The low temperature and pressure of the explosion burned some of the low-volatile coal dust in the vicinity but did not develop enough temperature and force to propagate flame through the coal dust.  Rock dust that had been applied arrested the spread of the flame.  The mine was classed as gassy, and fireboss inspections were made.


Mining Blast Toll May Rise
Charleston Daily Mail, West Virginia
January 23, 1941

Welch, Jan. 23 (AP) -- Confident that dust was a factor in the explosion yesterday which killed four men, state mine inspectors resumed their studies today at the scene of the blast in the Koppers Coal Company's Carswell mine.

Physicians, meanwhile, expressed little hope for the recovery of three of the 14 miners injured in the early morning disaster.

Described as "critical" were:
  • Edward Sizemore
  • Percy Scott
  • Rucker Scales, Negro
Funeral arrangements were completed for the four victims, all married.

State Miner Chief N. P. Rhinehart had announced that dust was an explosion cause, but he said it was not determined whether gas was a factor.

Koppers officials at Pittsburgh said that little damage resulted from the explosion and work could have resumed today if it was not for the investigation.

Carswell, a shaft operation mostly mechanized, had produced more than 1,000,000 tons in the last two years with but a single fatality.  The last previous explosion in the mine was in July, 1919, when six men died.

The dead were:
  • Melvin Smith, 39, conveyor boss
  • Kelly Church, 33, loader
  • James Church, loader, a cousin of Kelly
  • Tom Kelly, 45, Negro, loader
Note: Percy Scott, a loader, died later the day of the explosion, in a Welch Hospital, fifth victim of the explosion.  The condition of George Gray, Louis Walker and Rucker Scales is listed as "critical."  The men took a turn for the worse.



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