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Women Killed in Mine Accidents

Clinchfield Coal Company
McClure No. 1 Mine Explosion

McClure, Dickenson County, Virginia
June 21, 1983
No. Killed - 7

MSHA Final Investigation Report  (17 Mb)  PDF Format
Virginia Final Investigation Report  (20 Mb)  PDF Format
See more Clinchfield Coal Company Disasters:   Clinchfield No. 2 Roof Fall, May 20, 1948
Compass No. 2 Mine Explosion, Apr. 25, 1963
Mars No. 2 Mine Fire, Oct. 16, 1965
Moss No. 3 Portal A Mine Inundation, Apr. 4, 1978

Other Woman Killed in Mine Accidents

Successful Rescue

Three miners at the faces survived and were rescued shortly after the explosion.  Ronald Sluss, Albert Holbrook, and Carson Blackstone were returned to the surface suffering from burns and were taken to hospitals.

At approximately 10:15 p.m., June 21, 1983, an explosion occurred in the 2 Left entries of McClure No. 1 Mine of Clinchfield Coal Co., located at McClure, Virginia.

Ten miners were present in the 2 Left entries at the time of the explosion, eight in the face area and two in the track entry.  Seven died as a result of the explosion.  Three miners at the faces survived the explosion and were rescued.

MSHA investigators concluded that the primary cause of the explosion was the failure of mine management to maintain sufficient volume and velocity of air in the No. 2 and No. 3 entries of 2 Left to dilute, render harmless, and carry away the methane gas being liberated in those entries.

About nine hours before the explosion, the No. 40 crosscut of 2 left was cut through into the longwall setup entries.  A failure to install ventilation controls to separate the air split ventilating the setup entries from the air split ventilating the 2 Left entries materially affected the movement of air in No. 2 and No. 3 entries of 2 Left.

The volume and velocity of air became inadequate to dilute and to carry away flammable and explosive gases that were liberated in the area.  The failure to maintain the airflow in its proper volume and direction in the setup entries, the 2 Left face area, and outby in the No. 2 and No. 3 entries of 2 Left, allowed an accumulation of an explosive methane-air mixture in the No. 2 and No. 3 entries of 2 Left.  These changes in ventilation remained uncorrected for about 9 hours.

The explosive atmosphere was ignited by electrical arcing created by one of six possible sources:
  • Interruption of the belt control circuit.
  • A ground fault in the trailing cable for the conveyor belt feeder.
  • Interruption of the dinner hole light circuit.
  • Normal operation of the nonpermissible personnel carrier.
  • Automatic operation of one of the circuit breakers in the section power center.
  • A fault in the cable plug for the continuous mining machine trailing cable.
Conditions and practices that contributed to the explosion include:
  • Failure to follow the approved ventilation plan and maintain the separation between the air current ventilating the setup entries and the air current ventilating the 2 Left entries after the two sets of entries were connected at the No. 40 crosscut of 2 Left.

  • Failure to fully recognize potential consequences of neglecting to maintain separation between the air current ventilating the setup entries and the air current ventilating the 2 Left entries.

  • Failure to properly evaluate the effects of the open connection at No. 40 crosscut on ventilation of 2 Left entries.

  • Failure to ensure that procedures for maintaining separation between air currents ventilating two sets of entries were established, fully understood, and followed by persons responsible for carrying them out when the sets of entries were connected.

  • Failure to ensure that adequate preshift and on-shift examinations were made in the 2 Left entries during the day shift and evening shift on June 21, 1983.

  • Failure to train certified persons in the proper procedures for conducting preshift examinations of conveyor belt and conveyor belt entries when making belt examinations.

Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume II

Virginia Coal Mine Blast Kills Seven
Waterloo Courier, Iowa
June 22, 1983

McClure, Va. (AP) -- A mine explosion in southwestern Virginia killed seven coal miners, including a woman and a man three days from retirement, and injured three others, officials of the Clinchfield Coal Company said Wednesday.

"Approximately 84 mine workers were underground at 10:15 p.m. Tuesday when the blast occurred at the company's McClure No. 1 mine in Dickenson County," company spokeswoman Susan Copeland said.  "Of the 84, 74 came to the surface uninjured," she said.  Ten employees were working in the accident area at the time of the explosion, she said.

Three, suffering burns, were taken to hospitals and seven were killed.

Ms. Copeland said she had no information on how the blast occurred.

"Everyone apparently has been removed from the mine," Ms. Copeland said.  The mine is located in the heart of Virginia's coal country about 20 miles east of the Kentucky border.

Ms. Copeland identified the dead as:
  • F. C. Riner, 58, a section foreman, of Dante
  • Ernest A. Hall, 30, a foreman, from Castlewood
  • J. French Covey, 45, of Clintwood
  • Luther McCoy, 37, of Nora
  • Dale Stamper, Jr., 56, of Lebanon
  • Eugene W. Meade, 26, of Coeburn
  • Mary Kay "Kat" Counts, 51, of Nora
Women still form a very small percentage of the work force in American coal mines.

The injured were identified as:
  • Emmery Howard, 30, of Cleveland
  • Harold J. Boyd, 25, of Dante
  • Miles W. Sutherland, 51, of Castlewood
Riner's family was told initially that he had been in an accident, said his daughter, Connie Riner, but they did not learn of his death "until one of my brothers and his wife came over" Wednesday morning.

"Friday night would have been his last night" before retirement, Miss Riner said.  She said her father had worked for the company since May 1949.

Clinchfield Coal is a subsidiary of the Pittston Group and is the largest coal mining operation in Virginia.

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