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Crab Orchard Improvement Company
Crab Orchard No. 5 Mine Explosion

Eccles, Raleigh County, West Virginia
March 8, 1926
No. Killed - 19

USBM Final Investigation Report  (5.3 Mb)  PDF Format

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Successful Rescue

Ten miners were imprisoned in the Crab Orchard No. 5 mine for 26 hours following an explosion there.  The men credited their rescue to the experience and coolness of P. J. Davis, night foreman and the leader of the little band.  He had the men build a wall of lumber, stones and soft mud, which experts said, would have successfully repelled the foul air indefinitely.

Ten Miners are Rescued After Barricading Selves from Deadly After Damp
Charleston Daily Mail, West Virginia
March 10, 1926

Eccles, March 10. -- The known death toll in the Crab Orchard Improvement Company mine explosion reached 14 this morning, when three more bodies were located within the workings where 29 men were entombed Monday.  Ten were found alive last night and five are still missing, but company officials and rescue workers were hopeful that at least two of the five still lived.  They were working in a section of the mine isolated from the blast, it was thought.  The ten men brought out alive were in excellent physical condition, and in relating their experiences all agreed they never once gave of hope of rescue.  P. J. Davis, night foreman, was the leader of the little band, and to his experience and coolness the men credited their safety.

Shepherded by Davis, the men who were saved barricaded themselves almost two miles back in the mine from the deadly fumes that followed the explosion, and before the rescue teams could reach their point of vantage, had built a wall of lumber, stones and soft mud, which experts said, would have successfully repelled the foul air indefinitely.  The rescue team from Glen White together with Chief Robert M. Lambie of the state mine department and Stockton Gaines, of Charleston, of the same department, found the man.  Chief Lambie, who had spent many hours in the mine directing the rescue work, himself was affected by the bad air and George Warthew, of the Glen White team also was overcome while helping the department chief, members of the rescue squad said.  Others on the Glen White team were: G. C. Gleer, John Gillespie and Joe Button.

About a mile in the mine from the shaft Mr. Gleer said the rescuers found a sign reading, "Come to second right."  After reaching the second right entry another pointer said, "Third Room."  It was in this room that the squad found the men sheltered behind their improvised wall and on their way to it also discovered bodies of three who had failed to gain safety with their comrades.

They were, T. J. Click and Clyde Muncie, who were found with handkerchiefs over their faces showing their attempts to save themselves and Earl C. Blair.

Coupled with the story of their rescue was that of the death of L. C. Blair, who lost his life in exploring to learn whether they could venture from behind their protecting wall.  Over the protest of Davis who followed, Blair pushed on amid the death dealing fumes with the intention of going "just a little farther" until the time came when he called back, "I have gone too far" and fell.

Davis risked his own life in dragging Blair back toward the barricade and was barely able to fall back to safety, although he abandoned Blair near the barricade.

Questioned as to how they spent the 26 hours of their imprisonment, the miners said they talked for the most part, but that nothing was said about their possible fate if help did not reach them within a reasonable period.

They did not suffer from want of food because each man had his lunch bucket with him at the time of the blast, which occurred before they had eaten their nightly meal.  Some of them as is the custom in some mines, carried a bottle of fresh water.  This, together with the food, was rationed, and there was still a considerable quantity of sustenance lefet when they were found.

Those rescued were:
  • P. J. Davis, 46, night foreman, married, father of 11 children
  • Charles H. Stouts, 50, married, nine children
  • James Keith, 36, married, five children
  • Green Keith, 18, single
  • J. W. Cales, 38, married, four children
  • Edgar McKinzie, 44, negro, married, six children
  • Mike Lizori, 26, married, one child
  • T. B. Fridley, married, no children
  • H. L. Dailey, 28, single
  • Grover Wolson, 31, single
The dead who have been identified were:
  • L. C. Blair, married, five children
  • P. J. Click, married, four children
  • J. A. Hendricks, married, five children
  • George Hilton, single
  • George Keith, married, five children
  • L. S. Lybrooks, negro, married, three children
  • W. A. Mullins, married, one child
  • Clyde Muncie, married, four children
  • Arch Price, married, three children
  • K. H. Russel, married, no children
Those unaccounted for after last night's rescue were:
  • William Cyrus, married, two children
  • Edgar Clay, married, three children
  • William Dickey, married, one child
  • M. G. Holt, single
  • Arthus Wilkens, married, one child
  • G. H. Young, single
A feature of the rescue work through the day was the abundance of aid from other mining men and the plentiful equipment provided by official agencies.  Two of the state mine department rescue trucks were on the scene shortly after the explosion Monday night and in addition to their other duties were pressed into service to carry bodies of the dead as they were taken from the mine to the undertaking establishment in Beckley.

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