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Mid-Continent Resources, Inc.
Dutch Creek No. 1 Mine Explosion

Redstone, Pitkin County, Colorado
April 15, 1981
No. Killed - 15

MSHA Final Investigation Report  (13.3 Mb)  PDF Format
Victims List  PDF Format
Participating Mine Rescue Teams  PDF Format
See also: Dutch Creek No. 1 Mine Explosion, Dec. 28, 1965

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

Successful Rescue

Seven miners working in other areas of the mine at the time of the explosion survived.  Three were injured and were rescued; the other four were not injured and escaped unassisted to the surface.  The injured miners were admitted to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs for treatment of burns, bruises and shock.  Source document.

At approximately 4:08 p.m., April 15, 1981, a methane and coal dust explosion occurred in the 102 longwall development section of Dutch Creek No. 1 Mine located near Redstone, Colorado.

Fifteen miners died as a result.  Nine of the victims were working in the 102 section and six were working in the Slope section.  Seven miners working in other areas of the mine at the time of the explosion survived.  Three were injured and were rescued; the other four were not injured and escaped unassisted to the surface.

MSHA investigators concluded that an outburst occurred at the face of the No. 1 entry on the 102 section that released large amounts of methane and coal dust.  This was caused by extensive stresses exerted on the coalbed and face by the massive overburden and other geological conditions in the mine.  The outburst created an explosive atmosphere.

The explosion occurred when this atmosphere accumulated around a continuous mining machine and Integrated into an explosion-proof compartment that housed a light switch and light switch control.  This was possible because the compartment was not maintained in a permissible condition.  The cover was not properly installed because it had been closed upon a piece of wire left in a flange joint, resulting in a gap exceeding 0.038 cm (0.015 in).  This gap permitted the explosive atmosphere to migrate into the compartment where it was ignited by the operation of the switch.

Flame and burning material within the compartment escaped via the gap and ignited the explosive atmosphere in the face area of the 102 section of the No. 1 entry.

Flame and major forces of the explosion propagated from the face area of the 102 section, and split in the main slope entries at the mouth of the 102 section.  Flame and forces traveled inby in Nos. 7, 6, and 5 entries of the slopes to the Slope section, and then moved outby in the slope entries.  The flame extended as far as the No. 56 crosscut, and the major forces traveled further outby to the No. 48 crosscut.

Conditions and practices that contributed to the explosion include:
  • Improper installation of the lighting system on the mining machine that did not deenergize when the methane monitor exceeded 2.0 percent.
  • Wiring of the light switch and installation of the cover of the explosion-proof compartment by an unqualified person.
  • Failure to test the flame path under the cover of the explosion-proof compartment to ascertain that it was in permissible condition after the cover was installed.

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

All 15 Dead in Colorado Mine
Pacific Stars & Stripes, Japan
April 19, 1981

Redstone, Colo. (UPI) -- The bodies of 15 miners killed in an explosion deep inside a gassy Colorado coal mine were recovered Friday.

Rescue teams picked their way through piles of rubble in the mine tunnel to find nine of the bodies about 32 hours after a pocket of methane exploded Wednesday.

Five more bodies were found about three hours later, and the last victim was discovered Friday morning.

Federal officials vowed a "top to bottom" probe of the accident, the worst at the mine since a 1965 explosion killed nine miners.

The victims were found about 7,200 feet inside the sloping mine tunnel, which was described by one mine inspector as "one of the gassiest mines" in the nation.  The explosion apparently was triggered when the miners hit a pocket of methane gas, a volatile hydrocarbon associated with coal.

Miners say that being near a methane explosion would be like being in an exploding shotgun barrel.

One of the survivors, David Chiarello, described the blast as a "little hurricane."

"The investigation, especially with the loss of life, will be from top to bottom," said federal Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesman Rick Kulczewski.

Kulczewski said it was too early to tell if something could have been done to prevent the explosion.

Dead were:
  • Kelly Greene, 25, New Castle
  • Kyle Cook, 33, Silt
  • Richard Lincoln, 22, Glenwood Springs
  • Loren Mead, 35, Rifle
  • Ronald Patch, 34, Carbondale
  • Terry Lucero, 28, Glenwood Springs
  • Glen Sharp, 31, El Jebel
  • J. R. Ayala, 40, Carbondale
  • John Rhodes, 29, Carbondale
  • Robert Ragle, 29, New Castle
  • Thomas Vetter, 24, Glenwood Springs
  • William E. Gutherie, 32, Glenwood Springs
  • Daniel Litwiller, 21, Glenwood Springs
  • Hugh W. Pierce, Jr., 20, Glenwood Springs
  • Brett Tucker, 30, Carbondale
It had been a long vigil for the families, who huddled by a fire built in a rusty steel drum on the road to the mine.  They held out hope that the men were alive until the bodies were found.

The rescue teams, working in four-hour shifts of six men each, were delayed in getting to the victims because they had to pick their way through rubble, restore the mine's ventilation system and pump icy mountain water out of the tunnel.

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