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Mine Disasters in the United States

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Frank Crawford, Jr., Coal Company
No. 1 Mine Explosives Accident

Woodbine, Whitley County, Kentucky
October 27, 1980
No. Killed - 3

MSHA Final Investigation Report  PDF Format

The illegal No. 1 Mine was developed 200 feet from the surface with three parallel entries connected by a single crosscut.  At the close of the shift on October 27, 1980, most of the production crew returned to the surface, leaving only the scoop operator and mine operator underground.  Intending to remain in the mine only long enough to light fuses, the two men planned to return to the surface before any explosives detonated.  This protocol was supposed to ensure that blasting would begin only after the mine was completely empty.

At approximately 7:45 p.m., while the scoop operator and mine operator were still underground, a blasthole detonated and shot into the crosscut right of the No. 2 entry, injuring the scoop operator who had been lighting fuses there.  The mine operator immediately returned to the surface and informed waiting miners of the blast.  Then, accompanied by a drill operator, the mine operator reentered the mine to search for the scoop operator.  However, these two individuals, as well as the scoop operator, were all later found to have succumbed to noxious gases from the detonated explosives.

MSHA investigators determined that either the mine operator or scoop operator, or perhaps both men, had lit fuses in the No. 3 entry (in the face and the crosscut left) before traveling to the No. 2 entry.

Then, while the men were working in the No. 2 entry, a previously lit blasthole in the No. 3 entry shot through into the No. 2 entry.  MSHA investigators attributed the disaster to management's failure to blast coal with electric detonators.

Also contributing to the disaster was management's failure to provide the following:
  • An accurate up-to-date mine map that would have helped the miners accurately appraise the distance between the No. 2 and No. 3 entries - which they apparently underestimated.

  • A mechanical ventilation device and curtain.

  • Approved self-rescuers.
Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume II

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