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Pioneer Coal Company
Pioneer Mine Explosion

Kettle Island, Bell County, Kentucky
March 29, 1930
No. Killed - 16

USBM Final Investigation Report  (5.3 Mb)  PDF Format
(Includes correspondence and news articles)

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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16 Trapped by Explosion
The Lima News, Ohio
March 31, 1930

Kettle Island, Ky., March 31 -- (AP) -- Bodies of five of 16 miners entombed in an explosion in Pioneer Coal Company mine Saturday were discovered by mine rescue workers today one and one half miles from the entrance.  Workers were forced to leave the bodies in the mine and immediately return to the surface without identifying them because of the density of the carbon monoxide gas.

John F. Daniel, chief of the state department of mines, said today that it was a practical certainty that the other 11 missing miners also are dead.  He expressed the opinion that the remainder of the bodies would not be reached before Wednesday, because gas accumulated in the debris caused by the explosion hampers the rescue workers.

Carbon monoxide gas makes it extremely dangerous for rescue squads to remain near the scene of the explosion for more than a few minutes.  The squads are working in from four to five hour shifts, the men penetrating the mine and then withdrawing for fresh air at intervals.  The rescue squads are composed of men attached to the State Department of Mines, the U. S. Bureau of Mines and neighboring coal companies.

The air was so dangerous that 15 of the rescue workers were affected last night.  After struggling almost exhausted back to the mine entrance, they were placed on a car that with a locomotive serves as a shuttle train to be carried to the county seat of Pineville, seven miles away, to recuperate.

The blast, the origin of which was still undetermined, put the ventilating system out of order, and it was hours before the huge exhaust fan that removes the foul air was operating again.

The great task the rescue crews faced was to rebuild the demolished brattice walls, which make it possible for the exhaust fan on the outside to suck air thru the mine.

One consolation was that the explosion did not occur on any other day than Saturday, for that afternoon 400 men who ordinarily dig and load coal far under the mountain that overshadows this camp were not at work.

The deceased:
  • Harvey Allen
  • John L. Cox
  • John R. Engle
  • John C. "Mason" Fultz
  • Adrian S. "Aaron" Helton
  • Jefferson E. Hill
  • Luther Hodge
  • Lee A. Johnson
  • James L. Jones
  • Jesse Lasley
  • Ed Osborne
  • Samuel F. Proffitt
  • Raymond Simpson
  • Dave Souders (or Sowders)
  • Elmer Steele
  • M. C. Vann
Source: Kentucky Mining Accidents, 1864-2006

Note: This disaster is erroneously listed in the CDC/NIOSH database as having occurred on March 30.

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