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Hutchinson Coal Company
Macbeth Mine Explosion

Logan, Logan County, West Virginia
September 2, 1936
No. Killed - 10

USBM Final Investigation Report  (2.9 Mb)  PDF Format

See also: Macbeth Mine Explosion, Mar. 11, 1937

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Successful Rescue

An explosion of gas and dust resulted in the death of 10 men, and the injury of one man by afterdamp.  This man was rescued after an undisclosed period and revived.  The explosion was restricted to 12 and 13 Right entries.  Gas had accumulated near the face of room 14, 13 Right entry, when a door was left open.  An arc from a splice in the cable of a cable-reel locomotive ignited the gas, and dust propagated the explosion.  Its spread was stopped by rock dust placed in the entries some months earlier and by a pool of water on 12 right.  Cause of Explosion: Ignition of gas by a cable reel locomotive.

Bodies Recovered From Logan Mine
Post Herald, Beckley, Raleigh County, West Virginia
September 4, 1936

Logan, Sept. 3 -- (AP) -- From a little "room" piled almost ceiling high with shards of slate and lumps of coal came bodies of four men today, the last of ten who died when a gas explosion shattered part of the Macbeth mine.

The last four were found together in the very center of the explosion area.  They had been killed by the shock of the blast.  Their six comrades died from gas fumes which swept through the workings.

One hundred and ten others in the operation of the Hutchinson Coal Company escaped.  But they immediately turned their efforts to rescue work.

The last four bodies out were those of:
  • Jack Adkins, 50, married and five children
  • Gus Mounts, 33, married and one child
  • Tom Tiller, 25, married
  • Victor Corillo, 25, single
The others previously recovered were:
  • Elisha Watts, 32, survived by one child
  • Andy Gazik, 60, married and four children
  • William Reffett, 40, married
  • Grover Saunders, 28, married and three children
  • Edward Saunders, 40, Negro, married
  • Julius McShane, 45, Negro, single
With the appearance of the last body, J. F. White, state mine inspector, ordered the mine closed until Saturday.  None may enter until then when the state department will start an investigation of the cause.

Officials expressed a preliminary opinion that a spark from some source ignited gas in the mine, but reserved further comment until after the inquiry.

It took crews working in relays a full day after the blast to bore through 400 feet of tumbled slate, coal, timbers and other debris to entry No. 14, two miles back, where the last four were found.

They had been in the exact center of the blast and all their bodies were badly burned.  The other men were discovered in entries 12 and 13, or even closer to the front of the mine.

M. H. Clendenin, chief engineer for the mine, climbed wearily from the pit and said:
"We were very fortunate in getting the bodies out as soon as we did.  The damage was very extensive in the mine and operations probably will not be resumed for quite some time."
Officials said no damage estimate would be yet made.

White, who directed the safety team which recovered the last of the bodies, said: "The gas mixture we found in the mine was the worst I ever experienced."

Screaming hysterical women, mingled with hundreds of curious, clustered about the pit mouth all during the rescue operations.  A pouring rain which drenched them and made them seem even more pitiful did not keep them away.

The widows and children of all the dead men had left before the last crew came out except pretty Mrs. Tom Tiller.  She had kept vigil through it all and would not leave.

Late in the day word came up.  "They've found the last ones.  They're coming out."

But it was a long half hour before the first of the weary bearers came up the shaft with a body.  All the time Mrs. Tiller moaned over and over, "Why don't they bring him up.  Why don't they bring him up."

When Tiller's body did appear she fell into hysteria and was taken away.  The group around the roped-off enclosure had dwindled to a scant 200 of the village's 600 population but murmurs of sympathy could be heard from almost all of them.

Macbeth is eight miles from Logan.  The mine has a shaft running 670 feet at a 36 degree angle and then the levels begin.

While digging and shoveling away through the 400 foot debris-choked tunnel, every rescue worker himself faced death or injury.

Slate fell constantly and each moment it was feared a heavy roof fall might occur.  Timbers were brought in to shore up the roof and that slowed the workers.

Finally with six of the bodies out, they abandoned the timbering and began "cribbing" the walls.  This made for faster work and they pushed on ahead over the piles of slate and at last crawled into the outermost room where the four lay.

Watts and Gazdik, who died of gas fumes, were some distance from the center of the explosion and their bodies were removed last night.

It was not until hours after daylight that in entry No. 12 did the crews find Reffett and Grover Saunders.  Then it was more hours before they found Edward Saunders and McShane.

From almost noon on, the digging was aimed at the single room where the workers knew the other four must lie.

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