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Clinchfield Coal Company
Mars No. 2 Mine Fire

Wilsonburg, Harrison County, West Virginia
October 16, 1965
No. Killed 7

USBM Final Investigation Report  PDF Format

See more Clinchfield Coal Company Disasters:   Clinchfield No. 2 Roof Fall, May 20, 1948
Compass No. 2 Mine Explosion, Apr. 25, 1963
Moss No. 3 Portal A Mine Inundation, Apr. 4, 1978
McClure No. 1 Mine Explosion, June 21, 1983

Successful Rescues

Workers inched their way deep inside the fire-ravaged Mars No. 2 mine tunnels for nearly 20 hours before coming upon Charles Lantz, 26, of Buckhannon.  He was brought out alive but died of his injuries en route to a hospital.

All Seven Trapped Men Dead in Coal Mine Fire
Morgantown Post, West Virginia
October 18, 1965

Clarksburg, W. Va., (UPI) -- Six miners trapped deep underground when fires broke out in a soft coal mine near here late Saturday night were found dead today.  A seventh man was brought out alive last night but died a few minutes later.

"I don't believe it, I don't believe it, I have to stay here and see for myself," cried the wife of Clell Leedy, 53, when rescue workers brought word they had found the last four bodies -- those of Leedy and three miners, huddled together in an area behind one of the fire areas.  The miners had died of suffocation.

It was a heartbreaking end to a 30-hour rescue effort.  It came only a short time after rescuers found signs which spurred hopes the last four might be alive.

The four bodies were found about five hours after rescue workers recovered the bodies of the two other men.

The seven men were trapped at about midnight (EDT) Saturday when fires broke out in four separate passages of the Clinchfield Coal Company's Mars No. 2 mine.

The fires were triggered by short circuits caused when an electrical cable was cut by a "continuous miner," a large machine which digs out coal and moves it into cars on a conveyor.

Workers inched their way deep inside the fire-ravaged mine tunnels for nearly 20 hours, before coming upon Charles Lantz, 26, of Buckhannon.

He was brought out alive but died of his injuries en route to a hospital.

Early today rescue workers found the bodies of Carl Banish, 45, of Lost Creek, father of 10 children, and Kenneth Kerr, 53, of Belington, father of three.

Then the rescue crew, headed by Andrew Spotte, Vice President of the Clinchfield Company, found signs which raised their hopes for the four other men.

First they found arrows and other symbols, written in chalk which all coal miners carry with them.  Each symbol had a time marked on it.  The last time mark found was 3:30 a.m. (EDT) Sunday.

Then workers found a piece of wooden planking on which the names of the four men had been written.

But less than an hour later rescuers came upon the four bodies huddled in a chamber behind the last fire area, near the extremity of a tunnel two and one-half miles from the mine entrance.

The four were Leedy, of Bluefield, who was the foreman of the lost crew; Ansy Kuruscz, 44, of Galloway; Isaac Moats, 39, of Moatsville, and Robert Savage, 57, of Rosemont.

Their weeping wives were at the mine entrance when the bodies were brought up.

Spotte said it appeared the four men attempted to work their way to the entrance of the mine after the fire broke out, but were driven back by smoke.

The signs they drew showed they then backtracked deeper into the mine in search of a place where the air was fresh and where they could barricade themselves against the smoke.

"Apparently they stayed there for some time," Spotte said.  "And then they began an attempt to find another escape route.  They worked their way back to the area where we found the other men.  Apparently the bad air got them there."

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