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Davis Coal and Coke Company
Ott No. 20 Mine Explosion

Elk Garden, Mineral County, West Virginia
April 24, 1911
No. Killed - 23

USBM Preliminary Investigation Report; Correspondence; and News Articles  (4.0 Mb)  PDF Format
Ott No. 20 Mine Disaster Memorial
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Twenty-Three Men Entombed and Probably Dead
The Warren Evening Mirror, Pennsylvania
April 25, 1911

Elk Garden, W. Va., April 25 -- Twenty-three miners are entombed in Ott Mine No. 20 of the Davis Coal and Coke Company here, the result of an explosion early Monday, and little chance is held out for the rescue of any of them alive because of the tons of debris that has thus far impeded the progress of rescuers.  It cannot be learned, yet whether the explosion was caused by dust or gas.  Officials of the company say they have never known the mines to be gaseous.

As soon as the accident became known Superintendent Robert Grant took a rescue corps of the miners off duty and these attempted to enter the mine, after notifying the officials of the company at Cumberland.

The rescue parties had not advanced far into the workings before they discovered it would take several days to dig through the heaps of roof coal and slate that had been loosened by the explosion.  It was then decided to effect an entrance nearer the probably point of the explosion by cutting through the wall of an adjoining mine owned by the same company.

Late in the afternoon the rescuers had penetrated to the No. 20 mine at a point about 4,000 feet from the outside entry.  There still remained about the same distance to go before reaching the buried miners.

The Ott mine No. 20 is almost directly under the town of Elk Garden, which is on a hill.  The mouth of the mine is about half a mile from the town.

In striking contrast to the usual mine explosions, the victims in this case, with one exception, are Americans.

The mine usually employs 200 men in the day shift and about the same number at night.  A temporary suspension of work, however, required fewer men in the miles else the casualty might have been greater.  Communication with the outside world is difficult only one telephone wire being available and that a private line of the coal company, which terminates three miles from here.  Over this line dispatches are sent into Cumberland.  Only two trains daily run between here and Cumberland and none of the officials from headquarters in Cumberland can reach here before today.  Two engines, with rescue crews and equipments, were sent here from Thomas, W. Va., 15 miles away.

Find One Crushed Body

After penetrating about a mile down the main entry, the rescuers last night found the body of a man, not yet identified.  It had been crushed beneath a fall of slate, as though the roof had crumbled as he was running out of the mine.  The discovery of his body disheartened the rescuers, who are positive that none of the others can be alive.

Several yards beyond the passage was completely blocked by the collapse of the roof.  Behind and under this fall, it is believed the bodies of the miners lay.  Gas is heavy in the main entry and in the workings not totally blocked by coal and slate, and the rescuers have to work in short shifts.  With the arrival of a government rescue car and crews in the morning, it is expected to reach the end of the wrecked mine through sealed rooms of a deserted mine adjoining.

Havoc wrought in the mine would indicate that the explosion was terrific.  For a square mile or more the slate and coal was split, and props were splintered, letting the roof fall in, in large portions.

The first known of the explosions was from three men working near the mouth outside.  A sound as of wind rustling dead leaves drew their attention to the mine mouth where they saw a thin dark gray dust move slowly out of the mine like a cloud.  The cloud grew bigger and thicker with each instant and as one caught a breath of it, he ran spreading the alarm.

Rescuers At Work
The Warren Evening Mirror, Pennsylvania
April 25, 1911

Elk Garden, W. Va., April 25. -- At 10 o'clock this morning fifteen bodies had been recovered from Ott mine No. 20, of the Davis Coal and Coke Company at Chaffee, near here, where fire and explosion yesterday imprisoned 23 miners.  The bodies were found blackened, burned and mangled under tons of slate half a mile from the shaft entrance.  The remaining eight miners are behind the slate fall and rescue parties worked desperately, throughout the night and today, to penetrate the debris.  All will probably be found dead.

Four state mine experts arrived at 3 a. m. and the government rescue car from Pittsburg this morning with engineer Jones and two helmet men.  A crowd of weeping women and children stood about the shaft all night long.

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