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Princess-Pocahontas Coal Company
Princess Poca Mine Explosion

Roderfield, McDowell County, West Virginia
November 30, 1928
No. Killed - 6

USBM Final Investigation Report  (1.4 Mb)  PDF Format

From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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Six Men are Missing in McDowell County Mine Explosion
Charleston Gazette, West Virginia
December 1, 1928

Bluefield, Dec. 1. -- (AP) -- Throwing up brattices as they went in an effort to force off bad air and gas, rescue crews early this morning were fighting their way into the Princess-Pocahontas Coal Company mine on Spice Creek, McDowell County, seeking six men, missing following an explosion last night.

The first rescue crew made its way into the mine shortly after midnight, and penetrated nearly half a mile before the gas and air became so bad that they were forced to return to the surface.  Armed with brattice cloth and timber, the rescue workers returned to the workings after studying the map of the mine, and resumed their efforts to reach the six men, believed to have been killed by the explosion a mile and a quarter underground.

Bluefield, Nov. 30. -- (AP) -- Six men were reported missing tonight following an explosion in the mine of the Princess-Pocahontas Coal Company on Spice Creek, near Roderfield in McDowell County.

Reports of the explosion here received here by railroad officials who said that the blast occurred at about 8:30 o'clock tonight, when only the six missing men were in the mine.  A special train, railroad officials said, is being sent to Coalwood where a United States department of mines rescue car is stationed.

The special train was ordered to take the rescue car to Roderfield, several miles away, immediately, as such action was deemed necessary.

In addition, the West Virginia department of mines rescue car located at Maitland, near Welch, was ordered to the mines, by Robert M. Lambie, chief of the department in a telephone message from Charleston.

Mine officials would not say definitely tonight whether there had been an explosion in the workings but declared that bad air was issuing from the mouth of the mine.  One man escaped from the workings, they said, but six others were still unaccounted for.

Dewey England, the man who escaped, said after reaching the surface of the mine that he was about 1,080 feet behind the others at the time of the explosion, which occurred about a mile from the mouth of the mine.  He was not injured, he said, but was unable to reach his companions because of the bad air.

An initial effort to reach the missing men made by the mine foreman, also failed, when after penetrating the mine to about 700 feet from the scene of the explosion, he was halted by gas and afterdamp.

The bad air, tonight, held up rescue work pending the arrival of the United States department of mines rescue car and state mine rescue crews with gas masks and other necessary equipment for entering a gas filled mine.

All of the men missing, company officials believed tonight, were dead.

They were:
  • Sam Guy
  • Kyle Walters
  • Clarence Walters, Kyle's son
  • Henry Daniels
  • Bill Foutz
  • Henry Lester
The explosion was believed to have occurred when a coal cutting machine cut into a "gas feeder" or pocket, permitting gas to pour into the mine.

Four trained rescue crews were on route to the mine tonight, to begin the search for the men.  They will be headed when they enter the mine, by Perce Thornburg, formerly of the United States department of mines, W. B. Lee, Welch and Thomas Stockdale Bramwell, state mine inspectors and L. E. Quennon, Keystone and Harry Butler, both trained rescue workers.

Slippery mountain roads hindered rescue crews as they drove to the mine from nearby points.

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