Mine Safety Training Repository
united states mine rescue association
Mine Disasters in the United States

Tank's Poetry

Father Time
See more disasters
from this year
Calendar Image
Mine Disaster Calendar

RFH Coal Company
No. 1 Mine Explosion

Craynor, Floyd County, Kentucky
January 20, 1982
No. Killed - 7

MSHA Final Investigation Report  (3.5 Mb)  PDF Format

On January 20, 1982, at approximately 9:40 a.m., a coal dust explosion occurred in the 001 section of RFH Coal Co.'s No. 1 Mine located at Mink Branch near Craynor, Floyd County, Kentucky.  All seven miners working underground at the time of the explosion were killed.

MSHA investigators concluded that coal dust ignited in the No. 5 room when explosives were detonated in the developing crosscut between the Nos. 5 and 6 rooms.  The crosscut was being mined from the No. 6 room toward the No. 5 room.  Prior to blasting, the coal remaining in the crosscut between the two rooms was approximately 1.52 m (5 ft.) thick.

When the crosscut was blasted, it shot through into the No. 5 room.  The flames from the explosion were not contained within the boreholes due to either a blown-out or blown-through shot, excessive explosives used per hole, or an overburdened or underburdened shot.

The flames that resulted ignited a cloud of coal dust in the No. 5 room.  The flames then propagated into the No. 6 room as well as out of the No. 5 room into other areas of the mine.

Conditions and practices that contributed to the explosion and its propagation included:
  • Failure to apply water or other effective methods to coal dust on the ribs, roof and floor, particularly at distances less than 12.2 m (40 ft.) from the face, to reduce dispersibility and to minimize the explosion hazard.

  • Failure to use line brattices or other approved devices in the No. 5 room to provide adequate ventilation in the face area to remove suspended coal dust.

  • Failure to apply sufficient quantities of rock dust to the mine surfaces to render the coal dust inert, and retard the propagation of explosions.

  • Permitting coal dust (including float coal dust) and loose coal to accumulate along entries, rooms, and areas outby the working section.

Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume II

7 Killed in Family Coal Mine
Winchester Star, Virginia
January 21, 1982

Craynor, Ky. (AP) -- Teams of workers today pulled the last bodies from a family-owned coal mine where seven men, including four members of the family, were killed in a blast that a state official says may have been caused by coal-mining explosives.

It was the fourth mining disaster in the Appalachian coalfields in seven weeks.  Thirty-one men have died.

"Oh Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, what am I going to do?" cried Lilly Hamilton, who lost three sons and a grandson in Wednesday morning's blast, as she watched work crews.  Her house stands down the hill from the mine that her four sons opened several years ago on the winding left fork of Mink Branch, a tributary of Mud Creek.

"Come on inside now, mother, there's nothing you can do for them out here," Chester Newsome, a relative, said he told the woman.

The coal at the RFH Mining Co.'s No. 1 Mine had been mined with explosives, an old-fashioned but relatively inexpensive technique that also had been used in a mine in nearby Topmost, Ky., where eight people were killed in an explosion last month.  Officials have speculated the Topmost blast may have been caused by a coal-dust explosion as coal was being blasted from its seam.

One body was removed Wednesday and workers today pulled the remaining six from the mine on a foggy eastern Kentucky hillside.

State Mines and Minerals Commissioner Willard Stanley speculated explosives caused the blast.

The explosion fired debris hundreds of feet and spewed so much coal dust it blackened a hill facing the mine, said Mike Froman, who was on his way to the mine when yellow smoke began pouring from it.

Stanley said the type of explosive used was a "water gel," and said he was baffled that "it would generate that much heat." Some explosive detonators were not in proper containers, Stanley said.

UMW President Sam Church, who arrived at the mine in a helicopter loaned by West Virginia Gov. Jay Rockefeller, called the accident a "carbon copy" of the Dec. 7 blast 20 miles away at Topmost, Ky., where eight miners were killed.  Church had been in Charleston, W. Va., discussing mine safety with Rockefeller.

Church said he talked with Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown, Jr., by telephone Wednesday night and said the governor wanted "to see if there is some way we might have changes in our legislation" to ban the use of explosives in underground mines.

The blast killed brothers Burnis, Don and Jack Hamilton, along with Wade Hamilton, Palmer Edwin McKenny, Ronnie Hall and Thurman Reynolds.  Wade Hamilton was the son of mine co-owner Purvis Hamilton.

Stanley told the miners' relatives that three bodies were found together about 700 feet from the entrance to the mine.  The other four were much deeper in the mine, he added.

The mine was contracted to remove the coal, which was owned by Elkhorn Coal Corporation of Wayland, Kentucky, a subsidiary of Ethyl Corporation.

See more about these products