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E. H. Noel Coal Company
Sun Excelsior Mine Explosion

Excelsior, Sebastian County, Arkansas
February 8, 1948
No. Killed - 8

Bureau of Mines Investigation Report  PDF Format
From the Google News Archives:  External Link
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8 Coal Miners Killed in Blast
Post Standard, Syracuse, New York
February 9, 1948

Greenwood, Ark. (AP) -- Eight miners died in a gas explosion in the Sunshine coal mine near here yesterday afternoon.

Bodies of the last three victims were recovered last night nearly six hours after a blast occurred near the bottom of the 4,000-foot sloping shaft, about 20 miles south of Fort Smith, Ark.

Cause of the explosion has not been determined, but state mine inspectors will open an investigation today.

The last bodies recovered were those of Frank Grile, Louis Grile and Albin Grile of the nearby Jenny Lind community.

Previously the bodies of Mine Foreman Joe Williams, 32, married and father of four children; Matt Denne, 50, married and father of several children; Earl Fish, about 30; Ralph Morelock, about 30, and John Winters had been recovered.

The explosion, the first in the 10-year history of Sunshine mine, occurred as the day and night shifts were preparing to change.  Three men -- Night Foreman Fred Becker, his son, Herbert and Otto Timmons -- were going down in a trip car and had proceeded about a third of the way when the explosion occurred.  They were showered with rocks.

Foreman Becker hurried to the mouth to give the alarm.  The other two miners, later joined by J. D. (Peg) Williams, began cutting up canvass brattices (to hold back the gas) and as they moved down the slope, they found the bodies of Denne and Williams, a brother of J. D. Williams.  They apparently had been suffocated.  The body of Winters was battered.

Noels said that ordinarily 80 men comprised a crew, but the mine was undergoing development and only eight men were actually at work at the time of the explosion.

As word of the disaster spread over the countryside, other miners and their families in the Excelsior field went to the entrance of Sunshine mouth and the highway near the mine was jammed one-half mile with cars.  Ambulances were hurried here from Fort Smith.

The Sunshine mine produces a smokeless, semi-anthracite coal.

Yesterday's disaster is believed to have been the worst mine accident in Arkansas since 10 men were killed by an explosion in the No. 2 mine of the Bates Coal Corp., in Scott County, south of here, Aug. 27, 1940

The dead:
  • Matt Denne
  • Earl Fish
  • Albin Grilc
  • Frank Grilc
  • Louis Grilc
  • Ralph Morelock
  • Joe Williams
  • John Winters

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