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West Kentucky Coal Company
West Kentucky No. 7 Mine Explosion

Clay, Webster County, Kentucky
August 4, 1917
No. Killed - 62

USBM Final Investigation Report  (1.7 Mb)  PDF Format
See also: West Kentucky No. 7 Explosion, Aug. 3, 1927
West Kentucky No. 9 Explosion, June 8, 1925
West Kentucky No. 10 Fire, Mar. 12, 1934
West Kentucky No. 10 Explosion, Nov. 30, 1942
West Kentucky No. 7 Disaster Marker - Side A
West Kentucky No. 7 Disaster Marker - Side B
Location: 37° 28.566′ N, 87° 49.235′ W.
Marker is in Clay, Kentucky, in Webster County.  Marker is on Main Street (Kentucky Route 132) south of Hearin Street, on the right when traveling south.  Marker is at or near this postal address: 9100 KY-132, Clay KY 42404
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller
Source: The Historical Marker Database  External Link

Successful Rescue

Forty six had been brought to the surface alive from the West Kentucky Coal Company's No. 7 mine explosion after 3 hours.  Of the rescued, 24 were uninjured.  The remainder were suffering from burns, none of which were said to be serious.

(From Bureau of mines report, by J. W. Paul, E. R. Sutton, and G. T. Powell)

About 7:30 a.m., when most of the men were traveling to their working places, an explosion caused the death of 62 persons and the injury of 3 others.

Thirty-two men escaped without assistance, and 43 others who barricaded themselves in an unaffected entry were rescued 3 hours later.  The explosion was followed by a fire in the airshaft.  A fireboss examination had been made; but the entries in the record were unintelligible, and the man was killed.  After 2 hours the fire was extinguished, and the fan started exhausting.

Rescue crews found 18 men overcome, 8 of whom died after rescue.  Rescue and recovery consumed 2 days and nights, as the fire in the airshaft rekindled and had to be fought again by men with breathing apparatus.  The explosion originated near an entry face, where gas was ignited by an open light.

Gas accumulated because line brattices and curtains in that section were not in place.  Dust spread the explosion.  With normal ventilation gas was not in evidence, and little regard was given to the danger of an ignition.

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

Twenty Miners Entombed Near Clay, Kentucky
The Kokomo Daily Tribune, Indiana
August 4, 1917

Evansville, Ind., Aug. 4. -- At noon it was reported that all but twenty of the 200 entombed miners in the West Kentucky Coal Company's mine at Clay, Ky., had been brought to the surface.  Six men are known to be dead, three whites and three negroes; sixteen of the rescued men are badly burned and are being brought to Evansville on a special train.

Nine officials at Clay expressed hopes that the remaining twenty men would be rescued with few casualties.

The government mine rescue car and crew left here at 10 o'clock this morning for Clay.

Clay, Ky., Aug. 4. -- Two hundred miners were entombed in mine No. 7 of the West Kentucky Coal Company here as result of an explosion of gas at 7:30 this morning.  Smoke is emerging from the mine.

The explosion, it was said, occurred in the south end of the mine, where negroes largely were employed.  Debris, it was stated, choked the passageway to the north end, where the remainder of the force, including forty white men, were at work.

An official check of the number of men entombed in the mine made at noon today, indicated the number to be something less than 175.  Forty six had been brought to the surface alive together with four bodies, including that of Charles Wallace, mine foreman.

Of the rescued, 24 were uninjured.  The remainder were suffering from burns, none of which were said to be serious.  Approximately 125 men were reported to be still imprisoned in the workings.

Fire, which followed the explosion, raged for several hours, and though it is thought to be extinguished the presence of "blackdamp" has made further rescue work impossible pending the arrival of miners' car from Evansville Ind.

Madisonville, Ky., Aug. 4. -- Reports reaching here several hours after a gas explosion in Mine No. 7 of the West Kentucky Coal Company at Clay early today said that 81 men, all negroes, had been rescued.  Many of them, it was said, were badly burned.

Employees of the company and soldiers of C. Company, First Regiment, Kentucky National Guard, are working desperately to save the others.

Supt.  Jenkins in charge of the ten mines owned by the West Kentucky Coal Company in this section is directing the rescue work and has asked that a relief car from the mine rescue station at Evansville, Ind., be sent here.

The soldiers who have been on guard duty during the strike troubles here, have assumed charge of the situation and are allowing no one not directly connected with the rescue operations to approach the workings.

The explosion is asserted to be not connected with the strike troubles by those in authority.

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