A coal dust explosion occurred in the interconnected Nos. 15 and 16 mines of the Finley Coal Company, Hyden, Leslie County, Kentucky, about 12:20 p.m., Wednesday, December 30, 1970. Thirty-eight of the 39 men who were underground at the time were killed. Observations made during the investigation of the disaster indicate that 14 men who were employed in No. 16 mine were apparently killed instantly by the explosion, and 3 others who may have moved a short distance after the explosion possibly died from asphyxiation or carbon monoxide poisoning. Nineteen men, who were employed in No. 15 mine, were apparently killed instantly by the explosion, and 2 others who may have moved a short distance after the explosion presumably died from asphyxiation or carbon monoxide poisoning. The lone survivor was near the portal in the belt entry of No. 15 mine when the explosion occurred. He was injured slightly by the explosion force and the debris coming out of the mine.
The Bureau's investigation of the disaster included extensive examinations of the underground workings of the Finley Coal Company mines following the disaster, a public hearing held at Hyden on January 6, 1971, a study of all previous reports on inspections and accident investigations at the mines, and interviews of all but 13 Finley Coal Company employees. On the basis of this investigation, the Bureau has concluded that the explosion occurred when coal dust was thrown into suspension and ignited by Primacord, by permissible explosives used in a nonpermissible manner, or by use of nonpermissibly explosives during the blasting of roof rock for a loading point (boom hole). These practices are not permitted under the Act. Excessive accumulations of coal dust and inadequate applications of rock dust in parts of Nos. 15 and 16 mines permitted propagation of the explosion throughout the mines.
Mine Conditions Immediately Prior to the Explosion
Cold and cloudy weather prevailed in the vicinity of the mines on December 30, 1970.
The report of the mine examiner (fire boss) for the 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. production shift on December 30, 1970, stated that all places in No. 15 mine were visited and all places were ready for the day shift. Investigators could no find a record of No. 16 mine being examined. The preshift record book indicates that only the working places in No. 15 mine were examined on December 30, 1970; however, further evidence obtained upon questioning the employee who made the examination revealed that the preshift examination listed in the record book for No. 15 mine was actually for the examination made in No. 16 mine and that someone else made the examination in No. 15 mine. It was learned upon questioning the man who made the examination of No. 15 mine that he made an examination of the working places in No. 15 mine and recorded the results in the record book on the surface; a record of this examination could not be located. The preshift examination record books were incomplete in that they did not indicate the time the examiner entered the mine and returned to the surface, the area or areas of the mines examined, whether methane or oxygen deficiency was detected, whether the air in the mine was traveling in its proper course and at normal volume, and the quantity of air reaching the last open crosscuts in the entries.