Bartley, West Virginia January 10, 1940 No. Killed - 91
At 2:30 p.m. there were 138 men in the mine, when an explosion brought death to 91 of them. The west side of the mine was not affected, and the 37 men working there escaped uninjured. Ten men at the shaft bottoms also escaped. The mine foreman and the others near the bottom of the manway shaft felt a strong rush of air, which had a sound like a fire siren, and dust allayed the air. The men from the west section and from the shaft bottoms were quickly hoisted out.
The top operating officials were holding a safety meeting at the general office nearby, and rescue work was organized at once. The explosion doors at the fan had blown open; these were closed, and a rescue party entered the mine about 3 p.m. They traveled in fresh air to the explosion area, repaired an overcast, extinguished some small fires, and were replacing a stopping with a temporary brattice when a second explosion occurred. This explosion 7 hours after the first did no damage and was evidenced only by a strong air movement.
The party returned to the surface. Apparatus crews and other rescue men had arrived, and work was resumed that night, using apparatus crews to erect temporary brattices across the intakes ahead of the crews bratticing the breakthroughs, so that only safe areas were ventilated at a time. No additional fires were found. Extreme precautions were necessary in this very gassy mine. Large falls hindered the work, and crews were put to clean them up as the air was cleared.
The bodies were removed by January 14, and men withdrawn. Permanent ventilation had to be restored to permit thorough investigation, as the temporary stoppings allowed so much leakage that only a section at a time could be ventilated. The investigation from January 24 to February 2 did not flnd the exact point of origin, because evidence was destroyed by the second explosion and because the explosion covered pillar areas in which several bodies of gas over falls may have been ignited as the explosion progressed. The ventilation provided could not prevent gas accumulations from forming or being pushed out into working places by a fall.
The source of ignition was probably an electric arc. The explosion was propagated by coal dust. Rock dust had been applied over thick accumulations of coal dust, and back entries were not treated. Dust from this low-volatile coal was ignited in the violent gas explosion.
Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I