"The Explosion at Derby"

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The Kingsport Times

Kingsport Tennessee, Monday, August 6, 1934 - 6 pages


Big Stone Gap Mine Is Worker’s Death Trap

Dust is Believe Cause of Explosion - Others Believed Dead - Wives and Children Weep


By Frank Rule
Kingsport Times, Staff Writer)
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Eye-witness coverage of the mine explosion had been obtained by The Times. Two Times staff men were dispatched to the scene of the explosion in a chartered airplane of the Dixie Aces).

Virginia’s most disastrous mine explosion early today had claimed the lives of eight men with five others still unaccounted for in the west portion of the Derby Number Three Mine of the Stonega Coal and Coke Company near Big Stone Gap, Va.

The eight men known dead are:
Ralph Burchell, general mine foreman.
Ranson Slemp.
Ben Jenkins.
Charlie Milan.
Alex Payne.
Clyde Doyle.
Lafayette Blondell.
Clarence Reed.

A flying trip by airplane through the courtesy of Kightley and Musleh airshows to the scene of the explosion revealed to Times staff writers the wreckage about the mouth of the mine and the efforts of the rescue squads to reach the five other men known to be imprisoned somewhere back in the mine.

Seventy-five men working in another section of the mine escaped through an abandoned shaft.

Following the explosion at 7:20 a. m. today, rescue crews removed two men and took them to the Stonega hospital for treatment. They were removed directly from the spot where the explosion wrought its worst force.

While the rescue squads worked feverishly in removing slides blocking their path, families of the five men still entombed crowded about the company’s offices to learn if their husbands and fathers had been lost in the explosion.

The rescue work was proceeding at 2:30 today under the personal supervision of J. D. Rogers, general manager, A. H. Reeder, general superintendent; C. A. Sine, safety engineer, and Joe Davies, of the U. S. Bureau of Mines. The last three named were leading the squad inside the mine.

Work was hindered by the deadly carbon monoxide gas, which killed the eight known dead, none of whom were mangled.
A Times staff writer was given a general idea of the force of the explosion by Fred Sloan and Henry Bowers, who were at the mouth of the tunnel at the time of the blast.

Both men were hurled 150 feet by the concussion of the blast emanating from within the mine. The same force hurled huge piles of coal and coal dust 200 yards across a small valley onto the side of another mountain.

Neither Sloan nor Bowers was seriously injured. Badly shaken, they were able to tell their story of the sudden blast that rocked the entire community and hurled them through space. Both men admitted they believed their time had come.

Artificial respiration was resorted to in a vain effort to save the men removed dead from the mine.

The exact number of those remaining in the shaft could not be stated definitely, but officials believed the estimate of five entombed to be correct.

The Derby portion of the mine was considered the best model mine in the Virginia coal fields. It was used to show visitors how mining work took place. The explosion took place proper in the west portion of the mine, investigation showed.
At 3:00 p. m. today. . .

Derby main page | song & audio | newspaper clippings

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