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Fayette Miners Lose Lives In Fairmont Explosion
Contributed by Mike Pennington

April 26, 1926

Four former Kaymoor and Ansted miners were among the victims of the
Everettesville mine explosion near Fairmont Saturday.  The list of the
entombed miners for whose safety hope has been abandoned contains the names
of James Pennington, aged 57, and Earl Erskine and his two sons, Cecil and
William.  Others who were employed at the mine, but whose names are not given
in the casualty list are E.G. Pennington and Claude Hitchcock.  Definite news
of their safety has not been received by relatives at Kaymoor.  All the men
were related.  the Erskines went from Ansted about a year ago and Pennington
and Hitchcock worked at Kaymoor.

More than 70 men were still entombed Tuesday night.  the fire has held back
rescue work and a portion of the mine has been sealed.  The known dead
numbers 24.  Only a few bodies have been recovered.

There were 98 miners at work in the Everettsville mine, 12 miles from
Farimont, when the explosion occurred at 3:30 Saturday evening.  Ten men came
out of the mine unhurt after the explosion.  Five dead and 7 injured were
found within a few minutes.  Two men on the tipple outside were killed.

The mine took fire following the explosion and rescue workers were unable to
research but half the workings which extend for 7500 feet.  Part of the mine
had been rock dusted.  It was known as a gaseous dangerous mine.

Earl Hitchcock, son of M.L. Hitchcock, of Gatewood worked for a while in the
mine but returned home only a few weeks ago fearing there would be a big
explosion someday.  The mine is 2 miles off the main highway and hard to
reach on account of mud roads.

The names of these men who are known to have been in the mine at the time of
the explosion number 98 and are as follows:

Irving Mallory, Will Hunter, Bill Murock, Bowland, Burton, Nick Pertnobuh,
Ed. Alston, Wm. Burks, John Batacha, Brooks Williams, roscoe Hooper, Bernard
Tippin, William Reese, Jim Taylor, E.J. Blackman, Bart Lamb, Frank Goodwin,
Frank Ware, Ralph Wright, Porter Ziman, Richard Smith, A.D. Burrell, C.
Campbell, Sam Little, Robert Petus, Tom Weatherby, Paul Fletcher, Harry
Williams, Frank Burgess, Moses Hodges, Aaron Barns, Tony Compsanelli, Henry
Brown, J.T. Pyles, Troy Jackson, J.M. Pennington, E.C. Coleman, Ed. Brooks,
Byron Shoaf, Earl Erskine, Wade Wilson, Wildam Erskine, Harry Cohen, Thomas
Short, Lank Davenport, E.E. Smith, Andy Podolink, Ben Blackman, Jr., Joe
Seles, Sam Reynolds, Castro Nicholas, Lank Davenport John Parker, J.D.
Toothman.

Clayton Carter, G.W. Anderson, Charles Drake,  Pat Breneman Jr., George
Morrision, Charles Townsend, Rufus Fields, Martin Stone, Frank Pole_, Wilson
____, (one other name), W. Varner, Frank Schaffer, Dezil Morrison, C.B.
McCarty, John hill, Harvey McKay, frank Maza, H.S. Sanders, Cecil Erskine,
Pete Rocovich, Jr., Carl Queen, Oscar Maxwell, Fred Laura, Roy Davis, T.E.
Sullivan, Wilber Underwood, John Smith, Richard Jones, Sam Flennigan,
Lawrence Nairne, G.A. Willard, W.D. Buzzard, J.B. Murphy, Jesse Street, Mateo
Alonzo.

>From the time the explosion occurred helmeted rescue crews pushed their way
forward.  They found the danger mark at 500 feet from the mouth.  There the
good air gave way to gas and smoke.  Still they advanced and succeeded in
reaching a point some 2000 feet in, about half way to the place where it was
believed the 76 trapped men were working.  There they found the mine was
afire and they were forced to retreat.

Only two of the dead were identified.  They were Harold Davis and Virgil
Straight.

Most of the bodies discovered were burned and mangled, showing the great
force of the explosion.  these victims, working within 500 feet of the entry,
were caught in the sheet of flame that swept to the surface.  It was not
known if the explosion traveled back into the mine.  Experts said if the
blast went in both directions it surely wiped out all the men in the rear.

Two sections of the mine were known to be slightly gaseous, but as a whole,
the workings were reported safe.  The miners used closed safety lamps and the
tunnels and working rooms were thoroughly rock-dusted to prevented a spread
of an explosion.  The fact that the blast di spread caused officials to
believe that it was a gas and not a coal dust explosion.

Erkines Wrote Note As Death Crept Upon Them

The tragic story of the plucky fight for life of two Fayette county miners
caught in the fatal explosion of the Everettsville mine has been revealed by
pathetic notes found this week when the bodies were recovered.  The entombed
men were Wm. Erskine and his son Cecil, who with a fellow miner had attempted
a barricade against the after damp.

On a bit of paper, and in writing which silently told the story of hte ever
increasing deadliness of the afterdamp slowly filtering through the hasty
barricades the men had erected, were found three separate notes, two of which
were signed "H. Russell."

The first one was brief and no greater story of self-salvation has ever been
told than that embodied in the words:

 "At peace with God.
                                                        H. Russell

Then to his wife this Scotchsman wrote:

                                                                "Dear Mary:
Tell father I was saved.

                                                H. Russell

And finally in lines growing fainter and more irregular:

                                                                "Also the
Erskines.  We do not feel and pain.  Try to stay in the U.S.A. Love to the
kids."

This last message was unsigned but must have been written just before the men
slowly lost consciousness and died slowly and peacefully.

The true story of the fight of the men to stay the deadly after damp will
never be told, but mining experts to whom the signs in a mine tell a story,
believe that the three died without suffering and within an hour after the
great blast rocked the mine.

It was explained that the amount of work done would indicate that from 30 to
40 minutes likely was spent by the men in the effort to protect themselves
from the gas, as all three had learned through years in the mine and from
safety classes they all attended.

Down in the "seventh north" heading the men started to work, using canvas and
boards to attempt to make a temporary brattice or barricade to keep the gas
out.  But the foul air came upon them before they could get the work
completed and they moved back towards the rear of the mine about 100 feet,
only to have the same thing happen again.  The third stopping was never
completed.
The writing on the first note was in a clear firm hand, the second showed
that in all probability its author had inhaled some of the deadly carbon
monoxide, which travels after an explosion with a speed of hundreds of feet a
minute.  The last note was barely discernible.
            

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