Fayette County: Carlisle Mine Disaster (1915)

Fayette Journal
February 11, 1915

Death Claims Twenty at Carlisle

In Gas Explosion at New River Company’s Mine Saturday Morning

One Hundred And Fifty-Three Come Out Unhurt

But Eighteen Miners are Suffocated by After Damp. Explosion Confined to One Entry and Other Sections of Operation not Damaged. Work of Rescue Expeditiously Carried Out.

The Dead

Leo Vitochi
Frank Smith
Victor Comminski
Albert Kopinski
Frank Erstine
Andrew Garten
Douglass Scarbro
Jack Custer
Jack Saunders
Montague Thomas
Wm. Comminski
Mike Sonneberg
Joe Sabola
Fred Solvey
Lindsay Johnson
Fred Pannel
Charles Kebert
William Gray
James Ora
John Makers

Twenty lives were snuffed out and one man seriously injured at seven thirty last Saturday morning when an explosion of gas occurred in the fifth left entry of the Carlisle mine, at Carlisle, an operation controlled by the New River Company.

From their dwellings, scattered around about the mine, just after finishing their morning meal, one hundred and seventy-three miners, had bid goodbye to their loved ones and acquaintances, and coming through the darkness, gathered at the mouth of the shaft, and were lowered four hundred and fifty feet into the bowels of the earth, to go to the different entries and rooms for their day’s work. They were met at the bottom of the shaft by fire bosses, ____ Raleigh and Romello Capri, who had just completed their regular morning inspection of the mine. The men were told that gas had been found in room No. 11, of the fifth left entry, and warned not to enter that room. In addition to warning the men, the fire bosses also placed danger signals at the entrance of the room.

After rec[e]iving this notice the men proceeded to their tasks, and within a very short time thereafter the explosion occurred, but the concussion was so slight, that most of the miners did not know it, and kept working until notified to come out.

Mine Superintendent, William Neal, was not in the mine at the time of the explosion, but close at hand, and immediately went in to direct the rescue work, which, however, had already been started by William Bilkinston, the mine foreman, who happened to be at the bottom of the shaft when the gas let go.

News of the explosion was immediately telephoned to the general offices of the company at Macdonald, and General Manager S. A. Scott, and assistant General Superintendent T. C. Thomas hurried to the scene on a special train, and assumed charge, going into the mine and personally urging and directing the men engaged in the rescue of their fellow workmen.

By noon the after damp had sufficiently cleared away, and the work of recovering the bodies was begun. Upon entering the fifth left entry, and approaching room eleven, the rescue party discovered the lifeless bodies of the two men were assigned to work that room, lying on the floor of the entry, showing that they had not entered the room, but had waited outside for further orders. The body of one miner was, however, found in room eleven. How he came there is a mystery, as that was not his room, and his presence there cannot be accounted for.

The indications all point to room eleven as the place where the explosion originated, and that it was purely a gas explosion, dut [sic] to a miner’s open lamp, and not caused by any shooting, for no shooting could possibly have been done so early in the morning and so shortly after the men went to work.

The majority of the men were killed while working in the rooms leading off from entry five by after damp. The force of the explosion blew out some stoppings and brattices, and this prevented the fan from supplying this entry with pure air. The bodies were in good condition when found, only two of them being badly burned, thus showing clearly that it was the after damp that got in its deadly work. The other parts of the mine were not affected by the explosion, and the damage was confined entirely to this one entry.

Safety lamps have already been placed in most of the shaft mines, of the company but as this mine has never been known to generate gas in sufficient quantities to become a menace, the installation therein of such lamps has not been considered, nor had the state mine inspectors requested such installment.

The fact that the explosion did not extend beyond the one entry indicates that the mine was in good condition, and free from gas and dust.

All bodies were recovered by nightfall and brought to the surface.

A United States Mine Rescue car was brought over from Matoaka by special train, but did not arrive until evening, and too late to be of any service.

Chief Mine Inspector Earl Henry, and Deputies Absalom and Holliday were at the mine Sunday and inspected the workings, and did all that could possibly be done towards relieving the conditions following the disaster.

The work of rescue was carried on in a rapid and systematic manner, and results were achieved in a remarkably short time. One man only came out alive from entry five, Renus Chandler, colored, and he was hurried off to the McKendree Hospital, suffering from a fractured skull.

Repairs to the wrecked entry are being rushed and the entire mine will again be in operation in a few days.

Of the twenty miners killed, six were Americans, and fourteen foreigners.

The Carlisle mine is connected with the Oakwood operation by a drift, the two mines being about 3,000 feet apart.

The burial services of the unfortunate victims of the explosion were held Monday, and the remains interred in local cemeteries, at the expense of the Workmen’s Compensation fund.

Four of the miners were married, and leave families, who will be looked after by the compensation fund.

An inquest is being held at Glen Jean before Justice Jasper, this Wednesday afternoon. The jurors are: M. C. Bibb, Oak Hill; J. M. Mc-Vey, and Dr. J. L. Lykens, of Thurmond; W. R. Gray and J. E. Garrett, Mt. Hope, and Lacy Hanger, of Scarbro.


Carlisle Mine Disaster

Annual Report of the Department of Mines
For The Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1915.


On the morning of February 6, 1915, at 7:45 A. M. a local gas explosion occurred at this mine in which twenty-two persons lost their lives. This mine is located at Carlisle, Fayette County, on the White Oak Branch of the C. & 0. Railroad and operated by the White Oak Fuel Company. It is a shaft mine 440 feet in depth, operating the Sewell seam which has a thickness of four feet, developed on the double entry system, ventilated by an eighteen foot fan which produces 100,000 cubic feet of air per minute and which is divided between the workings of the Carlisle and Oakwood Shafts. These two mines are connected and employ from 160 to 175 persons. This mine was known to liberate a slight quantity of explosive gas, but not considered dangerous and open lights were used exclusively by miners and laborers. Fire Bosses were employed to examine the mine each morning before any person was allowed to enter same.

On the morning of the explosion the Fire Bosses had made their examination, at which time they found a small accumulation of gas in room No. 11 on the 5th left entry off of 3d right main and reported same in Fire Bosses’ record book, but failed to advise any person of the fact and marked the mine O. K. on a bulletin board kept for this purpose and a few minutes later the employees entered the mine. Shortly after the explosion occurred, and upon investigation it was found to be a local gas explosion, due to an accumulation of gas in room No. 11, where the body of a miner was found burned to death; two of the bodies found near No. 10 room were only slightly burned about the face and hands, while the others lost their lives from suffocation, with the exception of a trapper boy at the mouth of the entry who was badly mutilated.

The damage to the mine was very slight. A few stoppings were blown out and the doors were destroyed at 5th left where the explosion occurred, being a distance of one and a quarter miles from the shaft bottom.

Had the Fire Bosses performed their duties as required by law, they would have arranged the brattices after detecting gas in this room, so as to prevent an accumulation of gas. This they failed to do, but placed a. prop across the room track, a distance of 113 feet from the face, returned to the outside and without giving notice to anyone that they had detected gas in this room marked the mine O. K. on the bulletin board, and by their neglect caused the death of twenty-two persons, which should be a warning to all Fire Bosses that negligence of this kind is very dangerous to life and property.

The following is a list of the persons killed at the local gas explosion which occurred at Carlisle mine under date of February 6, 1915.

Albert Kopinski, Leo Vitovich, Frank Smith, John Makers, Victor Comminski, James Ora, Montague Thomas, William Gray, Jack Souders, William Comminski, Charles Kebert, Andy Garten, Frank Erstine, Fred Pannell, Dayles Scarbro, Lindsey Johnson, Fred Solbey, Joe Sabalo, Mike Sonnenberg, Jack Custer, Ottis Rex.

Remus Chandler, Negro, was injured end taken to the McKendree Hospital and died February 10th.

Fayette County, to-wit: An inquisition taken at Glen Jean, in the County of Fayette on the 10th day of February, 1915, before S. J. Jasper, Justice of the said county, upon the view of the bodies of Albert Kopinski, Leo Vitovich, Frank Smith, John Makers, Victor Comminski, James Ora, Montague Thomas, William Grey, Jack Souders, William Comminski, Charles Kebert, Andy Garten, Frank Erstine, Fred Panhell, Dayles Scarbro, Lindsey Johnson, Fred Solbey, Joe Sabalo, Mike Sonnenberg and Jack Custer there lying dead. The jurors sworn to inquire when, how and by what means the said persons above named, came to their death, upon their oaths do say that the said, above named persons came to their death on the 6th day of February, 1915, by an explosion of gas in the Carlisle mine, and we do further find that there was no evidence showing or tending to show any negligence or failure to perform its duty, on the part of the White Oak Fuel Company, operating said mine, and that the said White Oak Fuel Company furnished all necessary supplies of all kinds and gave to the mine foreman and the mine bosses the necessary instructions to keep the mine in a safe condition, and we further find that if there was any negligence that it was due to the failure of the fire bosses In not marking up on the outside of the mine that there was a small amount of gas in room No. 11 on the 5th left although he had marked the said room as dangerous at this entrance.

In testimony whereof, the said Justice of the Peace, and jurors hereto set their hands: (Signed) S. J. JASPER, J. P. J. E. gaRRett. J. W. McVEY, J. E. gRay, W. L. hangeR, B. E. lykins, M. C. bibb.

The Sunday Telegram
Clarksburg, West Virginia
07 Feb 1915, Sun  •  Page 1
The West Virginian
Fairmont, West Virginia
11 Feb 1915, Thu  •  Page 8
The Raleigh Herald
Beckley, West Virginia
12 Feb 1915, Fri  •  Page 1
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Additional White Oak Fuel Photos:

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