Hominy Falls Mine Disaster

Fatal Accident Report
Fatal Accident Reports, 1968, Nicholas County, Gauley Coal and Coke Company, Saxsewell No. 8.



Hominy Falls, P. O. Richwood, Nicholas County, West Virginia


Four men, Eli Edward Walkup, Claude Roy Dodd, Jr., Renick F. McClung and William F. Burdette were drowned on May 6, 1968 at 9:40 A.M. when the No. 3 room left 2nd right which they were driving or working cut into water filled adjacent abandoned mine workings.

Mr. Walkup was 37 years of age and had 12 1/2 years mining experience, 1 1/2 years at the Saxsewell No. 8 mine as a continuous miner operator. He is survived by his widow, Hilda and 3 dependent children of McRoss, West Virginia.

Mr. Dodd was 42 years of age and had 24 years mining experience, the last l 1/2 years at this mine as a continuous miner operator's helper. He is survived by his widow, Arlene and 2 dependent children of Rainelle, West Virginia.

Mr. McClung was 46 years of age and had 27 years mining experience, the last 1 1/2 years as a timberman at this mine. He is survived by his widow, Helen and 5 dependent children of Orient Hill, West Virginia.

Mr. Burdette was 43 years of age and had 14 years mining experience, the last 9 months at this mine as a timberman. He is survived by his widow, Rowena and 2 dependent children of Rainelle, West Virginia.

The Beckley Office of the West Virginia Department of Mines was appraised of the mine being inundated at 12:10 P.M. by District Inspector Ted Spurlock, who was at the mine at the time it was discovered that the mine had flooded.

The Charleston Office was immediately notified as well as Inspector-at-Large, J. A. Philpott and Assistant Inspector-at-Large, J. W. Hatfield, who were at other mines in the area near the Saxsewell No. 8 mine. When it became known that men were trapped in the mine, all available inspectors were directed to report to the mine to assist in recovery operations.

The Saxsewell No. 8 mine is located in Nicholas County on Hominy Creek about 3 1/2 miles off state route 20. The mine was opened and began production on November 7, 1966. The Sewell coal bed averaging 32 inches in thickness is mined. The mine employs 68 men on 2 shifts a day, 5 days a week and produces 1,200 tons per day and has produced 101,739 tons this year to date.

The accompanying map shows the location and details of the accident area.


An underground investigation of the tradgey [sic] was made on May 17, 1968.

Members of the investigating committee were:

T. A. Salvati General Manager, Southern Division
Floyd Barnette, Jr. Engineer
Robert Dunlap Engineer
Frank Davis Mine Foreman

Frank Memmot Associate Director
W. R. Park District Supervisor
John W. Crawford Mining Engineer
James Blankenship Techincal [sic] Assistant
Herschel Potter Coal Mine Inspector

Donald Poland Safety Director

Lee McClure Chairman, Safety Committee
Eldon Collins Safety Committeman

J. A. Philpott Inspector-at-Large
J. W. Hatfield Assistant Inspector-at-Large
Milton Hitechew District Inspector
Ted G. Spurlock District Inspector


On the day of the inundation 26 men were at work in the mine. Fourteen men and the mine foreman were at work up the north mains off the straight main entries, approximately 3,500 feet inby portal. Ten men were at work on 2 right approximately 4,700 feet inby portal, one man was on surface and was returning into the mine when he was confronted by water and was able to escape to the surface by riding the conveyor belt.

The 10 workmen on 2 right were working the Nos. 1 and 3 rooms. Jeffery L-100 boring type continuous miners were used to mine the coal. Coal from the miners were discharged into conveyors which relayed it to a chain conveyor on the entry which in turn discharged the coal onto a rubber conveyor belt a short distance outby.

The 5 workmen in the No. 1 room had about the distance of 8 pans (pans are 6 feet 2 inches in length) to slab off the pillar before completing work in the place and going to the No. 2 room to resume mining there. The plan of work being to turn places on 75 foot centers, drive them up 40 pans, cutting 30 feet on the advance. The miner is then turned around and 30 feet of coal is cut out of the pillar as the miner is returned to the entry, leaving about 15 feet of coal in pillar.

The 5 workmen in the No. 3 room had advanced the place about 110 feet. No breakthrough had been driven. The miner at the time of the inundation was cutting in the left side of the face when the coal face on the right side was pushed out by water in the face of the place they were driving into and unknown to them.

The water apparently came through the opening with great force from a tremendous head and build up of water from a large and undetermined area of mine workings, all of which dipped in the direction of the 2 right section and places where the men were working.

The 5 men were washed out of the No. 3 room, 4 were drowned outright, one of the men was somehow tumbled from the torrent of water as he was washed out of the place and namaged [sic] to escape into the No. 2 room where he was joined by the 5 workmen from the No. 1 room, together they retreated to the highest elevation in the No. 2 room where they were trapped and were to remain for almost l0 days before it was possible to rescue them. The abandoned rooms on the right side of 2nd right filled with water and after that spilled over into the south entry and then onto the mains and finally running out the No. 1 portal at the mine entrance.

The mine foreman was at the straight main belt tailpiece when he saw the belt wet. He and one of the workers proceeded outby to investigate, discovered the water coming out of 2nd right and when they attempted to get into 2nd right they were trapped at the 2nd south belt tailpiece in the No. 1 entry. The water going by them in the Nos. 2 and 3 entries which were of a lower elevation.

The 13 men up the main straight were trapped on high ground or at a higher elevation than the outby workings and had to remain in the area until the outby areas of the mine was dewatered before they could escape. Escape being made possible on Saturday A.M. at 5:15, May 11, 1968.

Recovery operations commenced as soon as equipment could be procured and installed after the mine was inundated. This work continued without letup until ail the men were rescued. All pumps that space would permit were used in the entries as the mine was dewatered. Nine boreholes were put down into the mine from the surface, 5 turbine pumps were installed. Other holes were for contact with the trapped men.

Food and material was supplied through the holes to the 13 men up the straight mains and the 2 men at the south mains belt tailpiece. Telephone contact was never lost with these groups.

No contact was ever made with the 6 men who had retreated into the No. 2 room at the upper end of 2 right in the flooded area where they had made a small brattice cloth structure to keep themselves warm, had shared their food and water and calmly awaited their rescue while their families and rescuers had all but abandoned hope for their survival.

The men were rescued at 4:30 A.M., May 16, 1968.


The workman [sic] were drowned when the place they were working cut into or broke through to a water filled area of an adjacent abandoned mine.

Contributing factors were:

Failure of the mine management to provide an accurate survey of the areas they were to mine.

Failure to show adjacent mine workings on the working map at the mine.

Failure to make allowance for error or unmapped areas of the adjacent abandoned mine workings and to leave a sufficient barrier of coal for protection.

Failure to provide test holes when driving toward or in dangerous proximity of an abandoned mine.


The following recommendations are made to prevent a similar occurrence:

1. Bore holes shall be kept not less than 20 feet in advance of the face, and where necessary, on sides of working places that are being driven toward and in dangerous proximity to, an abandoned mine or part of a mine which may contain water.

2. The mine foreman be furnished a true and correct map of the mine, showing a true and complete survey of all excavations made in adjacent mine.

3. Whenever a mine is abandoned indefinately [sic] or permanently the operator or superintendent shall notify the inspector of the district at once and shall furnish the inspector a map showing clearly all worked out or abandoned territory with all property and boundary lines and elevations and other information as the district inspector may require.

4. Before hereafter removing any coal or driving any entry, room or aircourse within five hundred feet of any property line, abandoned workings of such mine or mines, the coal operator, mine foreman, or superintendent shall forward by registered mail a copy of its maps and plans to the district mine inspector, showing the projected mine workings within five hundred feet of such property line or lines and abandoned workings of such mine or mines, and no place or places shall be driven nearer than two hundred feet of the property lines or abandoned mine workings without the consent of the district mine inspector.

The cooperation and consideration extended by the Company Officials and Workmen, United States Bureau of Mines Representatives, United Mine Workers of America, District 31 Representative and the Local Union Number 1254 udring [sic] this investigation is gratefully acknowledged.

This report being compiled and written this 28th day of May, 1968 in the Beckley Office, New River and Winding Gulf Division, West Virginia Department of Mines, by the undersigned.

Respectfully submitted,

Ted G. Spurlock, District Inspector
J. W. Hatfield, Assistant Inspector-at-Large
J. A. Philpott, Inspector-at-Large

Approved: Elmer Workman, Director


West Virginia Archives and History