Layland Mine Disaster

Hinton Daily News and Leader
March 8, 1915

106 Dead and 53 Alive Recovered From Mine

Antonio Abbate, one of the Italian miners who was rescued from the Layland mine and who, in company with several other Italians accompanied the bodies of thirteen of their fellow-workers who lost their lives in the explosion, to Hinton Sunday afternoon, tells a thrilling story of the experience of the forty-two men while entombed for four days in the dark recesses of the wrecked mine, nearly two miles from the drift-mouth.

Abbate who proved himself a hero by risking his life in an attempt to reach some food, which had been stored some distance away from the entry in which the forty-two men had barracaded [sic] themselves, although somewhat weakened by lack of food, was in good condition; and, speaking English fairly well was able to give a good account of the experiences in the dark prison.

He said that the forty-seven men who were rescued alive Saturday were all at work in the headings and in entries 9 to 12 off No. 3 main entry when a roar like the sound of distant thunder was heard, accompanied by a sharp blast of air which extinguished the carbide lamps and left the men in total darkness. This was followed almost immediately by the d[r]eadful fumes known as after-damp which was positive evidence to all experienced miners that an explosion had occurred. These men started at once to call their comrades from adjoining entries, which are driven off the left of the main No. 3 entry at distances of about sixty feet. The men finding they could not proceed farther than No. 10 entry before they encountered the gas fumes, which are sure to cause death in a very short time, proceeded at once to barracade [sic] themselves in No. 10 entry by building brattices to keep out the dreadful fumes. These brattices were made as nearly air-tight as possible by piling up slate and cracks stuffed by use of coats, shirts, and even some of the men used their pants, these articles of clothing being packed around pieces of slate and other debris which was near at hand. This served to keep the foul air out until the rescue party reached the men ninety-eight hours after they were entombed. The cavern in which these forty-two men were thus imprisoned was about ten feet wide and probably three hundred feet in length. The pure air contained in this space was the only supply of pure air they could obtain and must necessarily last until the rescue party could arrive, if they should be rescued alive.

Some water which was in a swag in the floor of the entry served to quench the thirst of the men and they were enabled to exist until the rescue was effected. They could not sleep on account of the cold and the pangs of hunger were terrible, after two or three days had passed.

The bark was pealed off the posts and the men ate the inside of this and, also some of the men took their knives and cut out pieces of the leather of their shoes and endeavored to eat it.

The rescue party was directed to the entry where the men were barracaded [sic] by the finding of a note, which Antonio Abbate had left in the No. 3 main entry while on his perilous trip up the entry in the hopes of finding foot. He was overcome by the fumes however, before he could return to his companions, but was rescued in time to save his life.

The note was left in the main entry by Abbate about 4:30 Friday afternoon and was found by the rescue party about 10:30 Saturday morning.

Among the forty-two men who were rescued Saturday morning was John Fitzpatrick and son Lester both of whom are well known in Hinton.

In company with Antonio Abbate were Carlo Maricanio and John Pleska both of whom were also numbered among the Italians, who were entombed in No. 10. The above mentioned Italians together with several others of their nationality were in Hinton today, to be present at the burial of some of their fellow-workers which took place in the Catholic Cemetery. The returned on No. Thirteen to Layland.

Almost continual prayer was engaged in by the imprisoned men during their long vigil and several familiar hymns were sung by the Americans. Americans and foreigners alike had little hope of a rescue and all are seemingly very grateful for their deliverence [sic].


West Virginia Archives and History