Locomotive Boiler Explosion at McDunn

Beckley Post-Herald
December 29, 1934

Federal Men Investigate Cause of Fayette Blast

Scanty Supply of Water in Boiler Indicated by Red Hot Crown Sheet; Three Government Inspectors Arrive at Scene of Wreck

POWELLTON, Dec. 28. - (AP) - The federal government today opened its inquiry into the cause of an explosion of the boiler of the work train of the Elkhorn-Piney Coal company that killed 16 miners and injured 42 others.

Three inspectors for the Bureau of Locomotives of the Interstate Commerce Commission went to McDunn, near Powellton, to view the wreckage of the engine and coaches, but declined any comment on the inquiry other than to say that it will probably not be completed until next week.

They are J. M. Hall, of Washington, assistant chief inspector of the bureau; W. A. McKown and L. D. Allison, both of Columbus, O.

Clarence L. Jarrett, state labor commissioner, expressed the opinion today that lack of water in the locomotive boiler caused it to explode yesterday.

"There is no question about the cause," he said after an investigation of the blast that hurled the boiler into a wooden coach of the work train which was carrying nearly 350 miners to work.

Little Water In Boiler

"The water was low in the boiler; just why, nobody has been able to determine. The crown sheet was red hot for half an hour after the explosion."

Jarrett said Engineer William Blankenship, 52, one of the 16 men killed, was "known as a high- water man," that Blankenship ordinarily kept a high level of water in the boiler. Jarrett also said the boiler had been inspected regularly and "there is no evidence of negligence there."

An investigation also is being made by Thomas E. Lightfoot, of Pittsburgh, engineer in charge of accident prevention for the Koppers Coal company, owner of the Elkhorn-Piney company.

"All I can do is to offer to help these bereaved people," Lightfoot said.

With Lightfoot came three other officials from the Pittsburgh offices of the Koppers company, P. C. Thomas, vice president of the company; S. S. Follansbee, chief engineer and G. O. Cox, division superintendent.

No Inquest Necessary

Prosecuting Attorney H. E. Dillon, jr., of Fayette county, who also investigated the blast, said he did not believe an inquest would be necessary.

C. R. Stahl, division superintendent of the Koppers Coal and Transportation company, said the No. 5 mine of the Elkhorn-Piney company to which the miners were being taken when the explosion occurred, will remain closed this week.


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