Pursglove No. 2 Mine Explosion

Morgantown Post
July 10, 1942

Bodies of 20 Blast Victims Are Being Taken From Mine

Seek Cause Of Explosion In Pursglove 2

Federal and State Inspectors On Scene to Conduct Investigation

Bodies of 20 men killed in an explosion at the Pursglove No. 2 mine between 4:30 and 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon were being removed from the mine early this afternoon.

The blast occurred less than two months after an explosion at the nearby Christopher No. 3 mine in which 56 men were killed on May 12. Generally regarded as one of the safest mines in the State, the Pursglove mine last year was awarded a certificate for its good safety record after 3 million tons of coal had been produced without a fatal accident.

Six crews were working in the mine mine at the time of the blast, but only the crews headed by Charles Andy and Albert McDonald were killed. All the other men, numbering more than 50, escaped.

The explosion came just after the afternoon shift had gone into the mine to work. A foreman who had made the fire boss run between the time the day shift stopped and the afternoon shift started to work was said to have been writing his report at the time of the blast.

No Previous Explosion

L. S. McGee, inspector at large in Central West Virginia, said that the Pursglove No. 3 mine was one of the few large mines in the region that have had no explosions in the past few years. Pete McLindon, Fairmont, inspector-at-large in the northern division of the State, said there had been only a slight fire following the blast, with one post being burned.

A complete investigation was deferred pending the arrival of N. P. Rinehart, chief of the State Mines Department. He was expected to arrive here this afternoon. In the meantime, no officials statements were made by the Federal or State mine inspectors here for the investigation, and the cause of the blast has not been revealed.

Only this week a coroner's jury reported its inability to define the cause of the accident at the Christopher mine.

Names of Victims

Victims of yesterday's explosion were:

Charles Andy, 58, of 573 Brockway avenue, Morgantown, four dependents.

Gasper Boken, 29 Guston Run, Pursglove, two dependents.

Mike Borbus, 53, of 58 Wade street, Morgantown, five dependents.

Richard Carr, 28, 720 Beechurst avenue, Morgantown, three dependants.

Andy Malish, 52, Davis Hollow, Pursglove, four dependents.

Edward Wilson, 41, Osage, three dependents.

Russell Saffron, 22, Pursglove, two dependents.

J. P. Dusenberry, 45, Sabraton, six dependents.

R. H. Barnett, 37, Cassville, six dependents.

Vernon Hilling, 27, Route 6, Morgantown, four dependents.

Albert McDonald, 22, Route 6, Morgantown, eight dependents.

Leslie Stanton, 32, Pursglove, six dependents.

John Lewis, 42, Pursglove, seven dependents.

Charles Lawson, 45, Pursglove, one dependent.

Glenn Taylor, 26, Sabraton, two dependents.

Wesley Rickman, 27, Maidsville, four dependents.

Ernest Lambert, 29, Pursglove, five dependents.

James Ponceroff, 25, Jere, seven dependents.

John Wilson, 34, Pursglove, three dependents.

Joe Olivario, 49, Star City, two dependents.

Mine Inspectors on Job

Federal mine inspectors who are here to make an investigation are F. E. Griffith, Pittsburgh; A. J. Nairn, J. T. Federoff, and Victor Null, Waynesburg, Don Kingsley, Pittsburg; Dan Walker, Fairmont, and A. J. Bloom, Morgantown.

State mine inspectors investigating the blast include, besides Mr. McGee and Mr. McLindon, F. L. Griffith, Clarksburg; C. L. Barnett, Philippi; C. R. Robinson, Elkins; P. J. McGraw, Fairmont; M. G. Dobie, Fairmont; Alex Bryan, Morgantown; Jim Sharkey, Triadelphia; G. R. Waddall, Wellsburg; William Moore, Morgantown;and Joe Berier, Charleston.

Company Statement

The following statement was issued this morning by Samuel Pursglove, 3rd, director of personnel and safety for the Pursglove Coal Mining Company:

"All bodies of the explosion victims will be taken to the Davidson Brothers Funeral Home in Morgantown, to be identified and claimed by the respective surviving families, and for them to designate at that time the undertaker who they wish to take charge of that body.

"We have been advised that Compensation Commissioner C. L. Heaberlin will visit the mine as he did at the time of the Christpher catastrophe. Two field men from the Workman's Compensation Fund and two field representatives of the Social Security Board will be located in the Pursglove Coal Mining Company general office at Pursglove, beginning Monday, July 13, and will continue in that office helping and assisting the widows and dependents of the explosion victims until all claims are completed.

"Also, all insurance claims will be completed in the Pursglove offices at the same time. All dependents are requested to call in person at the office of the Pursglove Coal Mining Company beginning Monday, July 13, and any time thereafter, to file their claims."

Plans are being made to set up a disaster relief fund similar to that which was formed following the Osage mine tragedy.

Serve on Rescue Teams

The following rescue teams participated in clearing the mine and bringing out the bodies of the victims:

Kelley Creek - Standley Suzak, Fred Reel, Steve Douglas, Louis Chico, Joe Vecchio, and Walter Walensa.

State 13 - Victor Wetzell, Russ King, Gilbert Warren, Lawrence Warren, Tony Prosnic, and Dallas Rowe.

Elm Grove - Frank Saltez, W. Cooper, H. Littebell, H. Herbert, J. Banasik, and Joe Zednick.

Benwood - Stanley Pazak, Dave Hall, William Tyler, Robert Colson, Robert Twiddley, and Frank Pazak.

Reasons given for the long delay in bringing the bodies out was that the ceiling was so low making it difficult to remove them, and because all of the victims were to be brought out at the same time.

Red Cross Sets Up Tents

Hundreds of relatives and curious onlookers waited through the night and all morning for the bodies to be removed from the mine. The Red Cross had tents set up, and several ambulances were on hand to bring the bodies to Morgantown.

State Troopers and deputy sheriffs assisted in handling the traffic.

Okey H. Hall, Fairmont, and J. F. Rodeheaver, Morgantown claims inspectors for the State Compensation Commission, this morning visited the scene of the tragedy, G. W. Yeager, Federal explosives investigator from Philippi, also was present.

Many miners and mine officials from this part of the State travelled to Pursglove to offer their services.

Survivor Tells Story

Nick Pechinko, 30, of Star City, a mechanic working about a mile away at the time of the explosion, said it was some time before he and the crew he was working with realized what had happened. He explained:

"I felt some pressure on my ears but didn't hear anything, and I though it was someone close blasting. Then the power went off. We waited around maybe half an hour, and our section boss, Farrell Groves, said he was going to investigate. When he came back he said everyone was to leave their tools and 'come with me'. We went to the place where we usually sit around to eat our dinner. As soon as we got there Farrell said, 'Now dont anybody get excited' - and right away I knew something was wrong. Then he told us it looked like there had been an explosion and that we were to get out of there."


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