21 November 2008

Remembering Farmington

(Photo from W.Va. Division of Culture & History)

It was 40 years ago this week that 78 men descended into the sprawling No. 9 mine in Farmington, W.Va., never to return to the surface.

A massive, early morning explosion left them dead or trapped below. Additional explosions and fires ultimately thwarted rescue attempts, and what remained of the mine was sealed 10 days later.

(By 1978, the mine had been unsealed and 59 bodies recovered before it was again closed off. The state Division of Culture and History has a roster of the dead.)

The Charleston Gazette marks the anniversary by talking to survivors of those killed, including Gov. Joe Manchin. The 1968 disaster had triggered a push for mine safety measures, and Manchin often invoked the loss of his Uncle John there when he renewed that drive following this decade's mine fatalities at Sago and Aracoma.

The Gazette also offers video of some of the interviews, an image of its front-page coverage of the disaster, and the 1990 report from a federal probe of Farmington with an analysis.

National Public Radio and state Public Broadcasting also marked the anniversary -- and highlights possible evidence of what cause the disaster, considered a mystery to date:
(S)everal months after the explosion, a federal investigator discovered one possible explanation — a safety alarm on a ventilation fan had been deliberately disabled... That memo — and sworn testimony taken after the disaster — suggest that no one had to die on Nov. 20, 1968. Had this alarm been working, the men most likely would have been evacuated before the explosion.
That coverage includes both audio and video.

The Times-West Virginian of Fairmont was on hand for this year's memorial outside the disaster site, attended by Manchin and others.

The governor also spoke to MetroNews about the disaster and its effect on him and his family.

1 comment:

MountainLaurel said...

THank you for compiling this list. It's important that we never forget the importance of mining safety.