FARMINGTON, W.Va. — Wednesday marks 45 years since an explosion at Consolidation Coal’s No. 9 Mine in Marion County claimed the lives of 78 coal miners.
The first powerful blast at the Farmington mine site happened at 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 20, 1968, sending smoke and flames to the surface through two portals, Mods Run and Llewellyn, and leading to several more explosions and fires that limited rescue efforts.
Only 21 miners were able to escape, but the 78 miners who were trapped in the initial explosion all died.
The fires that followed the explosion—one so powerful it could be felt a dozen miles away in Fairmont—burned for more than a week until the mine was sealed off Nov. 30 in an attempt to starve the fires of oxygen.
The mine was unsealed more than 10 months later in September 1969 so the bodies of the victims could be recovered.
That recovery effort continued for almost a decade until the mine was permanently sealed on Nov. 1, 1978, with the remains of 19 miners still missing.
The cause of the Farmington No. 9 Mine Disaster was never determined because of the extensive damage to the mine, but federal and state investigators said contributing factors were inadequate methane testing and ventilation, along with the presence of high levels of methane gas and coal dust.
The disaster led to the passage of the federal Coal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969, which standardized coal mine health and safety practices including, for the first time, setting mandated levels for coal dust in mines.
Hundreds of people attended the annual memorial service for those killed in the Farmington Mine Disaster last Sunday in Marion County. Wreaths were laid at the disaster site.