Palmer, TN Coal Mine Explosion, Dec 1981


Palmer, Tenn. (UPI) -- A mineshaft explosion killed 13 coal miners nearly a quarter of a mile deep in a remote Tennessee mountainside Tuesday, bringing to 25 the death toll in six days of Appalachian mine disasters.
William B. Allison, president of Tennessee Consolidated Coal Co., announced about 10 p.m. EST, nine hours after an explosion ripped through a shaft of its No. 21 mine, that rescue teams had reached the miners and "there were no survivors."
Mine disasters in West Virginia and Kentucky had already killed 12 men since last Thursday.
Company officials broke the news to the miners' sobbing wives and children, who had gathered in a lunchroom of the mine office to await the dreaded announcement.
"There were 13 miners working in the area," Allison said. "Recovery operations were started immediately. All 13 miners were located and there were no survivors."
"An investigation will be conducted immediately to determine the cause of the explosion, and as this information is obtained we will release joint statements. Names are being withheld until the next of kin can be notified."
The 13 men were buried 1,200 feet deep in the mineshaft, about 30 miles northwest of Chattanooga, authorities said. Rescue teams with oxygen respirators worked half-hour shifts in bitterly cold weather to reach them.
Roy McCarter, deputy commissioner of the state Labor Department, said in Nashville the men were trapped in an area about 1,200 feet from the mouth of the shaft, which extends horizontally through a mountainside. The rescue teams, he said, were digging through the rubble in the shaft rather than trying to bore a new tunnel. There was no indication, he said, of how extensive the collapse was.

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