Morgantown, WV (near) Coal Mine Fire, Jan 1943
12 TRAPPED BY MINE FIRE; FEARED DEAD.
NIGHT FOREMAN AT NORTHERN WEST VIRGINIA WORKING LOSES LIFE TRYING TO SAVE OTHERS.
65 PURSGLOVE MINERS ESCAPE BLAST AND BLAZE.
RESCUE CREWS HAMPERED BY EXTREME HEAT, DENSE SMOKE.
Morgantown, Jan. 8. -- (AP) -- Doubt that any of 12 men trapped by an underground mine fire could be alive was expressed tonight by a U.S. Bureau of Mines official after a visit to No. 15 mine of the Pursglove Mining Company.
Harry McNary, senior engineer for the bureau's mineral resources division, made the statement after a partial inspection of thw rokings where a fire starting in a mine motor caught 78 members of the night shift underground.
The body of one miner already had been recovered, 65 were known to be safe and late tonight company officials said they had determined definitely that 12 men were trapped behind the wall of fire and dense smoke.
The flames still raged during the night and rescue crews could make but slow progress because of the heat.
An act of heroism cost the life of GUY QUINN, 38-year-old night-foreman, who escaped after the fire but returned to open two ventilating doors in an effort to save his trapped comrades.
He died of suffocation and his body was brought out shortly after noon. He had managed to open one door but was overcome while working on the other.
Alex Bryce, state mine inspector, said there was a bare possibility that the 12 missing men could have worked toward the No. 13 heading and passed through a trap door to fresh air.
The official list of missing at No. 15, short distance from No. 2 mine where 20 men died in an explosion last July, was:
RENE LEROY, section boss.
EARLY McCUBE, cutter.
RALPH RIFFLE, loading machine operator.
RALPH TRESLER, face man.
MERLE BENHART, motorman.
JAMES CARTER, brakeman.
PAUL POZEGA, trackman.
JOHN LAGKA, timberman.
CHARLES HART, shot fire.
ROBERT KISER, greaser.
FRANK ROBINETTE, main line motorman whose motor started the disastrous blaze.
General Manager Joseph H. Stewart said that rescue crews, held back by heat, had not reached the fire but might do so at any time. On the other hand he added, it might be tomorrow before the men could get to the exact spot, almost three miles from the mine mouth.
Crews were both in front of the blaze and behind it, battling through the total blackness of billows of smoke, while outside there stood the usual group of wives, mothers and children who refused to give up hope until some definite word came out.
Pursglove No. 15 is about seven miles from Morgantown and there were crowds of onlookers throughout the day. All they saw, however, were the tired crews coming out and new ones going in while the overworked ventilating system poured out clouds of smoke.
State and county officers were on hand to preserve order.
It was Ray Lee, a fire boss, who related the story of QUINN'S heroism.
Lee said he and a companion were trudging toward the entry when they met QUINN hurrying in the opposite direction toward the fire.
"He told us to wait, that he was going back to see if anybody had been caught by the fire," Lee said.
They did as instructed. Lee continued, and presently two more miners came along headed toward the outside. They told of having seen QUINN and he "seemed pretty exhausted."
Lee said he and his friend worked their way back toward the flames in search of QUINN. They found where he had opened one ventilating door and was engaged in opening another when apparently he had been overcome with smoke.
QUINN'S body was brought out during the noon hour. There were no marks on it and officials said it was obvious he had died of suffocation. QUINN is survived by his widow, a daughter, 18 and a son, 11.
Charleston Gazette West Virginia 1943-01-09