Dedicated to the Memory of Bernard & Willard
and 7 others who lost their lives that tragic day - March 23, 1959
NINE KILLED IN MINE EXPLOSION.
GAS CAUSES ACCIDENT AT ROBBINS.
ALL MINERS INSIDE SHAFT WERE KILLED; CO-OWNER SURVIVES.
Robbins, Tenn. (AP) -- A gas explosion ripped the interior of a small coal
mine near here Monday, killing all nine men in the shaft.
The blast occurred at 8:30 a.m., EST, about a half hour after the men entered the mine.
It took rescue workers five hours to recover all the bodies, which were badly burned and torn. The bodies were found about 4,000 feet from the mine entrance.
The victims, all of whom were said to be related either by blood or marriage, were:
BURT PHILLIPS, 52, and his two sons, HUBERT, 30, and ARZO, 17; OSCAR WEST, 47; BERNARD, 33, and WILLARD YANCEY, 36, brothers; JOHN L. PIKE, 48; ELMER PHILLIPS, 38, and ED CHITWOOD, 50. All of the men lived in or near Oneida, the Scott County seat 18 miles north of here.
BURT PHILLIPS and OSCAR WEST were operators of the mine, described as a family enterprise which normally employed eight or 10 persons.
The mine, in the Cumberland Mountains about eight miles East of here, produced 50 to 60 tons of coal daily. The fuel is distributed by trucks.
Sheriff D. E. Rosser, one of the first to reach the scene, said:
"There is no doubt about gas being the cause of the explosion."
AUDIO ACRES, a veteran miner who assisted in the rescue operations, said the gas pocket apparently collected over the weekend.
"The mine's ventilating system was cut off over the weekend," ACRES said. "This apparently allowed gas to collect."
ACRES and other miners expressed the opinion that a spark from an electric motor touched off the explosion.
Federal and state inspectors who came here from Knoxville, 75 miles to the southeast, withheld comment pending an investigation. They helped supervise rescue operations.
Smoke which filled the shaft and fallen rocks loosed by the explosion slowed recovery of the bodies.
Rescuers said the first four bodies were found face downward as if the men were running toward the mine entrance.
Scores of relatives and friends of the victims milled around the entrance until the bodies were brought out.
The only mine employe who survived the explosion was W. O. WEST, 50, brother of OSCAR WEST, and one of the co-owners.
WEST said he was working at the tipple about 50 yards from the entrance when the blast occurred.
"I heard the explosion and the next thing I knew coat dust came gushing out of the mine and covered me," he said.
WEST hastily organized a rescue party.