Excerpt from No.9: The 1969 Farmington Mine Disaster
November 20, 1979
Inside the Consolidation Coal No.9 Mine
Without warning, at about 5:30 a.m., the power went out in 7South on the mine’s far southwest side. The youngest member of the crew, 24-year-old Paul Henderson Jr., was by himself near the dump, where coal was loaded into rail cars. Charles Crim, a masonry man, was laying cement blocks, making a permanent stopping in a crosscut. Section foreman George Wilson and five other men were at the working face. Lewis Lake was on the mining machine, cutting coal. Ralph Starkey was operating the loading machine, dumping coal into the shuttle car, which was manned by Gary Martin. Nezer Vandergrift Jr. was sitting in another shuttle car.
Not far away, Bud Hillberry, who had been mortaring cement block stop- pings, had stopped to talk to Alva Davis who was eating in the dinner hole. “Say, Bud, where are you going to go hunting on Monday?” Davis asked.17
There was no time to answer before the mine began to tremble, and the power went out. Davis felt the whoosh of the blast of air and watched as cement blocks blew past the dinner hole. His instincts kicked in, and he began gathering the self-rescuers.
The men at the working face barely had time to think before they realized they were in trouble. “What’s wrong with the power?” Lewis Lake yelled from the continuous miner.
It might be a bad cable, he thought as he climbed down from the miner to check. He had taken only two or three steps before the force of the ex- plosion swept over him. Full of dust and debris, the gust sounded like a strong wind that carries a fierce storm through the mountains. Blinded, Lake dropped to his stomach to find oxygen. But George Wilson yelled at him. “Lewis, get up out of there and let’s get out of here because this is something we’ve never been in before.”