Skip to content
Willow Creek Mine Explosion and Fire
July 31, 2000

Willow Creek Mine - (MSHA ID 42-02113)
About 10 minutes before midnight, a fall of roof in the mined out area behind the shield roof supports on the mine's longwall face occurred. When this occurred, naturally occurring hydrocarbons on the mine floor were ignited. The crew was in the process of extinguishing the flames when an explosion occurred.

The mine was evacuated: however, not everyone was immediately accounted for. Mine rescue personnel were alerted and quickly began to arrive. Two teams were in place and ready to go underground when three miners, the last to come outside, arrived on the surface at about 1:45 a.m. The rescue team obtained information from these men and proceeded underground at about 2:00 a.m. The team rescued two injured miners and recovered the bodies of two miners killed in the blast. All were found in or near the headgate area of the longwall working section. The team reported that they observed smoke but no fire and determined that ventilation across the longwall face was diminished as a result of the blast. They exited the mine, all miners now accounted for, arriving on the surface at about 4:00 a.m.

The mine's atmospheric monitoring system, which remained operational, indicated that carbon monoxide concentrations peaked after the blast, then declined, then began to climb again after the rescue was complete. Mine personnel decided to seal the mine in order to contain the fire. This was accomplished in a few hours. The mine remains sealed.

Eight injured miners were hospitalized; however, two miners were treated and released. Our latest information from mine personnel is that one miner remains in critical condition and the other miners are in stable condition.

MSHA's accident investigation team, headed up by Ray McKinney, District Manager from Norton, Virginia, is on site to investigate this accident.

MSHA's Technical Support mine gas analysis personnel are on site with gas analysis equipment. Samples from the sealed mine are being collected and analyzed to evaluate conditions underground.