Hurricane Creek Mine Disaster

Historical Marker #2359 in Leslie County remembers the Finley Mine disaster at Hurricane Creek in December 1970. Located four miles east of Hyden, Kentucky, the mine loaded an average of 1,500 tons of coal per day.

Exactly one year prior to the explosion at Hurricane Creek, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act had been signed into law. More stringent and comprehensive than any previous Federal coal mining safety legislation, the new law was intent on preventing accidents.

A series of state and federal inspections throughout 1970 revealed several potentially dangerous conditions inside the Finley Mine, and additional state and federal safety recommendations made in November were indifferently complied with or ignored all together.

A blast on the morning of December 30, 1970, ignited swirling coal dust and caused the explosion that rocked every corner of the mine. In the end, thirty-eight of the thirty-nine men underground at the time died. The lone survivor, conveyor belt operator A.T. Collins, was blown some sixty feet out of the mine and into the road. He spent the next two weeks in the hospital recovering from his injuries.

Following the recovery of the thirty-eight miners, an investigation revealed a "nearly absolute failure" to enforce the new safety laws. Traces of dynamite and Primacord, both banned by the new law, were found inside the mine. Other potentially dangerous conditions uncovered at multiple inspections remained unsolved, and safety recommendations could have potentially prevented the blast from occurring.

Images

Miner Fusing Dynamite

Miner Fusing Dynamite

Dynamite, a substance found in the Hurricane Creek mine during the post-blast investigation, was banned by the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act. The investigation revealed the mine was an "absolute failure" enforcing the new safety laws. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. View File Details Page

Coal Miners

Coal Miners

Coal mining is among one of the world's most dangerous occupations. The Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act was passed a year prior to the Hurricane Creek disaster in hopes of preventing such tragedies. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Coal Mining

Coal Mining

A coal miner shovels coal deep inside the earth. The Hurricane Creek mine disaster occurred when swirling coal dust ignited inside a mine like the one pictured. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Leslie County Courthouse

Leslie County Courthouse

The Hurricane Creek mining disaster was a dark day in Leslie County history. Thirty-eight men were killed and one severely injured. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

McKenzie Martin, “Hurricane Creek Mine Disaster,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed June 22, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/559.

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