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.