Whitwell Coal Miners Remember 1981 Tragedy
The nation is slowly moving away from coal as a source of fuel.
And soon, the stories of coal miners and the dangerous work they did will fade into the past—remembered mainly in history books and legends.
A Marion county coal mine was the scene of a deadly explosion 34 years ago.
And a museum in Whitwell has been created to keep those memories alive.
What you’re looking at is News 12 video from December 8th 1981 at mine number 21 in Whitwell mountain. it was the night a huge explosions rocke
What you’re looking at is News 12 video from December 8th 1981 at mine number 21 in Whitwell mountain. it was the night a huge explosions rocked the mountain and 13 miners lost their lives.
Jewell Shadrick was a miner form 30 years. He’s now one of the volunteers who run the Whitwell Coal Miners Museum.
He remembers that cold night in 1981, and says it happened when the crew drilled into a pocket of methane.
JEWELL SHADRICK, RETIRED COAL MINER “… course the methane got on fire, and like I say, it stays at the top of the roof of the mine..there’s nothing on the bottom..which actually burned, but, you know it did suffocate the 13 people.”
Those miners were probably already dead when the rest of the story unfolded.
JEWELL SHADRICK “…they had a stamer back there that crushes up the coal and puts coal on the belt line..and it makes dust and that’s when the explosion happened.”
Emergency rescue teams equipped with air tanks and masks crawled through a shaft that was only 36 inches wide in some places-to no avail.
It was a shock to the little community–most people knew all 13 men.
Shadrick says his cousin, J.T. Shadrick, also a retired miner, had lots of momentos of the Whitfield mine. He didn’t want them to be tossed into the trash when he died, so now they’re here at the museum.
Shadrick says there’s part of the coal miners story that seldom gets told.
JEWELL SHADRICK “Well, it was a way of life, we didn’t know any better. And it paid well ..paid real good, paid good money, and had good benefits…we had everything in the world given to us you know, working at the mines…and it was a joy..to get up in the morning and go to work..you enjoyed it ..and everybody was a family.”
The Coal Miner Museum is open Monday through Friday on Main Street in Whitwell.