MOUNT HOPE, WV (WOAY) – Saturday, June 23, 1966 started out as just another day for the coal miners of the New River Company Siltix Mine and all of their families sending them off to work. But by as early as 8:45 a.m., the day turned into a tragedy.
“It sounded like a very big slate fall in there where we’re at, and we could hear a belt running over there, and it took the air away,” said Ross Painter, a former coal miner involved in the Siltix Mine disaster.
Due to the ignition of methane, an explosion took place in the mine killing a total of seven men and injuring two, 39 other miners managed to escape the explosion. But, for the many loved ones of the men who couldn’t escape, they remember the day quite clearly.
“My father was Luke Bowyer, he was the first miner that was found that was killed. And it was my brother’s 15th birthday and my mom was making a cake, and I remember her just calling us all together and telling us there had been a mine explosion,” daughter of a fallen miner, Debbie Voloski, says.
Finally, decades later, a permanent roadside marker was unveiled at the portal of the Siltix mine on the 55th anniversary, and a ceremony was held to commemorate the dark day and to honor those that had never made it home to their families after the disaster.
“Today we are so occupied with different things in life and we forget the things that really stand out, and that was the men who were willing to take the risk to make a life of it,” says the son of a fallen miner, Kenneth Luther Bowyer.
Although mining tragedies have decreased since 1966, it is still a concern for families, friends, loved ones, and those risking their lives going underground every day. The marker dedicated here will be a permanent reminder of that and will forever honor those men who died on that day in 1966.