MOUNT HOPE — "I just want to begin by remembering them all," an emotional Jack Spadaro said at the outset
of his remarks Friday at the 55th anniversary of the New River Company Siltix Mine explosion.
After that, he solemnly read aloud the names of the seven miners who perished on July 23, 1966:
- "Robert Daniels"
- "Luther Bowyer"
- "James McGuire"
- "Howard Morris"
- "Hubert Dowdy"
- "Dallas Ayers"
- "Clarence Cummings."
During a special ceremony Friday, a highway marker recognizing the disaster was unveiled.
"I was here on that day in 1966. I will always remember the faces of their wives and children, friends,
brothers and sisters, and mothers and fathers while we waited at the entrance to the mine all those years
ago," said Spadaro, a Mount Hope native who retired in 2004 as director of the National Mine Health and
Safety Academy and has stayed active as a mine safety and health and environmental specialist in the
subsequent years. "This was my home town.
"These were men who made their living in the mine that ran underneath our town, and they had family, friends
and relatives who were my neighbors."
As a 17-year-old, Spadaro said he had just begun working as a trainee with the U.S. Bureau of Mines when the
disaster occurred. "The memories of that day, July 23, 1966, have remained with me these past 55 years, and
have driven me to do the work that I realized that day should be done."
In an investigation, the blast was found to be caused by the ignition of built-up methane gas. The seven
miners died, and two others were injured while 39 others working in the mine at the time escaped unharmed.
"The methane explosion that caused this tragedy could have been prevented if the company had provided
sufficient flame safety lamps to miners and had ensured that adequate ventilation was supplied to the
section of the mine where a continuous miner and shuttle car were being moved," said Spadaro.
Spadaro, whose career work has included helping investigate the Buffalo Creek mining disaster in West
Virginia and the Martin County sludge spill in Kentucky, said the Siltix Mine explosion and the later
Farmington Mine explosion in 1968, during which 78 miners lost their lives, helped prompt the U.S. Congress
to enact the first comprehensive mine health and safety law in the United States — the Mine Health and
Safety Act of 1969.
The act led to better regulations and enforcement by mine health and safety inspectors, Spadaro said, and
"substantially reduced" the number of mine fatalities and injuries. "However, the hazards of mining and the
risk miners take every day they go into a mine or associated processing plants are still with us, and we
must continue to have an active and aggressive inspection program to ensure the health and safety of
The lessons learned from the Siltix disaster were incorporated into federal law and regulations, Spadaro
said. That included focus on minimum standards for ventilation of work places, more accurate equipment for
measuring levels of methane and other gases, and stringent enforcement standards regarding inspections.
"Had these standards been in effect on July 23, 1966, these men would have lived to enjoy their families and
live productive lives," Spadaro said. "I know that all of you here today are still grieving. The wives,
children, brothers, sisters and now grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those men will continue to love
them and to honor their memory. We can't ever forget them. I want to thank all of you and my dear friend,
Brenda Troitino, and the Mount Hope Heritage and Hope organization for keeping their memory alive."
"With this unveiling, we wish to commemorate and honor all those who lost their life in this tragic event,"
said Thomas Brown, of Mount Hope Heritage and Hope. "It's with great pride that we honor these men and their
families that have been and continue to be affected, and apologize for the 55 years that it took for this
recognition to occur."
Family members and those who knew the perished miners shared their recollections at Friday's well-attended
event, and several dignitaries delivered remarks.
The ceremony was sponsored by Mount Hope Heritage and Hope and the National Coal Heritage Area Authority,
with cooperation from the City of Mount Hope, West Virginia Archives and History and the West Virginia
Division of Highways.