Official Website of the U.S. Marine Raider Association & Foundation

Select Page

Obituaries > FOWLER, WILLIAM K.

CLARKSBURG, W. Va. (AP) Weary rescue crews, laboring deep inside a northern West Virginia coal mine, recovered bodies Friday of all 22 victims of Thursday night’s [April 25, 1963] gas-triggered explosion.

The last man was found in the same section where 11 other miners had been discovered earlier in the day in the Compass No. 2 mine of Clinchfield Coal Co. at Dola, about 12 miles northwest of here.

Only five of the bodies had been taken out of the mine by late Friday night, but the others were expected to be brought outside by early Saturday.

All 22 men were married. They had 41 children.

Thirty of their fellow workers fled unharmed after the blast.

Clark Roeby, 54, a mechanic, said he was knocked off his feet although he was about a mile away from the blast center.

The explosion came in two or three puffs and the dust started flying,”Robey related. It blew me down, even though I was pretty close to a mile away.”

Robey and three other miners raced for the cage”the elevator by which the men are hauled up and down the vertical shaft.

You could hear rocks hitting the side of the cage where the air was blowing them up the shaft,”he said.

About 9 a.m. Friday the first bodies were found. The two victims were in a main passageway about 1½ miles from the foot of the mine shaft.

Some 30 minutes later a third body was located further down the corridor.

The sheeted bodies of the first victims were brought to the face on a mine car. They were identified as William Bollough, 50, Clarksburg, William Fowler, 39, Flemington W. Va., and Raymond Swiger, 49, Wallace W. Va. Fowler left four children; Swiger, two.

Officials said they believe the men suffocated. There was no evidence of fire.

Rescue crews wearing gas masks then came upon 11 more bodies in rapid succession.

Hope that any of the men survived began to fade in the early morning hours.