New Lawsuit Aims to Settle Mystery of the Farmington Mine Disaster

Nov 20, 2014

Credit WV Division of Culture and History

Forty-six years ago today, 78 coal miners died in the Farmington Mine disaster in Marion County. Sometimes referred to as the Mannington Mine disaster, the tragedy was one of the instrumental forces that led congress to pass the 1969 Federal Mine Safety Law.

A new civil complaint was filed two weeks ago, citing new new evidence that reveals one of the mine operators, Alex Kovarbasich, disabled an alarm system for one of the mine fans before the Nov. 20th explosion. If it had been working appropriately, the alarm should have sent a signal to shut down the power in the mine whenever the fan wasn't working. The 99 mine workers would then have been evacuated. Instead, 78 men died, and the mine was sealed after 10 days after the explosion.

The new lawsuit also accuses Consolidation Coal Company of intentionally concealing evidence about the disabled fan alarm system.

One of the widows who fought for justice against the coal company was Sarah Kasnoski, of Barrickville, West Virginia. She has since passed away, but in an archived interview that was originally recorded by Michael Kline in 1992, Mrs. Kasnoski recalled the last day she spent with her husband, who died in the Farmington Mine explosion on that fateful day November 20th, 1968.

Music in this story is by the late Hazel Dickens, "The Mannington Mine", from her album Harlan County, USA, Songs of the Coal Miner's Struggle

This story was produced by Michael Kline and originally aired on NPR's All Things Considered in November, 1992. Now, 46 years after the Farmington Mine disaster, Sarah Kasnoski has passed away. The plantiffs for the new lawsuit are the surviving relatives of the 78 miners who died, and the defendants are Consolidation Coal and the estate of Alex Kovarbasich. The suit is asking for $110,000 for each of the men who lost their lives down in the No 9 Mine.