May 6, 1968: Incident at Hominy Falls Traps 25 Miners for Days
On May 6, 1968, a continuous miner machine cut into an unmapped coal mine at Hominy Falls in Nicholas County. The incident unleashed a torrent of water from the old abandoned mine into the Gauley Coal & Coke Saxsewell No. 8 mine. Most miners made it out unharmed, but 25 were cut off from the entrance. The next 10 days were filled with tension and, often, despair.
The 25 men were in two groups: the 15 located closest to the surface kept in contact with rescuers and were found alive after six days. The other 10 were deeper in the mine and presumed dead. The rescuers, though, forged on, kept pumping out water, and inched closer to the trapped men. Finally, one rescuer saw a fresh footprint and called to his fellow searchers. On May 16—10 days after the disaster—the rescue team discovered that four of the miners had drowned tragically during the original accident. But, amazingly, six had survived under ground for a week and a half, bringing the total number of survivors to 21. Their recovery became known as the “Miracle of Hominy Falls.”