March 18, 1905: Thirteen Miners Killed in a Massive Explosion at Red Ash
On March 18, 1905, a freak incident led to a mine disaster at Red Ash in Fayette County. Thirteen men were under ground when a mine car ran over some explosives, igniting coal dust. The massive explosion killed all 13 miners. The next day, members of a rescue party were carelessly carrying open-flame lights.
Either burning timbers or the open lights set off another explosion, which killed all 11 members of the rescue party. It took 10 days to recover the bodies of all 24 men who’d perished in the two explosions.
The event occurred five years to the month after another disaster at Red Ash. In March 1900, a methane explosion had taken the lives of 46 men. In that incident, a machine operator had left a ventilating trap door open, allowing methane to gather. Open flames on the miners’ hats likely ignited the methane and set off several kegs of blasting powder.
After the explosions in 1905, Red Ash soon disappeared from the map as a town. Today, it’s one of many ghost towns that whitewater rafters pass while riding the rapids down the New River.