Whitesburg KY

Marker honoring miners who died in Scotia blasts get OK from state agency

The Kentucky Historical Society has given its approval for a historical marker in honor of those who died in the Scotia mine disaster in 1976.

Respiratory Clinics of Eastern Kentucky and its parent company, Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation of Whitesburg, submitted the application and is sponsoring the historical marker.

Mike Caudill, chief executive officer of MCHC, said a dedication ceremony will be held near the old Scotia mine site off of Highway 119 at Ovenfork on March 9, which is the 34th anniversary of the first explosion in which 15 men died at the 2 Southeast Main area of the Scotia Mine.

The first explosion is thought to have originated when an electric spark from a locomotive, powered by batteries, caused methane to ignite in the mine. All five of the mine entries were affected by the explosion.

Two days later on March 11, 1976, 11 men died from a second explosion at the mine.

The first side of the marker will say: “On March 9, 1976 methane gas explosions took the lives of 26 coal miners and federal mine inspectors in the Scotia Coal Mines located near here. The bodies of the 11 men killed in the second explosion were never recovered. The Scotia Mine disaster is one of the worst mine disasters in U.S. history.”

The second side of the marker will say: “In honor of those that lost their lives: R.M. Sammons, T.R. Scott, L. Peavy, D. Gibbs, I.G. Sparkman, K.B. Kiser, E.S. Combs, J.W. Sturgill, C. Polly, E. Galloway, K. Turner, R. Griffith, L.D. McKnight, G. Barker, D. Boggs, J. Williams, D. Widner, J. Sturgill, V. Coots, W.D. Turner, M. Sturgill, R. McKnight, D. Creech, G. Tussey, J. Hackworth and J.B. Holbrook.”

The marker, which will be the 11th to be placed in Letcher County, will also include the information that the sign was donated by the MCHC Respiratory Clinics of Eastern Kentucky.

“It’s something that needs to be remembered in a respectful way and needs to not be forgotten,” said Mike Caudill. “It’s a tragedy that affected the lives of so many people.”

Caudill said he and his staff are looking for photographs and information about those killed in the two mine disasters. Also, Caudill would like family members of those killed to call MCHC so they can be formally invited to the dedication ceremony.

Anyone with information is asked to call Kayla Bentley at 633-4871.

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