By Bob Weaver 2015|
The life of a Calhoun family changed 50 years ago.
The 1968 explosion at Consolidation Coal's No. 9 Mine at Farmington took the lives of 78 miners, including the life of Grantsville resident Harold Butt (left) leaving his widow Mary Lou, and children, Rick, George, William and Denise.
The family had moved to Grantsville to operate the Grantsville Hotel restaurant, having lived in Burnsville.
Butt, a World War II veteran and former Mayor of Burnsville. had previously worked at a Sand Fork coal mine before going to Farmington. "He had just turned in his two week notice when he was killed," said son Rick Butt of Mt. Zion.
His wife, Mary Lou, learned that she was likely a widow going to the Grantsville post office, when a friend told her about the disaster.
"His death had a devastating effect on our family," said his son, who has collected clippings, stories, books and investigative studies of the disaster.
Son Rick Butt recalls event looking
at memorabilia of father's death
Son George Butt, in a written account, remembers his dad bringing home a bag of M and M's every night.
A number of powerful blasts sent smoke and flames to the surface through two portals, holding back rescue efforts. Twenty-one miners escaped.
The mine was sealed more than 10 months so the bodies of the victims could be recovered.
The recovery effort continued for almost a decade until the mine was permanently sealed on Nov. 1, 1978, with the remains of 19 miners still missing.
Federal and state investigators said contributing factors were inadequate methane testing and ventilation, along with the presence of high levels of methane gas and coal dust.
The disaster led to the passage of the federal Coal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1969, which for the first time set levels for coal dust in mines.
But for a Calhoun family, the tragic event was the loss of a husband and father.
Butt's widow, Mary Lou Butt Bragg, almost 90, has moved to a Mt. Zion Ridge home. As a surviving widow of the disaster, she received $10,000.