Top 50 Stories: 1972 - Sunshine Mine fire in Kellogg

Disaster killed 91, led to safety measures

Special to the Idaho StatesmanJune 1, 2014 

Coverage from 1972 mine fire in Kellogg

Coverage from 1972 mine fire in Kellogg

IDAHO STATESMAN ARCHIVE

  • ABOUT THIS SERIES

    To celebrate 150 years of producing this newspaper, we are reprinting one of our Top 50 stories each day through July 6. Then you can vote for your Top 10 stories, which will appear in our commemorative special section on July 26.

The Sunshine Mine fire was Idaho's worst mining disaster and among the worst in U.S. history.

Thought to have begun with spontaneous combustion of timbers in one of the world's largest silver mines, the fire near the North Idaho town of Kellogg on May 2, 1972, claimed the lives of 91 miners.

Of 201 working at the time, 108 escaped immediately. Two survived for a week in an air pocket before being rescued.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Statesman sent me to interview widows of the miners lost. It was the sort of assignment that makes you question your career choice, but the women could not have been kinder. They answered every question with grace and courage, reaffirming a young reporter's faith in humanity.

Because of the Idaho disaster, every miner in the U.S. now carries a breathing apparatus designed to prevent death from carbon monoxide poisoning.

A 13-foot statue of a miner overlooking 91 miniature tombstones stands beside Interstate 90 near the mine.

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