Kathleen Flanagan Photography
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Westray Miners in the Explosion of 1992

Twenty-six miners were killed in the Westray Mine at Plymouth in Pictou County, following a methane explosion that occurred at 5:18 am on May 9, 1992.  The explosion took place less than eight months after the mine opened.

Over the next five days, draegermen slowly worked their way through the wreckage, looking for survivors. They discovered 15 bodies.

As each day passed, hope faded that anyone would be found alive.  On May 14, the mine’s owner, Curragh, a Toronto-based firm, announced that the search had ended.  Despite the strong commitment shared among mining communities to retrieve their dead, the Westray Mine was sealed with 11 remaining bodies.

A year after the explosion, RCMP charged Curragh’s mine manager Gerald Phillips and underground manager Roger Parry with manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death. After five years of legal wrangling, the criminal charges were dropped.  Curragh had been loaned $85 million by the federal government and $12 million by the provincial government, to develop the Westray Mine. In September 1993, Curragh went into receivership. Creditors lost more than $200 million, and the government loans were written off.

The Nova Scotia provincial government conducted a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Westray Disaster.  The commission, headed by Justice K. Peter Richard, reported “The key to any successful regulatory regime is compliance, and the key to compliance is enforcement. As has been so graphically illustrated in the Westray experience, regulations...are worthless when they are ignored or trivialized by management and when their enforcement is in the hands of an apathetic and insensitive inspectorate.”

Clifford Frame, founder, principal shareholder, and CEO of Curragh, refused to testify before the commission.

 In Dean Jobb’s book about Westray, Calculated Risk, draegerman Steven Cyr is quoted: “Ten or twenty years from now, they’re just going to be 26 men who died at Westray. They were all people, not just a number.”

John Thomas Bates, 56
Larry Arthur Bell, 25
Bennie Joseph Benoit, 42
Wayne Michael Conway, 38
Ferris Todd Dewan, 35
Adonis J. Dollimont, 36
Robert Steven Doyle, 22
Remi Joseph Drolet, 38
Roy Edward Feltmate, 33
Charles Robert Fraser, 29
Myles Daniel Gillis, 32
John Philip Halloran, 33
Randolph Brian House, 27

Trevor Martin Jahn, 36
Laurence Elwyn James, 34
Eugene W. Johnson, 33
Stephen Paul Lilley, 40
Michael Frederick MacKay, 38
Angus Joseph MacNeil, 39
Glenn David Martin, 35
Harry A. McCallum, 41
Eric Earl McIsaac, 38
George S. James Munroe, 38
Danny James Poplar, 39
Romeo Andrew Short, 35
Peter Francis Vickers, 38