Deadly Sparwood-area mine explosion remembered by people who were there and by city
Monday marks the 50th anniversary of the Balmer North mine explosion in southeastern B.C. The industrial accident ripped through an Elk Valley coal mine near present-day Sparwood and killed 15 men on April 3, 1967.
Some of the men were friends of Ewan Gordon, who, on Monday, reflected on the disaster and what life was like for coal miners back then. “You were kinda listening to the earth talkin’ to you, hoping it wasn’t gonna fall on your head,” he said. “You felt a lot closer to your maker when you were listening to the ground crack around you.
“We lived together. We ate together … when you congregate on the bus to and from work and whatnot, we’d tell [newer miners] stories. Whether they were impressed or not, I don’t know, but it’s kind of a forgotten era.”
At Sparwood, the anniversary was recognized with a public ceremony. A statue commemorating the lives lost on that and other days in the coal mines of southeastern B.C. was unveiled, and local children laid flowers at its feet to commemorate the dead.
Another person who remembers well the explosion and its aftermath is Dr. John Wheeldon. He was one of five doctors who spent three straight days treating injured victims.
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