John Wesley Knox died helping attempt to save Gaston E. Adams, Jr., from an impending explosion, Brookwood, Alabama, September 23, 2001. Adams, 56, and two other miners were building supports to address deteriorating roof conditions in a section of a large coal mine that was 2,100 feet below the surface of the ground. As they worked, the roof in that vicinity fell, freeing a quantity of methane. Within minutes the methane exploded, severely injuring Adams and damaging ventilation controls in that part of the mine. Also injured, the other miners left to secure help, their visibility obscured by dense dust. At work in another part of the mine, about a mile away, Knox, 44, underground motorman, felt the concussion and started toward the scene, as did two miners who had been working in the section adjoining the affected one. Knox and the two other miners met up with the injured miners, learning from them that Adams was incapacitated. After the men then alerted the mine’s control room to the situation and de-energized the affected section’s high-voltage supply, Knox and the two miners from the adjoining section entered the affected one and made their way by locomotive, then foot, to Adams, the injured miners continuing toward the mine exit. Meanwhile, other miners who had been working at distant points in the mine learned of the ignition and started toward the affected section, en route meeting up with the injured miners and learning more of the situation. Nine of the miners continued to the scene in two more parties. Within minutes of their arrival, a massive explosion of methane tore through the affected section of the mine and then through the neighboring ones. Rescue teams were assembled and within hours reached the scene, where one of the miners from the last party was found alive but badly burned. He was removed to the hospital, where he died of his injuries the next day. Unstable conditions delayed further recovery efforts for six weeks, at which time the bodies of Adams, Knox, and the remaining 10 rescuers were removed from the mine.
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