Nova Scotia: March, memorial service to mark 30th anniversary of Westray disaster – by Paul Palmeter (CBC News Nova Scotia – May 9, 2022)

26 men died in underground explosion at Pictou County mine

Joe MacKay will never forget the explosion at the Westray mine 30 years ago today. The underground explosion in Plymouth, N.S., killed 26 miners. One of them was MacKay’s brother, Mike. “He loved his bikes, including a chopper he just thought the world of,” said MacKay. “He loved his family. His kids meant everything to him.”

Mike MacKay was 38. He was the father of two young children. Like the other men who worked at the mine, he had only been working there for nine months after it opened in September 1991.

A spark from a coal-cutting machine ignited a methane gas leak in the mine shaft that had mixed with coal dust to cause the explosion. The bodies of 11 miners were never found. Among those entombed was MacKay.

“The only reprieve I had is that my other brother was supposed to go in to work at the mine that night and he changed his mind and cancelled his shift,” said Joe MacKay. “If it wasn’t for that, he would have been down there, too.”

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