By Patricia Spangler
The Hawks Nest tunnel is a marvel of modern engineering. Completed in June, 1936, the tunnel is 16,240 feet in length and drops in elevation a total of 163 feet. Along with a dam built at the same time, the tunnel funnels water from the New River just beneath Hawks Nest, West Virginia, bypassing two river bends to a hydroelectric plant downstream. While this is not unusual, the circumstances surrounding its construction were. The tunnel runs directly through a seam of silica, sometimes over 99% pure. Evidently, the potential dangers related to working in a silica-rich environment were withheld from the tunnel workers and, within a matter of weeks, the laborers began succumbing to the fatal effects of silica dust. By the time the tunnel was completed, it's estimated that several thousand men were exposed to, and untold hundreds died from, this exposure. Author Patricia Spangler spent nearly a decade researching and compiling the materials found in this book, describing in detail the worst industrial disaster in United States history. Included are news clippings, personal interviews, Congressional records, archival photographs, eyewitness accounts, and more.
About the author:
A native of West Virginia, Patricia Spangler and her husband live on a mountaintop farm in Fayette County.