Hundreds of people gathered in Farmington, West Virginia on Sunday to commemorate a 49-year-old mining tragedy that killed 78 miners. The solemn ceremony held at Flat Run Memorial honored victims of the November 20, 1968 Farmington mine disaster in the Consol No. 9 coal mine north of Farmington and Mannington.

There were 99 miners at work that day when an explosion rocked the mine. The blast was strong enough to be felt in Fairmont, almost 12 miles away. Fires caused by the explosion burned for over a week.

Twenty-one miners were able to escape but the 78 who remained trapped perished. The bodies of 19 of the dead were never recovered.

The actual cause of the blast and fire was never determined. However, a Mine Safety and Health Administration investigation conducted in 1990 – 22 years after the tragedy – found that ventilation in the mine “was inadequate overall, and most probably non-existent in some areas.”

The incident resulted in the passage of significant mine safety legislation such as the 1969 Coal Mine Safety and Health Act, which strengthened safety standards, increased Federal mine inspections, and gave coal miners specific safety and health rights.