by Tim O'Neil --- It was almost quitting time for 142 men working 540 feet below ground in Centralia Coal Co.’s Mine No. 5. In operation since 1908, the mine’s tentacles ran three or more miles from the elevator shaft into the coal seams. At 3:27 p.m. March 25, 1947, coal dust exploded deep inside. Thirty-one survivors all reached surface shortly after the blast, but 111 miners were dead or dying.