A NORTH-EAST community will gather today to remember those who died in a mining disaster 60 years ago.

The Eppleton Colliery disaster happened on the morning of Wednesday, July 6, 1951, when seven men were killed in an explosion and two were left badly burned and were carried out on stretchers.

The explosion in the Durham coalfield came only weeks after 81 miners and two rescue workers lost their lives at nearby Easington Colliery.

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Hetton Town Council, in Hetton-le-Hole, along with local groups and schools, has arranged a series of events to mark the occasion.

A commemorative service will be held at the site of the pithead at Hetton Lyons Country Park, at 10.30am today.

The event, attended by representatives of several schools along with the colliery banners of Eppleton and Elemore, will include the unveiling of a plaque and the planting of a number of trees.

Eppleton, which was among the oldest pits in the country with its first shaft sunk in 1828, was regularly beating its production target of 12,000 tons a week.

The tragedy happened as about 500 men worked on the Busty Seam, 1,300ft below the surface.

There were 13 men working in the section of the seam where the explosion happened and only four were able to make their own way out.

Eppleton Colliery’s ambulance team had one of the finest records in the Durham coalfield and had been placed second in the National Coal Board first aid championships at the time of the disaster.

They had been among the first on the scene at Easington Colliery after the tragedy there weeks before.

Hetton Town Council clerk John Price said: “The disaster happened within living By Gavin Engelbrecht gavin.engelbrecht@nne.co.uk memory of many people and is still very emotive.

“Organising these events has shown there is a still a lot of community spirit and interest in local history.”

A two-day exhibition today and tomorrow, featuring colliery banners, photographs and memoribilia, will be staged at the Hetton Centre, in Welfare Road, Hetton-le- Hole. The event is open from 10am to 10pm and will also feature poetry readings.

The men who died will also be remembered at a traditional miners’ service at the village’s Union Street Methodist Church at 5.30pm on Sunday. One of the guests will be Blaydon Labour MP Dave Anderson, a former Hetton miner.