Concord University News
For Immediate Release: 
Nov 06 2001

Concord Associate Professor Receives Best Paper Award for Examining the Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster

Athens, W.Va. - Concord Associate Professor William ‘Rick’ Crandall and his father Richard Crandall of Appalachian State University were recently honored with a Best Paper award from InfORMS, the southeastern chapter of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

InfORMS represents professionals in the fields of operations research and the management sciences (OR/MS), and related fields such as information technology. It is dedicated to advancing the development and dissemination of all aspects of OR/MS.

Their research paper, titled Revisiting The Hawks Nest Tunnel Incident: Lessons Learned From An American Tragedy, explored the events surrounding the building of the Hawks Nest tunnel.

The Hawks Nest Tunnel was built from 1930-1932 to transport water from the Hawks Nest Dam to a hydroelectric plant, where the power generated was used at the Union Carbide plant in Alloy, W.Va. Today, the plant is owned by Elkem, a Norwegian firm.

Hundreds of workers died during its construction, mainly from silicosis, a lung disease where silica dust becomes trapped in the lung, eventually causing impaired breathing and death.

William and Richard Crandall examined factors such as the working conditions, number of fatalities, media coverage of the tragedy, subsequent lawsuits, and lessons learned from this disaster, such as how public outcry will eventually lead to government intervention, and the consequences of sidestepping government regulations.

Rick Crandall chose the subject because “it is located close to where my mother and father grew up in Fayette County and it is an integral part of West Virginia history.” He also chose the subject because the Hawks Nests Tunnel incident was a tragedy that could have been avoided.

Crandall teaches business management classes at Concord with an emphasis in “crisis management.” Many large companies and institutions will have crisis management teams in place to plan ways to avoid disasters and have procedures in place should a disaster occur. He heads up the crisis management team at Concord. Moreover, he incorporates lessons learned from the tunnel disaster and other disasters in the courses he teaches at Concord.

Students may be involved with crisis management issues at some point in their professional careers, stated Crandall. “It is important for them to realize that they cannot take their work freedoms for granted.” He also said to remember that even though a business must make a profit to survive, “when profits are held higher than moral absolutes …then unfortunate events may result.”

“The tunnel is not a pretty picture of our culture during the depression,” Crandall said. “But if we reflect on it, and learn from the mistakes that were made, then we can hope that the workers’ deaths will not be in vain.”

During InfORMS’s annual meeting, Best Paper award entrants submit research papers to one of ten different subject areas, which are then judged by several reviewers. The winners then present their papers and are awarded a trophy and a certificate.

For information on Revisiting The Hawks Nest Tunnel Incident: Lessons Learned From An American Tragedy, call William ‘Rick’ Crandall at 1-304-384-5247 or e-mail


Concord College Notes: Michelle Bridgeman from Hedgesville, W.Va., wrote this news release. She is majoring in English with an anticipated graduation of December 2001.