Friday, August 24, 2007

the Sago miners

the Sago miners

January , 2006
It was an experienced group of miners who went into the Sago Mine Jan. 2. Many were in their 50s and had worked in the mines for more than 25 years. the West Virginia men who died and the one who survived

Terry HelmsAge: 50
Town: Newburg
Job: Fire boss/mine examiner
Years of mining experience: 29
Family and background: Mr. Helms wouldn't let his son work in the mines; as the fire boss, he was the first one in the mine that day; avid hunter, golfer, fisherman; told long, complicated stories that exasperated just about everyone but his children, Nick and Amber. His fiancee was Virginia Moore.
Quote: "He wanted better for myself and my sister," Nick Helms said. "He didn't want me to have to endure the strenuous work."

Martin Toler Jr.Age: 51
Town: Flatwoods
Job: Section foreman
Years of mining experience: 32
Family and background: Mr. Toler drove an hour each way to work; as a church deacon, he taught Sunday school and adult Bible study; he previously worked in a mine with his son, Chris. He and his wife, Mary Lou, also have a daughter, Courtney, and six grandchildren.
Quote: "Tell all I see them on the other side. It wasn't bad. Just went to sleep." -- note found with his body at Sago mine

Alva M. BennettAge: 51
Town: Buckhannon
Job: Continuous miner operator
Years of mining experience: 29
Family and background: Mr. Bennett's father was a coal miner, and his only son, Russell, worked in the Sago Mine; wife, Judy Ann; brother-in-law, Roger Perry, was one of the miners who escaped; he drove a bulldozer as a side job.
Quote: "They called each other every night to make sure they got home safe," Bobby Bennett, his daughter-in-law, said of Mr. Bennett and his son.

Fred WareAge: 59
Town: Tallmansville
Job: Continuous miner operator
Years of mining experience: 37
Family and background: Mr. Ware had broken his ankle, punctured a lung and broken several ribs in a previous mining accident. His fiancee was Loretta Ables, and he had a son, Darrell, and a daughter, Peggy Cohen.
Quote: "He just said he would never retire. He said, 'I'll probably die working in the mines,' " daughter Peggy Cohen said.

Jesse JonesAge: 44
Town: Pickens
Job: Roof bolter operator
Years mining experience: 16
Family and background: Mr. Jones loved to pitch horseshoes and dig wild onions; his brother, Owen Jones, was in the group of men who escaped from the mine. He had two daughters, Sarah and Katelyn.
Quote: "Jesse was and is a coal-mining man," the Rev. Donald Butcher said at his funeral. "Jesse's grandpa on his daddy's side died in a mine explosion. Coal mining runs deep in the blood of many of our families.

David LewisAge: 28
Town: Thornton
Job: Roof bolter operator
Years of mining experience: 1 year, 8 months
Family and background: Mr. Lewis went to school to be a diesel mechanic; he grew up on his family's 350-acre dairy farm; he worked in the mines so his wife, Samantha, could stay home with their daughters, Kayla, Shelby and Kelsie, while she finished her master's degree in health care administration.
Quote: "This was a good way to make a living until we could find something different," Samantha Lewis said.

Jerry GrovesAge: 56
Town: Cleveland.
Job: Roof bolter operator
Years of mining experience: 28
Family and background: Mr. Groves' wife, Debbie, said she had been in love with him since the fourth grade; he worked as a carpet installer for a few years but switched to coal mining because the money was good. Had a daughter, Shelly Rose, and three grandsons.
Quote: "He loved the work," said Raymond Groves, his older brother. "He wouldn't have stayed if he didn't."

Tom AndersonAge: 39
Town: Rock Cave
Job: Shuttle car operator
Years of mining experience: 10
Family and background: Mr. Anderson was deeply religious and reportedly studying to be a preacher; he liked the outdoors, hunting and fishing. He was married to Lynda, with one young son, Thomas, older sons Randy and Mitchell and four grandchildren.
Quote: "Tom would do anything for anyone. He'd climb a pole and do anything you wanted him to do," friend Beatrice Ware said.

George Hamner Jr.Age: 54
Town: Glady Fork
Job: Shuttle car operator
Years of mining experience: 26
Family and background: Mr. Hamner grew up on the site of the Sago Mine, and the mining company later bought out the family home; he also raised cattle full time; attended Glenville State College from 1969 to 1971; lost about 170 pounds after a gastric bypass operation; married to Deborah, with one daughter, Sara.
Quote: "He's just a good country boy. He would always help you out if you needed something," cousin Matthew Hamner said.

James BennettAge: 61
Town: Philippi
Job: Shuttle car operator
Years of mining experience: 25
Family and background: Mr. Bennett planned to retire this year and was described as the crew's spiritual leader. He was married to Lily and had one son, John, and one daughter, Cheryl Ann Merideth, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Quote: "Every day he would come home and pray for who was going in [the mines]," said his son-in-law, Daniel Merideth.

Marshall WinansAge: 50
Town: Talbott
Job: Scoop operator
Years of mining experience: 23
Family and background: Mr. Winans' oldest brother died in a gas-rig accident in 1982; he was described as "talkative and happy;" he liked camping, hunting, fishing, NASCAR. He and his wife, Pamela, had daughters Tiffany, Mandy and Holly.
Quote: "The boy didn't have any fears. He lived happy-go-lucky," said his mother, Helen Winans.

Jack WeaverAge: 52
Town: Philippi
Job: Section electrician
Years of mining experience: 26
Family and background: Mr. Weaver always wrote "Jesus Saves" in the coal dust of his mine cart. He and his wife, Charlotte, had a daughter, Rebecca, a son, Justin, and two grandsons.
Quote: "Jack was always one to help you. He'll be sadly missed," sister-in-law Kay Weaver said.

Randal McCloy Jr.Age: 26
Town: Simpson
Job: Roof bolter
Years of mining experience: 3
Family and background: The only survivor, Mr. McCloy is a licensed electrician who had recently talked with his wife about quitting mining because it was too dangerous; met his wife, Anna, in first grade; started dating her when she was 13; celebrated fifth anniversary in June; father of 4-year-old Randal McCloy III and 14-month-old Isabel Hope; likes bow hunting, fishing for catfish and Metallica.
Quote: "When most people are drinking pop, he's drinking milk and juice. He's in good shape. That had to have helped him," brother-in-law Rick McGee said.