Annual Ceremony Remembers Victims Of The Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion.

Beckley, WV – (WWNR)- At 3:27pm on April 5th, 2010, a coal dust explosion 1,000 feet underground at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Montcoal killed 29 miners, including Assistant Foreman Steve Harrah. His sister recalled how she heard the news.

“I was in my house and I started hearing the ambulances. . . then I got word there was a mine
that had exploded. . . and I called my sister and I told her I was going to send somebody to go
get her and bring her to me. . . cause, by that time I had looked up at the tv and at 15 minutes to
five it said “Performance Coal . . . Montcoal, and there was an explosion. So of course, we took
off and went down there. And my brother was on the longwall, the first ones that were brought
out. It was the worst day of our lives.”

12 years later, Betty Harrah and other family members of the UBB victims were on hand for a brief ceremony at the Raleigh County Courthouse. After a moment of silence, a bell was rung 29 times and the names of the 29 miners were read by Del. Mick Bates, R-Raleigh. Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold and others laid a wreath in front of a plaque honoring the victims at the Miner’s Memorial Garden.

Twelve years later, Betty Harrah says the feelings of sadness and anger aren’t any easier to deal with. What helps is the bond that exists between family members of the victims.

“I’m friends with a lot of the families . . . and I’ll talk to one, and here it goes again on us. But
we talk to each other because we hold each other through this, together. The guys were
family underground. . . and we’re the family above the ground, and we’ve all become a family.”

A new exhibit telling the story of the Upper Big Branch explosion is planned for the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine. Bates says it would link the memorial marker at the Raleigh County Courthouse with the UBB Memorial in Whitesville.