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Fourteen Years After The Upper Big Branch Explosion, Family And Friends Gather In Beckley To Remember The UBB 29.

Beckley, WV – (WWNR) – 14 years after the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, family and friends of the 29 miners killed joined local officials and emergency responders for a remembrance ceremony at the Raleigh County Courthouse.

Following a minute and 29 seconds of silence, local businessman Mick Bates read the names of the miners lost in the explosion.
“We need to remember these men,” said Bates. “We remember what they do, what they did, and what we continue to do in this county to mine the resources. And it honors just not them, but it honors those that continue to do this work. So it’s an important thing for us to come together to remember those things that happened that were bad, but this is our 9 11, this is the thing that one remembers where they were on the day that it happened, and I’ll never forget, and there are many other people that will never forget.”
Following the ceremony inside the courthouse, the event moved outdoors, where a wreath was laid in front of the UBB Historical Marker in the Miners Memorial Garden.

For the family members of those lost in the Upper Big Branch explosion, the memories are just as painful now as they were 14 years ago.

“It starts on the Monday before and it’s crazy all the way up,” said Betty Harrah, sister of UBB assistant Mine Foreman Steven Harrah. “And then it’s like a sigh of relief and then we try to start picking ourself up again.”

“He was a good guy. I mean, I talked to all these miners and they’ll say, oh, your Head’s sister. He was a good guy. We liked working for Head. Which helps us a lot when we talk to the miners and they tell us how great he was.”

“He was a couple of weeks from retiring,” said Jeannie WIllingham, sister of UBB Roof Bolter Benny Willingham. “Stood up in church a couple of weeks before this happened. And he said ‘I want to thank the Lord for saving my soul, and I want to thank Him for watching over me for over 30 years in that old mine. He said if He takes me tomorrow, I’ve had a good life, I’m ready to go.”

The miners killed at the Upper Big Branch Mine were:
– Carl Acord, 52.
– Jason Atkins, 25.
– Christopher Bell, 33.
– Gregory Steven Brock, 47.
– Kenneth Allan Chapman, 53.
– Robert Clark, 41.
– Charles Timothy Davis, 51.
– Cory Davis, 20.
– Michael Lee Elswick, 56.
– William I. Griffith, 54.
– Steven Harrah, 40.
– Edward Dean Jones, 50.
– Richard K. Lane, 45.
– William Lynch, 59.
-Nicholas Darrell McCroskey, 26.
– Joe Marcum, 57.
– Ronald Lee Maynor, 31.
– James E. Mooney, 50.
– Adam Keith Morgan, 21.
– Rex L. Mullins, 50.
– Joshua S. Napper, 25.
– Howard D. Payne, 53.
– Dillard Earl Persinger, 32.
– Joel R. Price, 55.
– Deward Scott, 58.
– Gary Quarles, 33.
– Grover Dale Skeens, 57.
– Benny Willingham, 61.
– Ricky Workman, 50.