BECKLEY - Residents and political leaders remembered 29 miners killed in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster on the 4th anniversary of the nation's deadliest mining accident in 40 years.
At the memorial in Beckley, a bell is rung in honor of each miner killed in the Whitesville explosion. The monument's designer, Mick Bates, said April 5th will always be a sad day in Raleigh county, but it's important to do something to remember these husbands, fathers and friends.
The UBB explosion is known as the worst mining accident since 1970. It was caused by a small methane gas explosion that quickly spread throughout the coal dust-filled air. Bates said he hopes the memorial and monument offer these families some peace.
Bates said, “this, I think, will be something that continues in Raleigh County; for as long as there is a Raleigh County there will be a Raleigh County Courthouse and as long as there's a Raleigh County Courthouse this monument will stand and as it says on the marker "What is remembered lives on." Coal has given so much to this county and continues to and it's important that we recognize these men and the lives that were lost and all those that continue to do this very difficult, dangerous and challenging work."
Several officials released statements on Saturday, the anniversary of the tragedy. Congressman Nick Rahall said:
“on the 4th anniversary of the tragic explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine, I am reminded of the good men we lost far too young, of those injured, of the families that still mourn and the communities that were forever altered. The Upper Big Branch miners are still owed our full energies and every effort to ensure that such a tragedy will never occur again.”
Senator Joe Manchin had this to say:
“This day will always serve as a reminder…a reminder of the love shared for our fallen brothers… a reminder that life is often too short and a reminder that we must always put safety first. The health and safety of our miners will always be our top priority because no family should ever endure a preventable tragedy like the one at upper big branch again.