WHITESVILLE, WV (WCHS/WVAH) — Friends and family members of a coal miner who was found dead said they know mining is a dangerous job, but hearing that someone they know has died never gets any easier.
James Ray Adkins, 48, of Colcord was first reported missing early Monday morning, then later found dead in a raw coal stockpile at the Marfork processing plant in Raleigh County.
“It just hits so close to home every time I hear of a mining accident because nine times out of 10 we know the family,” Jenna Burdette said.
That held true Tuesday when Burdette heard that Adkins, a regular at her father’s convenience store, had died.
“He comes in here every day. He’s one of our most loyal customers. It just hits home. It’s hard, and it just doesn’t get easier no matter if you know them or not,” Burdette said.
Adkins was a belt man and a fire boss at the Horse Creek Eagle Mine, and a husband and a father of two.
“The uneasiness that you feel whenever a family, a friend, a dad goes into the mines and you don’t know if you’re going to see them or not,” Burdette said.
It’s a feeling too familiar to many in this area following the disaster at nearby Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 miners in 2010, and several mining-related deaths that have occurred since that tragedy.
“It just seems to happen so much, and it’s devastating,” Burdette said.
A fellow miner who did not want to go on camera said Adkins was a friend and a cautious worker who always focused on safety for himself and those working around him.
A family member, still in disbelief, told Eyewitness News off camera that Adkins was a wonderful person, loved by many people.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and the chief executive officer of Alpha, the company which owns the Marfork plant, both issued statements Monday night, sending their condolences and prayers to the family.
The cause of death has not yet been determined. The mine and processing plant were shut down for the time being.