Community Remembers Miners Killed in Explosion

RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va.  (WOAY) – Nine years have passed since the worst mining accident in the United States since 1970 killed almost 30 miners in at Upper Big Branch Mine.

On April 5, 2010, an explosion at the mine killed 28 miners and injured two others. The community lost fathers, brothers and friends in the fraction of a second. Years later, loved ones still grieve the loss.

“Each person grieves a different way to different things,” said Roosevelt “Mon” Lynch, whose father died in the accident. “You could [try] to take your mind off of it, [but] it’s still there. Ain’t really much you can do about it except..live life day to day.  That’s all you can do.”

While visiting the memorial, the community remembered the tragic day. Some, like Delbert Bailey, mourn the loss of all the miners at once. He worked along side the men on a daily basis, and just happened to have off the day of the accident.

“It was the best fishing day I ever had,” said Bailey. “When I come out, I got the news at 5 o’clock what had happened, and then that’s when it turned bad.” 

He would later find that only two of his fellow miners survived the blast. Among the victims were his friends and family. He said he lives on to tell their story.

What came next was truly remarkable, as the town learned to heal from the tragedy.

“This community kind of came together in a way I never have been around,” said Delegate Mick Bates. “There was this togetherness that we all felt. We had to do what we could to help with [the] families that was going through this nightmare.” 

Two years later, a permanent memorial was built in honor of those killed and injured in the explosion.

On Friday, Senator Joe Manchin joined the grieving community. Although he never knew the miners, he knew the families and was heartbroken for them.

“I see them from time to time to keep in touch,” said Manchin. “I’m going down to Whitesville now…to meet with some of the family members and let them know that we’re still here for them and they’re still part of our lives and part of our family.”

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at ksimmons@woay.com.