4 years later, 29 killed at Upper Big Branch not forgotten - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

4 years later, 29 killed at Upper Big Branch not forgotten

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BECKLEY (WVVA) - Today marks the fourth anniversary of one the nation's deadliest mining disasters.

On the afternoon of Monday, April 5, 2010, 29 miners were killed in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Whitesville, Raleigh County. It was the deadliest mining accident in the United States since the 1970s.

View the names of the 29 miners lost

West Virginia lawmakers have released the following comments to mark the somber anniversary:

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall:

“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. Failing to legislate to close safety loopholes exploited by Massey is akin to condoning the corrupt culture that resulted in so many unnecessary fatalities.

“There is much more to defending coal country than fighting against the EPA. To be a champion for coal, one has to be a champion for the coal miner. Defense of the coal miner cannot stop at the mouth of the mine. It also must follow him into the mine, ensuring that working conditions are as safe and healthy as we possibly can make them. Our obligation to the 29 souls we lost four years ago is long overdue.”

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller:

“We must be focused only on remembering the 29 men who we tragically lost four years ago—and the families they left behind, who live every day with heartbreak because of that horrific disaster,” Rockefeller said. “Along with West Virginians everywhere, Sharon and I are praying for the friends and loved ones of the Upper Big Branch miners, and for the community that was forever changed by the tragedy.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin:

“Four years ago, 29 brave miners — proud fathers, strong brothers, beloved sons and honest neighbors — went to work and never came home to their loved ones. Not a day goes by that I don't think about that day. As Governor at the time, I joined our entire nation as we grieved with their families for their tremendous loss, and today, with heavy hearts, we remember and honor their courage and the incredible strength of their families. Our hearts are still broken, and we will never forget their sacrifice.

“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. Although we have much to mourn today, Gayle and I – and all West Virginians – honor the memories of the dedicated souls who lost their lives, as well as their colleagues who continue their work with respect and dignity. Today, we pray for continued strength for the families who lost loved ones on that awful day.”

In the wake of the disaster, multiple independent investigations concluded the accident was sparked by faulty equipment and fueled by a buildup of methane gas and coal dust inside the mine.

More on investigations:
State's report
UMWA report
Federal report
Independent report

An internal report conducted by mine owner Massey Energy contradicts the other reports. It concluded that the blast was caused by an inundation of natural gas.

More on Massey's report

Former Massey CEO Don Blankenship stirred controversy recently with the release of 'Upper Big Branch - Never Again,' a film he funded which reiterates Massey's findings on the cause of the blast.

The film's release especially angered Manchin, who said he was duped by filmmakers into participating in film.

Hear from both sides on controversial film

In the years since the blast, Massey Energy has been absorbed by Alpha Natural Resources.

Key Massey officials have faced criminal prosecution in connection with the disaster, including former Upper Big Branch Mine Boss Gary May and former UBB Security Chief Hughie Stover.

In 2012 a memorial was completed in Whitesville to forever honor the 29 miners lost.
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