Upper Big Branch Mine tragedy remembered 3 years later - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

West Virginia remembers miners on 3rd anniversary of UBB

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A new monument to honor the men who died three years ago today Friday was unveiled at the Raleigh County courthouse in Beckley.

Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce member Mick Bates explained why he chose Beckley's judicial square for the memorial's location.

"As long as there's a Raleigh County, there'll be a Raleigh County Courthouse, so it's forever. We wanted it to be a place where people would come, it's a location lots of people come to," Bates said.

Senator Mike Green told 59 News about the cost of the memorial.

"I know we were able, through the state of West Virginia to give two separate $20,000 grants to go to this marker, along with Alpha Natural Resources gave $10,000," Senator Green said.

The Beckley Area Foundation and the Beckley Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce have banded together to form a legacy fund that will maintain the memorial marker and further the education of mines, called the Beckley Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce U.B.B. Miners legacy fund. The organizer explained where the money donated will go to.

"It'll go into a permanent endowment and it'll be used to maintain the memorial or to educate the public about the mining in Raleigh County and to remind them what they do for us."

She said they've already received a very significant and unique amount of donations

"They started with $2,900 and we need to reach $10,000. the 2,$900 is significant of the 29 miners that were killed."

Senator Green said this memorial pays tribute to the community and the legacy of the fallen miners and their families.

"The first two years were a very coordinated effort, and this is the first year that pays tribute to a smaller scale right here in the home county where the explosion occurred," said Green.



April 5, 2013 marks the 3 year anniversary of the Upper Big Branch tragedy.  Twenty nine miners died as a result of an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Coal mine in Montcoal, Raleigh County.

The Upper Big Branch mine disaster was the worst mining accident in the US since 1970.  According to the Mine Safety and Health Association, safety violations contributed to a coal dust explosion.

The explosion happened after 3 p.m. Crews worked days in attempts to rescue workers. On April 9, 2010, then-W.Va. Governor Joe Manchin announced the death toll at 29.

(Click here to view a slideshow of UBB memorial images)

Raleigh County, where the mine is located, plans to unveil a special memorial marker in front of the Raleigh County courthouse at 3 p.m.   That is the time the actual explosion happened at the mine.  The unveiling will be proceeded by a reception inside the courthouse.  The marker was funded through he combined efforts of the Raleigh County Commission and the Beckley Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce.  They also received a state grant.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has also called for a moment of silence.  He asked all West Virginians to join him at 3:01 p.m. to remember the 29 miners who lost their lives in the explosion.

In 2012, a formal memorial to the miners who lost their lives at the Upper Big Branch Mine was dedicated.  That is located in Whitesville, near where the mine is located.

Since the explosion three years ago there have been multiple investigations to determine what caused the explosion.  There have also been criminal charges filed against former Massey Energy officials.  UBB Superintendent Gary May and Security Chief Hughie Stover were sentenced in federal court for their crimes.  The highest ranking official, former Massey Energy executive, David Hughart pleaded guilty in a Beckley federal court a little more than a month ago.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., issued a statement about the third anniversary of the UBB disaster.

"Three years ago, during the hours and days after the unspeakable mining tragedy at Upper Big Branch, I grieved with the miners' families and all West Virginians," the statement reads.

"Not a day goes by that I don't think about the courage, sacrifice and extraordinary strength of our miners and their families, but on this sad anniversary, my heart and prayers go out to our beloved 29 miners and their loved ones. I want to assure those families, the people of our state and this country that we're absolutely and totally committed to the safety of every mining worker. Our miners should wake up in the morning and expect to come home safely to their loved ones at night."

Manchin also stated he will continue to work with his colleagues to continue to make needed safety changes to prevent a disaster like UBB.  

"By bringing the responsible parties to justice, we can't bring our loved ones back, but hopefully we will prevent another tragedy from robbing us of our beloved miners," said Manchin. "We will never forget."

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., also spoke about the importance of remembering the disaster.

"Those of us who knew the men who perished at Upper Big Branch, and those of us who stood watch for days, clinging to hope and to each other, will always pause to remember this day."

"I will never, ever forget those men, those brothers in Heaven, and I will continue to strive to honor their memories by fighting to ensure that no others will perish as they did," added Rahall. I am committed to the difficult, necessary fight for safer mines and I have, again, introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to achieve that goal.

"It is not enough merely to think back, to mourn, and to wish. That does not do justice to those we lost. We must act."

The Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial Group, INC. announced a wreath will be placed at the UBB Miner's Monument Friday morning.  The UBBMMG is encouraging family, friends and the community to visit the UBB Miners Memorial to remember and reflect in your own way and at your own time, according to a news release.

The Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial is located at 38233 Coal River Road, Whitesville WV 25209.

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