Two miners killed in Wharton roof collapse

Fred Pace fpace@civitasmedia.com

May 14, 2014

WHARTON —Two miners were killed Monday night, May 12, in a mining accident at a Wharton coal mine owned by Patriot Coal.

The West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training has confirmed the deaths.

Gary P. Hensley, 46, of Chapmanville, and Eric D. Legg, 48, of Twilight, were killed at Patriot Coal’s Brody No. 1 Mine in Boone County at about 8:47 p.m., according to reports.

WVOMHS&T reports that no additional injuries have been reported and no miners were reported trapped.

WVOMHS&T inspectors are on-site, and preliminary indications are that the incident resulted from ground failure and mine roof and wall collapse, which trapped and crushed the miners. Officials reported that the miners’ bodies have been recovered.

It has been reported that emergency crews were called to the mine at aboutg 10:30 p.m. Monday, May 12. Families who had gathered outside the mine said they had heard that part of the mine had collapsed.

It has been reported that the mine had received 253 “significant and substantial” violations from the U.S. government’s Mine Safety and Health Administration during a 12-month review which ended last August.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin issued the following statement:

“Joanne and I extend our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the two miners — Eric and Gary — who lost their lives in this tragic mining accident. We ask all West Virginians to continue praying for them during this very difficult time for our mining community.”

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., released the following statement in response to Monday’s incident:

“Along with West Virginians everywhere, my prayers and deepest sympathies are with the families of the two coal miners we lost last night. We know that mining deaths and injuries are preventable, and last night’s tragedy is particularly troubling given the operator’s history of safety violations. Every step must be taken to make sure this operator – and all operators for that matter – are held accountable for the safety and health of their miners.”

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said of the double-fatality:

“My deepest thoughts and prayers are with the families and the loved ones of the tragedy that occurred last night in Boone County. Gayle and I join all West Virginians in sending our deepest condolences to the families of the courageous miners, Eric D. Legg of Twilight and Gary P. Hensley of Chapmanville, whose lives were taken far too soon. My staff and I will do everything we can to assist the families through this difficult time.”

U.S. Reps. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., also commented on the deaths.

Capito said, “We grieve today over the tragic events at the Brody mine and the loss of Eric Legg and Gary Hensley. During this difficult time, let us join together in praying for Eric, Gary, their families and their fellow miners.”

Rahall said, “I am saddened to learn of the loss of life overnight at the Brody Mine in Boone County. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the miners who were taken too early from this life. I know I am joined by families throughout our state in expressing heartfelt sympathy.”

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant asked all West Virginians to pray for the coal miners, their families, and the rescuers at the Brody Mine.

“I ask that all West Virginians remember the Boone County coal miners and their families in our prayers, and also take time to appreciate the rescuers who responded so quickly to a dangerous situation,” Tennant said. “West Virginia was built on the foundation of coal miners and their families, and our future is bright because of their hard work and sacrifice that produces the energy for our state and nation. As we learn more details, our first priority is ensuring the safe rescue and recovery of everyone involved and comforting the families in Boone County. As we move forward, we must demand the thorough investigation these families deserve and take whatever action is necessary to protect our miners.”

State Rep. Joshua Nelson, R-Boone) says he has been in contact with both families of the miners and created a website for donations to help the families.

“Folks, we have lost two of our own, two of America’s best coal miners,” Nelson said. “Let’s help take care of our own and help the families. All donations raised will go directly to the families to help with any and all costs.”

Donations can be made by going online at http://www.gofundme.com/94v6c4