Friday Marks Third Anniversary of UBB Mining Disaster

By: The Associated Press, Brooks Jarosz, WSAZ News Staff Email
By: The Associated Press, Brooks Jarosz, WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 4/5/13 @ 9:45 p.m.
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Friday marked the third anniversary of the worst mining disaster in recent history -- April 5, 2010 when 29 miners died in the Upper Big Branch mine.

The men died in a massive explosion at mine in Raleigh County. It took about five days for crews to find all of the victims' bodies.

Since then, several reports have found the explosion was the result of serious safety violations.

Two former mine officials are now behind bars, and a criminal probe is still underway.



UPDATE 3/25/13 @ 8:25 a.m.
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) -- A memorial marker honoring the 29 miners killed in the Upper Big Branch mine explosion is being placed on the Raleigh County Courthouse lawn.

The Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce will unveil the marker on April 5, the third anniversary of the disaster.

Chamber member Mick Bates says the dedication ceremony will memorialize the fallen miners and recognize those who continue to mine coal and provide electricity for the nation.

The memorial marker was funded through a partnership of the chamber and the Raleigh County Commission, along with a state grant.

Another memorial honoring the Upper Big Branch miners is located in a small park-like plaza in Whitesville. It was dedicated in July 2012. Volunteers raised money for that project.



UPDATE 7/27/12 @ 8 p.m.
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After months of anticipation and hundreds of hours of work, the Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial was dedicated not far from the spot where 29 men lost their lives.

It was the worst coal mining disaster in recent history when a massive blast killed the men on April 5, 2010.

A ceremony along Route 3 in Whitesville took place Friday afternoon to honor and remember the victims. It ended when the completed monument was unveiled.

"I think it's harder now then it has been any other time," said Michelle McKinney, a family member of a UBB victim, said. "I'm sure he's smiling down on us today."

Six massive pieces of granite were recently lowered into place, with each piece weighting nearly six tons.

The silhouettes of the 29 men are pictured on the front of the monument and set in stone.

"You just long for them, you just miss them," UBB victim's family member Clay Mullins said. "You want to talk to them again; you want to give them another hug."

"There's always an incident everyday that we kind of recall or it sends us back to him," UBB victim's family member Jack Bowden said. "And there's a lot of tears and heartache yet."

The monument has come at a cost of nearly $1 million, but it leaves behind a lasting tribute to all miners.

At the bottom of the memorial it reads, "Come to me, all you who labor and I will give you rest."

"I hope everyone in Washington will look and see what the families are going through and get some stiffer laws out there," said Jenny Graley, a family member of a UBB victim, said. "This should have never happened, but it did and it took a piece of our heart with it."

"Bottom line is we shouldn't be out here doing this," Mullins said. "Those 29 men should still be alive."

The community, business groups and others helped raise money to make the memorial possible.

Coal from the UBB mine line the sides of the memorial.

"This is not a tombstone; this is an opportunity," the monument's designer said. "Take this opportunity today and learn and celebrate, and most of all remember."



UPDATE 7/17/12 @ 7:05 p.m.
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Monumental slabs of black granite rolled into the town of Whitesville, as the final phase of construction of the Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial gets underway.

That focal point was delivered in sections Monday at the site of the memorial. Featured on the front are life-size silhouettes of the 29 miners who lost their lives in the mine explosion on April 5, 2010.

"It's a sin that they even have to set up a memorial," visitor Vincent Eirene said. "It would be better if they were with us, but there's a phenomenal value in remembering."

Each of the slabs weighs roughly six tons, according to architects. It took them nearly four hours to get the first slab off the truck and into position. They say if they're not careful to make sure it is level at all times, the granite could crack.

"We've only seen pictures of it, so to actually be able to see it and touch it is awesome," UBB President Sheila Combs said. "I hope the families find this a place where they can heal."

The electric and cable lines along Route 3 in Whitesville had to be moved out of the way for the large crane to position and lower the slabs into place.

The UBB Miners monument is 48 feet long and made from granite quarried from the Rock of Ages' quarry in St. Peters, Pa. In addition to the 29 miners on the front, there are words under their feet reading, "Come to me, all you who labor, and I will give you rest."

The back side details a history of coal in West Virginia and includes a tribute to all coal miners. The monument and surrounding plaza was designed by Rob Dinsmore of Chapman Technical Group in St. Albans.

"Everybody wants to be able to do something, wants to be able to help," Dinsmore said. "Watching this first piece go in, that's going to kind of be one of those moments where I feel like maybe I've done my part and helped someone, and that's pretty special."

It's a project that organizers say has already cost more than $500,000. It's all in an effort to create a place to be at peace and never forget.

After this week's installation is complete, the monument will be covered until the official dedication at 2 p.m. Friday, July 27, where it will be unveiled during a public ceremony.

For architects, being part of the healing process for the families of the victims is an honor.

"I wanted to make sure it was designed in a way that it would make the families and the state proud," Dinsmore said. "

The Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group expects installation of the monument and entrance sign to be completed by Thursday, July 19.



UPDATE 1/25/12 @ 11:55 a.m.
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Construction is underway on the memorial honoring more than two dozens lives lost in a mine explosion in Raleigh County.

29 miners were killed on April 5, 2010 in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine.

The memorial will be built along Route 3 in Whitesville. Crews started digging the footers for the memorial just before 10 a.m. Wednesday.

"We have been looking forward to this day since we formed nearly a year ago," said group president, Sheila Combs. "It's exciting to break ground on the project but it's also a bittersweet moment as we are reminded again of the loss that this memorial represents."

Organizers say they didn't have a formal groundbreaking ceremony because they didn't think it was appropriate for the occasion.

They also tell us the memorial will be shipped in six different parts in end of February or first of March.

The monument will be 48 feet long.

Organizers say the front side of the memorial will have 29 silhouettes representing the miners who died in the explosion. The back of the monument will have the miners names, along with the history of mining in West Virginia and a tribute to all miners who have died, been injured or received a disease from working in the coal mines.

Organizers hope to have a dedication for the memorial near the next anniversary of the explosion.



UPDATE 1/24/12 @ 2:40 p.m.
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Construction begins Wednesday on the permanent memorial for 29 miners killed in the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County.

Crews will start the actually digging about 10 a.m. Wednesday. Construction crews have already fenced off the property.

The 48-feet tall monument memorial will be constructed in Whitesville.

Organizers tell WSAZ.com the back of the memorial will have the image of "Daddy's Hands" etched on the back as part of the tribute to all the miners, past and present. A poem dedicated to all miners who have died working in the coal industry will also be etched on the granite.

Rock of Ages out of Graniteville, Vt. is building the UBB Miners Monument and the entrance sign.

The front of the memorial will have 29 silhouettes, symbolizing the 29 miners who died on April 5, 2010. "Come to me, All Who Have Labored, And I Will Give You Rest" will be etched underneath the silhouettes. The state seal of West Virginia will be cast in bronze and embedded within the granite on the front of the monument, according to organizers. This part of the memorial will be made by Richwood Investment Castings Inc. out of Huntington.

Organizers say they wanted to give the memorial a personal touch. In fact, the sillouettes were designed from a picture of five miners just before they went in on their shift a couple of months. They work at Alpha's Elk Run Coal Mine in Sylvester.

Two of the five men photographed lost family members in the UBB explosion, according to organizers.

The memorial is expected to open by the second anniversary of the disaster.



UPDATE 1/23/12 @ 10:15 a.m.
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Construction could start as early as this week on the permanent memorial for 29 miners killed in the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County.

The 48' monument memorial will be constructed in Whitesville.

Depending on the weather, Pray Construction will install temporary fencing Monday or Tuesday around the future site of the memorial to allow construction to get underway.

Sheila Combs, UBBMMG President, and Randall Cunningham, Vice President of Pray Construction, are meeting Monday with the memorial designer, Rob Dinsmore of Chapman Technical, to finalize the plans. During the meeting, organizers will get a date for when construction will begin.

Organizers tell WSAZ.com the back of the memorial will have the image of "Daddy's Hands" etched on the back as part of the tribute to all the miners, past and present. A poem dedicated to all miners who have died working in the coal industry will also be etched on the granite.

Rock of Ages out of Graniteville, Vt. is building the UBB Miners Monument and the entrance sign.

The front of the memorial will have 29 silhouettes, symbolizing the 29 miners who died on April 5, 2010. "Come to me, All Who Have Labored, And I Will Give You Rest" will be etched underneath the silhouettes. The state seal of West Virginia will be cast in bronze and embedded within the granite on the front of the monument, according to organizers. This part of the memorial will be made by Richwood Investment Castings Inc. out of Huntington.

Organizers say they wanted to give the memorial a personal touch. In fact, the sillouettes were designed from a picture of five miners just before they went in on their shift a couple of months. They work at Alpha's Elk Run Coal Mine in Sylvester.

Two of the five men photographed lost family members in the UBB explosion, according to organizers.

The memorial is expected to open by the second anniversary of the disaster.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 10/20/11
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (AP) -- Organizers are expanding plans for a permanent memorial for 29 miners killed in the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in southern West Virginia.

The Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group is adding a tribute to police, mine rescuers and other emergency responders to the memorial. The memorial also will have an interpretive marker giving a time line of the events after the explosion.

Vice President Mike Gwinn says the nonprofit group has received more than $350,000 in corporate and private donations for the project. That amount doesn't include a $250,000 matching donation pledged by Alpha Natural Resources.

Virginia-based Alpha became the mine's owner earlier this year when it acquired Massey Energy.

The memorial will be constructed in Whitesville.



UPDATE 10/5/11
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Fund raising for a memorial to honor the men who died in the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion has gone above and beyond.

The UBB Mining Memorial Group announced Wednesday that they have raised $326,000 for the memorial project.

Their goal was $250,000 and Alpha Natural Resources, who now owns the mine, is going to match $250,000.

Ground is expected to be broken on the project as soon as the soil test is complete.

The memorial will be located in Whitesville.



UPDATE 8/16/11
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Donations keep pouring in for a memorial in honor of the miners who lost their lives in the Upper Big Branch mining disaster.

Tuesday, The UBB Mining Memorial Group announced that Brickstreet Insurance gave a $10,000 donation to the memorial.

That brings the total up to $193,000.

Alpha Natural Resources, who now owns the mine, has pledged to match the first $250,000 that is raised.



UPDATE 7/21/11
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group has announced another donation to the UBB Miners Memorial, bringing the total to more than $140,000.

The group announced Thursday that Vossloh Track Material Incorporated donated $10,000 to the memorial.

The group hopes to raise $250,000. Alpha Natural Resources has pledged to match the first $250,000 raised.

The memorial will be located in Whitesville and will commemorate the events that occurred at UBB, pay homage to all fallen coal miners and recognize the importance of the coal mining industry to the Mountain State.



UPDATE 7/15/11
WHITESVILLE, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Donations are starting to come in to complete a permanent memorial for the miners who died in the UBB explosions in April 2010.

The Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group announced Thursday it received $10,000 pledge to the UBB Miners Memorial project. The donation came from Flexco, a conveyor belt company.

According to the memorial group, this is the third large contribution to the memorial.

Martin Engineering and Stahura Conveyor Products also made donations.

The project will cost about $500,000.



ORIGINAL STORY 4/4/11
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Emotions will no doubt be high Tuesday, which marks one year since the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

Memories of the 29 men who died in the blast are still fresh, and some are making sure we never forget them.

Rob Dinsmore is a young designer fresh out of college. The UBB explosion happened before he even received his diploma.

“Everybody was following this all over the country, and I wanted to make sure when we designed the memorial that it was something that our state could be proud of,” said Dinsmore, who is now a designer at Chapman Technical Group in St. Albans.

“It's important for the state and for the community that this memorial be put together the right way,” Joe Bird, with Chapman Technical Group, said.

So Dinsmore single-handedly designed a memorial for the town of Whitesville. Choosing a location was easy. It will go where family and friends of the miners constructed a makeshift memorial. Now they want one that's built to last.

“We're mimicking the mountains with the top of the memorial,” Dinsmore said. “We want to use local materials. We want to use native plant life. On the back of the memorial, we want to talk about the coal industry within the state.”

He’s making sure it represents the state's natural beauty, resources and, of course, its people.

“We lost 29 great West Virginians -- hard working West Virginians that day, and we want to remember that,” Dinsmore said.

Neither he nor Chapman Technical group is charging a dime. They simply volunteered for the project.

However, the cost to build the memorial will be nearly $500,000. A non-profit group, the UBB Mining Memorial Group, is already in the process of raising that money.

Any donations should be mailed to the following:

Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial, Inc.
25586 Coal River Road
Orgas, WV 25148


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