A Look at the Lives of the Lost Miners

By: Associated Press, WSAZ News Staff Email
By: Associated Press, WSAZ News Staff Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- They ranged in age from 20 to 61. Some had been miners only a few months, others for 34 years.

Their passions ranged from karate, farming, swimming, hunting, basketball and the beach. Collectively they loved family and working at Massey Energy's Upper Big Creek mine.

The 29 killed in the worst U.S. coal mining disaster since 1970 leave behind sons and daughters, parents, grandchildren and a network of friends in their small, close-knit communities in southern West Virginia.

Not all the dead have been identified. These are the stories of those who have been named so far, either by mine owner Massey Energy Co., the medical examiner or family members.



Kenny Chapman

Kenny Chapman was a roof bolter in the mines. His second job, it seemed, was making others laugh.

He'd have stories to tell about his hunting and four-wheeling excursions or his fishing trips to Indian Mills, Plum Orchard Lake or Burnsville Lake.

The 53-year-old Fairdale resident's specialty was practical jokes.

"He always would be like he couldn't hear you and he would come up and (grab) people or tell jokes that would always get a laugh," said a nephew, Mike Chapman. "He was somebody that always had a good time."

Chapman has a 13-year-old son, Mikey, with his wife and three children from a previous marriage.

"He was really close with his family and his brothers," Mike Chapman said.



Rick Lane

An avid outdoorsman, Rick Lane was content tending to his horses and cattle on a 25-acre farm in Cool Ridge.

Missy Schoolcraft, Lane's cousin, said Lane always fed everyone else's horses in the winter. And when she had a horse that was lame, Lane would take care of it on his farm.

"He had a heart of gold," said Schoolcraft, whose husband was best friends with him for more than two decades. "He gave us so much."

The 45-year-old Lane, a longwall production foreman, had been with parent company Massey for about four years and worked at the Upper Big Creek mine for about a year. He and his wife, Kim, have a 23-year-old son and a 9-month-old grandson.



Ricky Workman

Ricky Workman had an affection for wheels.

One of the first images on his MySpace page is a motorcycle. The 50-year-old Colcord resident loved his Harley Davidson and in the summer drove miniature race cars, said his niece, Tammy Cruz of Cleveland.

Workman's MySpace page also listed watching dirt track races, fishing, hunting and spending time with family as his favorite activities. He and his wife, Annette, have three daughters and seven grandchildren.



William Griffith

William "Bob" Griffith came from a family of miners, went into the mines as a young man with his father and worked there like his brothers.

"He learned from the best," said Griffith's brother, Mike, who explained how the trade was a family tradition.

William Griffith lived in Glen Rogers with his wife, Marlene, and raised a son and daughter, said James Griffith, another of the late miner's brothers. When he wasn't working, Griffith and his wife were fixing up their 1967 Camaro.

His nephew, Jason Griffith, remembered his uncle's smile.

He was "always laughing, carrying on, joking," Jason said.


Cory Davis played baseball in high school and followed his family into the mines.

The 20-year-old from Dawes, West Virginia worked with his father, Tommy Davis and cousin Timmy Davis, Jr. at a surface mine, but all three were laid off in the past two years. And all three ended up at Massey.

Cory Davis loved the outdoors and would often spend his weekends at a family camp on a mountaintop.

"We'd just run around, build a fire, ride four-wheelers," Timmy Davis Junior said. "Our life was kind of boring. We're kind of hill folks. We stay up on the mountain."


Timmy Davis Sr. loved coal mining. When he wasn't doing that, he was out hunting and fishing.

"My dad was the best hunter and fisher you've ever seen. The biggest buck or bear would come to him so he could shoot them," said Timmy Davis, Jr. "He's got five or six in here. He's killed a lot of big deer."

The elder Davis' wife of 30 years, Diana, said he and two nephews, 27-year-old Josh Napper and 20-year-old Cory Davis, were killed in the blast. Davis Jr. said his uncle Tommy Davis and brother Cody Davis also were at the mine at the time and survived the blast.

Davis Jr. says Cody Davis and his father were best friends. He says Cody Davis was in his way in at the time of the blast.

"He loved to work underground," the younger Davis said of his father, who was from Cabin Creek, West Virginia. "He loved that place."


Steve Harrah was "always thoughtful and would give you a hand," his father-in-law said.

The 40-year-old enjoyed hunting deer in Pocahontas County, said father-in-law Jack Bowden, Jr., who also is director of the Raleigh County Emergency Operating Center. Harrah lived in Cool Ridge, West Virginia, with his 6-year-old son, Zach, and wife of 10 years, Tammy.

"They went to the same high school, and they just knew each other and started dating," said Bowden, who choked up as he spoke. "It's pretty rough."

Harrah was leaving the mine when the explosion happened. The mining company told the family that Harrah was killed instantly, Bowden said.

Funeral Arrangements:
11 a.m. Friday, April 9
Quesenberry Funeral Home in Shady Spring


Josh Napper was a hulking man with a simple claim to fame: He could bench press more than 500 pounds.

"If there was any way he could, he could have moved half that mountain," said Napper's cousin, Timmy Davis, Jr., "That's about all he did was lift weights."

The 25-year-old Napper came to work in the coal mines just two months ago after working in the health care industry in his hometown of Rutland, Ohio, Davis said.

"He made decent money in Ohio," Davis said. "He just knew it was more money underground. He came here for the money."

Napper lived in Giles, West Virginia, with his grandparents and spent his days off with his infant daughter, Davis said.


Gary Quarles' life was consumed by his wife and two children.

The 33-year-old from Naoma, West Virginia, took trips every summer to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with the kids, ages 9 and 11, as well as his wife. The family often went fishing along the New River there.

"He liked to hunt and spend time with his kids," Janice Quarles said. "That was about it. That's all he did."

He liked to hunt everything from raccoons and deer to wild boar, and he had wanted to stay home from work Monday because his children were still on Easter break, she said.

Janice Quarles said her husband was a quiet, laid-back man nicknamed "Spanky." She was told of his death by a Massey official.

Gary Quarles started coal mining when he was 18. He was among those finishing a 10.5-hour shift when the explosion happened, his wife said.


Deward Scott met his wife, Crissie, when she was his karate student. The pair loved to go hunting together. Deward Scott taught her to bow hunt when they first met nearly 20 years ago, she said.

They've been together ever since, usually enjoying the outdoors while hiking, hunting, fishing or gardening. The 58-year-old Montcoal resident had been a miner for 21 years and loved his job. But he also was kind and outgoing, Crissie Scott said.

"He was a Christian man who loved to help people," Crissie Scott said, her voice choking. "He's one of those people that once you met him, you wouldn't forget him."

The company notified Crissie Scott that her husband was among the miners killed in Monday's explosion.

Funeral Arrangements:
11 a.m. Friday, April 9
Armstrong Funeral Chapel in Whitesville


For Benny Willingham, retirement was just five weeks away.

The 62-year-old from Corinne, West Virginia, had been a coal miner for 30 years and spent the last 17 working for Massey, said his sister-in-law, Sheila Prillaman. Willingham and his wife were supposed to go on a cruise next month to the Virgin Islands.

"Benny was the type -- he probably wouldn't have stayed retired long," Prillaman said. "He wasn't much of a homebody."

Funeral Arrangements:
11 a.m. Friday, April 9
Mullens Pentecostal Holiness Church


Carl Accord lived in Bolt, West Virginia.

Funeral Arrangements:
Visitation: Noon-2 p.m. Friday, April 9
Funeral: 2 p.m. Friday, April 9
Melton Mortuary in Beckley


Robert Clark was 41-years-old, from Beckley, West Virginia.

Funeral Arrangements:
3 p.m. Saturday, April 10
Blue Ridge Funeral Home in Beckley


Funeral Arrangements:
1 p.m. Saturday, April 10
Sherman Elementary School in Comfort, W.Va.


Lynch was a former coach at Oak Hill High School.

He also played basketball at Glenville State College for four years.

Funeral Arrangements:
Visitation: Noon Sunday, April 11
Funeral: 2 p.m. Sunday, April 11
Outreach for Christ Christian Center in Beckley







If you would like to share a picture of one of these miners please click here to email WSAZ.com.

Associated Press writers contributing to this report were John Raby in Charleston, West Virginia; Vicki Smith in Montcoal, West Virginia; and Kate Brumback and Ray Henry in Atlanta.


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WSAZ NewsChannel 3 645 Fifth Avenue Huntington, WV 25701 304-697-4780 WSAZ Charleston 111 Columbia Avenue Charleston, WV 25302 304-344-3521
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 90023862 - wsaz.com/a?a=90023862