April 15, 2010
A slideshow memorial to the miners
Kenny Kemp
Community members hold candles at a vigil for the 29 miners who died in the explosion at Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal. About 250 people attended the April 10 vigil at March Fork Elementary.

View a slideshow of photos of the men lost in the April 5, 2010 Montcoal mine disaster at a Massey Energy mine, which killed 29 miners. To download an .mp4 version of this slideshow or to embed a copy of it someplace else on the Web, see the YouTube version at this address and click on 'embed.'

Here is another slideshow of almost 40 Associated Press and Gazettte photographs, which depict the hours and days after the explosion in the mine, as rescuers tried to enter the site. 

Stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the ongoing investigation into the mining disaster at the Coal Tattoo blog by Gazette staff writer Ken Ward. Jr.

Carl Acord

Earlier this month, Carl Acord shared a big Easter dinner with family and doted on his infant grandsons, 9-month-old Chase and 3-month-old Cameron, said his sister, Sherry Cline.

"He was looking forward to riding them around on the tractor this summer," Cline said. "He kept talking about that at Easter dinner."

Acord also enjoyed fishing with his two sons, 24-year-old Cody and 19-year-old Casey.

Even though he was about 6 feet tall, everyone called Acord "Pee Wee" - which he hated.

"That was his nickname since he was a little tyke. It just stuck," Cline said.

Acord, 52, had worked in mines for 34 years and liked the work, Cline said. But he told his family the day before the explosion that he was concerned about the mine's roof and worried about going to work.

Jason Atkins

Jason Atkins was born and raised in Boone County, near the coal mine where he lost his life, said his father-in-law, Rick Withers.

The 25-year-old miner and his wife, Amanda, 28, met when they were students at West Virginia Tech and got married in 2008, Withers said.

Withers said he was not sure when Atkins began working at the mine.

"He was an hourly guy," Withers said.

Atkins played second base on his high school and college baseball teams, but left Tech without graduating, Withers said. He enjoyed golfing.

Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell loved to draw and detail cars. The 33-year-old also loved spending time with his wife, Angela. He loved playing with his four kids, Alexis, Meadow, Christopher and Skylar. 

He was born in Dayton, Ohio, the son of Christopher L. Bell and Kathy Darlene Acord Bell.

Greg Brock

Greg Brock loved spending time on his farm.

The 47-year-old left behind his fiancée, Patti Stover, and son, Greg Kyle Brock. He and his son loved spending time with Patti and her daughters, Shayla and Brooke Stover.

Brock was a NASCAR fan and loved to hunt and fish. He always had a vegetable and flower garden.

Brock, of Clear Creek, juggled life in the mines with being involved in his children's activities. He often picked up his 12-year-old son for baseball and basketball games and brought him to a nearby store for soda and pizza, said store operator Glen Duncan.

Brock also has a daughter, two grandchildren, two sisters and two brothers.

"He's just a good, hard-working man and a good daddy," Duncan said.

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 was somebody that always had a good time," said a nephew.

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

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

Robert E. Clark

Just a few months ago, Robert E. Clark, 41, came forward and committed himself as a born-again Christian at the Beckley Church of God, his pastor said.

The decision in January offered a degree of solace to Clark's churchgoing friends. He leaves behind his wife, Melissa, and a young son.

"It really is a big relief to know that all is well with his soul, that he can go to heaven," said the Rev. F.D. Sexton, who has spoken with Clark's family since the explosion at the mine. Sexton said he remembered Clark's big smile as the miner left an Easter service at the church.

"Everything was still good with him as far as his soul was concerned," Sexton said.

Cory Davis

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

The 20-year-old from Dawes 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. All three ended up at Massey Energy.

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 Jr. said. "Our life was kind of boring. We're kind of hill folks. We stay up on the mountain."

Timmy Davis Sr.

Timmy Davis Sr. loved coal mining - and 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 his son, Timmy Davis Jr. "He's got five or six in here. He's killed a lot of big deer."

Davis Jr. said his uncle, Tommy Davis, and brother, Cody Davis, also were at the mine at the time and survived the blast.

Cody Davis and his 51-year-old father were best friends, Davis Jr. said. Cody Davis was on his way in at the time of the blast, said Davis Jr., who works as a coal truck driver.

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

Michael Elswick

Michael Lee Elswick had an affectionate moniker for practically everyone in his family.

Elswick, known as "Cuz," was particularly fond of his 7-year-old granddaughter, who lived next door. To him, she was "Smooch."

"Any time he saw her, he'd go outside if she was playing, he'd yell, 'Hey Smooch, come here and see Paw Paw,'" said Elswick's daughter, Jami Cash. "He had nicknames for everybody."

The 56-year-old Elswick and his wife, Bobbie, were married 36 years - the same number of years he had been working in the coal mines.

Elswick was laid off earlier this year at Patriot Coal and his daughter said he had been at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine for only four days when the April 5 explosion killed 29 miners in Montcoal.

Because the two families were neighbors in Elkview, the Elswicks were like a second set of parents to Cash's children. When Smooch got in trouble, "she'd run to Paw Paw," Cash said. "He was her savior."

Same thing with her 17-year-old son. When his car privileges were taken away, "he'd run to Paw Paw," Cash said. "I'd say, 'Daddy, he's in trouble.'"

That didn't matter. Cash said Elswick replied, "You either give him the keys to his car or I'll give him the keys to mine."

"Paw Paw was their go-to guy. He was the rock. When things fell apart, he was there."

Jami Cash nearly died from Crohn's disease in 2002. Her father sat with her and held her throughout her ordeal. Bobbie Elswick has had a stroke and heart trouble and has a pacemaker.

"His biggest fear in his world was losing one of us before him," Cash said.

William 'Bob' 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.

Griffith, 54, 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.

Steve Harrah

Steve Harrah - known to his co-workers as "Smiley" - 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 Operations Center. Harrah lived in Cool Ridge with his kindergarten-age son, Zach, and wife of 10 years, Tammy.

"[He and Tammy] 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's sister Betty said other workers thought of her brother as a good boss. "He wouldn't ask them to do anything he wouldn't get down in there and do," she said.

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

Dean Jones

For Dean Jones, Easter Sunday dinner wasn't his last taste of his mother-in-law's cooking.

Alice Peters said Jones loved deviled eggs in particular, and she fixed a tray of them on April 4. But she forgot to put the eggs on the dinner table. So after dinner she summoned Jones' 13-year-old son Kyle to go to the front porch to let his dad know that the eggs were available.

"He said he would take them home with him," Peters said.

The next day, Jones was among the 29 workers killed in a midafternoon explosion at the Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch Mine.

Peters would spend the next several days watching her grandson at Jones' home in Beckley while her daughter, Gina, awaited word on her 50-year-old husband with other grief-stricken families at the mine site.

While at the house, Peters remembered to check Jones' refrigerator to see if her son-in-law had enjoyed the eggs before going to work the next day.

"He had eaten some of them," Peters said. "He just loved to eat."

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 Branch mine for about a year. He and his wife, Kim, have a 23-year-old son and a 9-month-old grandson.

William Roosevelt Lynch

William Roosevelt Lynch wore many hats, including that of a coal miner.

Over his career, the 59-year-old, who went by Roosevelt, was a teacher, coached three sports and was about to welcome his fourth grandchild into the world. He also worked in the mines for more than 30 years.

Lynch was among the dead, said his brother, Melvin Lynch of Mount Hope, who also was in the mine at the time.

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