Sago miners’ families troubled by suicides
Family members of six of the miners killed in the Sago Mine disaster said Thursday they are troubled by the suicides of two other men who worked at the mine.
Thirteen family members issued a short statement to express sympathy for the families of miners William Chisolm and John Nelson Boni.
“We share the sadness and grief of their loved ones,” the statement said. “Their untimely deaths are another chapter in the tragedy that started with the explosion at the Sago Mine and that continues today.”
Chisolm, 47, of Belington, died on Aug. 29, and Boni, 63, of Volga, died on Sept. 23, according to police. Both men shot themselves, police said.
Chisolm was the dispatcher on duty the morning of the explosion, and Boni had discovered — and reported to his supervisor — a buildup of methane five days earlier in the sealed part of the mine where the blast occurred.
In their statement, the Sago families said, “We understand that there must have been enormous stress on Mr. Boni and Mr. Chisolm.
“Sadly, we fear that other miners in our community may be experiencing the same stress as a result of their experiences at the mine before, during or after the explosion or as a result of their experiences as a member of one of the rescue teams,” the statement said.
The statement, issued by a Morgantown lawyer who represents some of the families, was signed by family members of Sago miners George Hamner, Tom Anderson, Fred Ware Jr., James Bennett, Terry Helms and Jerry Groves.
Twelve miners died in the Jan. 2 explosion at the International Coal Group mine, making it the worst mining disaster in West Virginia in nearly 40 years.
The families said they “urge every Sago miner and every member of the rescue teams who shares that stress to speak about it and to share his thoughts with his family, friends, minister and/or a counselor of his choice whom he trusts.
“There is no shame in acknowledging that the horror of the disaster continues to be a source of stress and pain today,” the statement said.
The families said that, “While we have serious concerns about the safety at the mine, we are also concerned about the safety and well being of all the Sago miners and of the rescue teams who tried to rescue our loved ones.
“We hope that all of those who are suffering from the aftermath of the disaster will speak openly about their concerns,” the statement said. “The tragedy of Sago must not cost any more lives.”
The statement concluded, “We also hope that neither the company nor the attorneys that the company hired for its miners will discourage those miners from speaking about the disaster with others to whom they wish to speak and about the thoughts and feelings that trouble them.”
To contact staff writer Ken Ward Jr., use e-mail or call 348-1702.