Two West Virginia Coal Miners Found Dead

Jan. 23, 2006
The 40-plus-hour search for two missing West Virginia coal miners came to a tragic conclusion this past weekend when the miners were found dead Jan. 21 inside Aracoma Coal's Alma Mine No. 1 near Mellville, W.Va.

The miners Don Bragg, 33, and Ellery "Elvis" Hatfield, 47 reportedly were found dead near the area where a conveyer belt caught fire the evening of Jan. 19. A crew of more than a dozen miners was working near the conveyer belt at the time of the fire, a state official told Occupationalhazards.com on Jan. 20, and Bragg and Hatfield were the only ones who did not make it out of the mine safely after the fire.

The deaths of Bragg and Hatfield raised the state's death toll for mining accidents this year to 14. Earlier this month, 12 miners perished after an explosion at the Sago Mine near Tallmansville, W.Va.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who is promising mine safety legislation in the wake of the tragedies, said he and other state officials have shifted into "total support mode" for the victims' families. Bragg leaves behind a wife and two children and Hatfield leaves behind a wife and four children, according to Manchin.

"We're hurting. We're hurting bad," Manchin said. "Each one of those family members are hurting as much as anyone can ever hurt."

Richmond, Va.-based Massey Energy Co., the parent company of Aracoma Coal, issued a statement on its Web site expressing sympathy for the miners' families. "Words cannot express how deeply saddened our company and community are by this tragic event."

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