UBB memorial close to reality

EFFORTS to build a memorial for the 29 miners killed in the April 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch operation in southern West Virginia may soon bear fruit, as the organizers have nearly all of the cash needed to begin construction.

Donna Schmidt

Upper Big Branch Mine Memorial Group spokesperson Mike Gwinn told West Virginia MetroNews Friday that the group was almost to its $US500,000 goal.

At $230,000, just $20,000 remains to be raised, as new UBB mine owner Alpha Natural Resources pledged in May that it would match the first $250,000 for the memorial.

"We still have a little ways to go, but we're almost there,” Gwinn told the news outlet, noting that a fundraising event held in the state capital of Charleston last week would add to that total.

Design work on the project has already been completed.

The site in Whitesville, the site of a temporary tribute area that has been in place since the event, will include a 48-foot-long, nine-foot-tall stone with several other stones, and silhouettes of the 29 killed miners etched in granite. Information on the industry and the victims is also included.

Gwinn told MetroNews that raising awareness was crucial.

“It's much more beyond the donation, which is great,” he said.

“We can't put a price on that.”

The planned UBB memorial is intended to serve as a quiet place of reflection for the families, friends and the community surrounding UBB, and will also include native plants and landscaping, according to the group’s web site.

The 29 workers lost in the UBB explosion were Carl Acord; Jason Atkins; Christopher Bell; Greg Brock; Kenneth Chapman; Robert Clark; Cory Davis; Timmy Davis; Michael Elswick; William Griffith; Steven Harrah; Edward Jones; Rick Lane; William Lynch; Joe Marcum; Ronald Maynor; Nick McCroskey; James Mooney; Adam Morgan; Rex Mullins; Josh Napper; Boone Payne; Dillard Persinger; Joel Price; Gary Quarles; Deward Scott; Grover Skeens; Ricky Workman; and Benny Willingham.

While some reports, including that of an independent panel commissioned by then-West Virginia governor Joe Manchin, have been completed, federal investigations into the explosion are ongoing. The US Mine Safety and Health Administration may release its final findings later this year, some media outlets said in late June following the agency’s status briefing.