MADISON –“There is no better place to have a memorial service for coal miners that right here in the heart of the coalfields in Boone County,” said UMWA District 17 president Joe Carter.
Carter was the featured speaker during the “Miners Memorial Service,” which was held on the front steps and lawn of the Boone County Courthouse in Madison. The service is a part of the annual West Virginia Coal Festival.
“When you get in the heart of the coalfields, the people will respond,” said Carter. “There is no better friend than a coal miner. They will stick with you through thick and thin, through good times and bad times.”
The West Virginia Coal Festival brought hundreds to the area for fun and festive activities, but a ceremony remembering those lost to coal mining tragedies in the state since the last festival was also part of the festival’s events.
The ceremony included music, patriotic activities and a remembrance ceremony for the four coal miners that have died in West Virginia since the festival last year.
The Boone Co. Civil Air Patrol Squadron hung the Coal Festival Flag and the Madison VFW Post 5578 posted the colors with the assistance of the Post 5578 Woman’s Auxiliary.
Speakers and dignitaries included Festival President Joy Underwood, Festival Vice President Delores Cook, Madison Mayor H.H. “Sonny” Howell and festival board member Jimbo Clendenen. The invocation was done by Dr. Frank “Tex” Frye, pastor of the Madison United Methodist Church.
There were beautiful musical performances by soloist Seth Bunting. He is the son of Mike and Jeri Bunting of Madison.
“We are here today to remember and honor these brave miners and to say that we will never forget them,” Cook said.
Cook read the name of the deceased, and current and former United Mine Workers miners carried crosses for each miner to the foot of the Coal Miners’ Statue on the front lawn of the courthouse. Carter carried the miners memorial wreath.
They miners honored and remembered included: Roger King, 62, who was fatally injured on Oct. 4, 2013, at the McElroy Mine in Marshall County while supervising the face conveyer chain installation of a long wall set up; Daniel Lambka, 20, who was fatally injured on Jan. 16, 2014, at the Mettiki Coal mine in Tucker County after becoming pinned between the rib and frame of a feeder after the securing post became dislodged; and Eric Legg, 48, and Gary Hensley, 46, who were both fatally injured on May 12, 2014, at the Brody Mine #1 in Boone County after an accident caused by a severe coal outburst, which is a sudden outburst of coal and gas.
Carter said there have been over 100,000 deaths in coal mines since records have been kept.
“There were 14 nationally last year, three so far this year and four since the last West Virginia Coal Festival,” he said. “This is a reminder of the dangers coal miners and their families face to provide needed energy for our country, make a living and feed their families.”
Carter added that coal miners continue to face adversity.
“We have prevailed in the past regarding issues facing the coal mining industry and we will prevail in the future,” he said. “The UMWA always stands with the miners and their families.”
Clendenen performed the lighting of the torch at the Coal Miner Statue, which will burn throughout the five-day festival.
The ceremony concluded with the audience participating in singing “Amazing Grace” and a benediction from Pastor John Barker with the Bible Baptist Church in Danville.