The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 14, 2010

Profiles of victims from mine disaster


From Staff Reports

BECKLEY — Not all of the dead have been identified. These are the stories of those who have been named so far, either by mine owner Massey Energy Co., the medical examiner, or family members and friends.



- - -



Carl Acord

Carl Acord shared a big Easter dinner with family on Sunday 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.

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



Jason Atkins

Jason Matthew Atkins, 25, of Foster, was a first-team all-state football honoree and honorable mention in baseball at Sherman High School, from which he graduated in 2003.

Atkins, was a WVU sports fan and enjoyed playing golf with his brother.

He and his wife Amanda, whom he married in 2008, would have celebrated 10 years together on April 8.



Kenneth 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 always would be like he couldn’t hear you and he would come up and (grab) people or tell jokes that would always get a laugh,” said a nephew, Mike Chapman. “He was somebody that always had a good time.”

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

“He was really close with his family and his brothers,” Mike Chapman said.



Robert Clark

Robert Eugene Clark, who was born in Logan County, loved spending time with his family, riding his motorcycle, fishing, hunting, restoring vehicles, golfing, wood working, boating and mechanic work.

Clark, 41, of Beckley, was a proud father to son, Steven Robert Clark, and a devoted husband to wife, Melissa.

He was described as a “caring, loving person who never met a stranger.”



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. And all three ended up at Massey.

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 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 father were best friends, Davis Jr. said. Cody Davis was in 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, W.Va. “He loved that place.”



William “Griff” 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.

William Griffith 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 Operating Center. Harrah lived in Cool Ridge with his kindergarten-age son, Zach, and wife of 10 years, Tammy.

His sister, Betty Harrah, 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.



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



William Lynch

William Roosevelt Lynch, of Oak Hill, 59, played basketball at Glenville State College and kept his love of sports alive through his participation with Red Devil athletics.

In addition to serving as an assistant for the Oak Hill High School football program, he also helped with basketball both there and at Collins Middle School.

Lynch left behind Genny, his wife of 37 years, two children and soon to be four grandchildren.



Nicholas McCroskey

Nick McCroskey was a bundle of energy and devoted sports fan, said longtime friend Shanda Staton.

The 26-year-old Beckley resident “was full of life,” Staton said. “I mean, he loved life.”

McCroskey graduated from Bluefield State College in 2006 with an engineering degree and loved a variety of sports.

He regularly attended NASCAR events at Bristol Motor Speedway in Virginia also loved to go four-wheeling and dirt bike riding. He was a fan of baseball, water skiing, hunting and fishing and owned a motorcycle, Staton said.

“He was loyal,” said Staton, who attended college with McCroskey. “He was sweet and helpful and underneath it all, he was kind hearted.”



Adam Morgan

Adam Morgan wore No. 24 on Wyoming East High School’s football team in his senior year in 2006 when the Warriors made the state Class AA playoffs.

More than his athletic abilities, Principal Barry Smith recalled Morgan for his manners.

“As a principal you don’t remember everyone, but you do remember kids who are nice and students who are polite, and that’s what I remember about him,” Smith said. “Very cordial and just kind of quiet.”

Wyoming East held a moment of silence Monday for Morgan, 21, of Pineville, and three other victims of the disaster — 2001 graduate Nick McCroskey and two miners whose relatives worked at the school.



Josh Napper

Josh Napper was a hulking man with a simple claim to fame: He could bench press more than 500 pounds.

“If there was any way he could, he could have moved half that mountain,” said Napper’s cousin, Timmy Davis Jr. “That’s about all he did was lift weights.”

The 25-year-old Napper came to work in the coal mines just two months ago after working in the health care industry in his hometown of Rutland, Ohio, Davis said.

“He made decent money in Ohio,” Davis said. “He just knew it was more money underground. He came here for the money.”

Napper lived in Giles with his grandparents and spent his days off with his infant daughter, Davis said.



Howard “Boone” Payne

Howard “Boone” Payne was a “gentle giant” in his early 50s with flaming red hair and broad shoulders.

“He would go out of his way to help someone,” Terry Wright said of his sister Debra’s husband. “He loved to have fun. He was quiet and loved his family.”

Payne began working as a coal miner shortly after graduating high school in 1977. He had worked for Massey Energy for eight to 10 years.



Dillard “Dewey” Persinger



Joel “Jody” Price



Gary Quarles

Gary Quarles’ life was consumed by his wife and two children.

The 33-year-old from Naoma took trips every summer to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with the kids, ages 9 and 11, as well as his wife. The family often went fishing along the New River there.

“He liked to hunt and spend time with his kids,” Janice Quarles said. “That was about it. That’s all he did.”

He liked to hunt everything from raccoons and deer to wild boar.

Gary Quarles started coal mining when he was 18. He was among those finishing a 10.5-hour shift when the explosion happened, his wife said.



Grover Dale Skeens

Grover Skeens found religion later in life and was involved in that extensively, said his brother, Gary Skeens of Dunbar.

Grover Skeens, 57, of Montcoal, was one of five siblings who grew up in Twilight in Boone County. He got his middle name from a brother-in-law, Jimmy Dale Massey.

“I don’t know how my wife talked her mother into that,” Massey said.

Skeens joined the Marines after the Vietnam War before becoming a coal miner like his brother Gary.

“Mostly, his passion was work,” Massey said. “He started out in the coal mines at an early age. He’s been working there for almost 30 years.”

About 15 years ago Skeens was baptized and has had a strong church involvement ever since.

“He went to church all the time,” Gary Skeens said.

Massey is presiding at a graveside service on Wednesday.



Deward Scott

Deward Scott met his wife, Crissie, when she was his karate student. The pair loved to go hunting together — Deward Scott taught her to bow hunt when they first met nearly 20 years ago, she said.

They’ve been together ever since — usually enjoying the outdoors while hiking, hunting, fishing or gardening. The 58-year-old Montcoal resident had been a miner for 21 years and loved his job. But he also was kind and outgoing, Crissie Scott said.

“He was a Christian man who loved to help people,” Crissie Scott said, her voice choking. “He’s one of those people that once you met him, you wouldn’t forget him.”



Benny R. Willingham

For Benny Willingham, retirement was just five weeks away.

The 61-year-old from Corinne, had been a coal miner for 30 years and spent the last 17 working for Massey, said his sister-in-law, Sheila Prillaman. Willingham and his wife were supposed to go on a cruise next month to the Virgin Islands.

“Benny was the type — he probably wouldn’t have stayed retired long,” Prillaman said. “He wasn’t much of a homebody.”



Ricky Workman

Ricky Workman had an affection for wheels.

One of the first images on his MySpace page is a motorcycle. The 50-year-old Colcord resident loved his Harley-Davidson and in the summer drove miniature race cars, said his niece, Tammy Cruz of Cleveland.

Workman’s MySpace page also listed watching dirt track races, fishing, hunting and spending time with family as his favorite activities. He and his wife, Annette, have three daughters and seven grandchildren.





— The Associated Press contributed to this report.