12 killed in Sago mine disaster remembered 14 years later

An explosion in an Upshur County mine killed 12 people on this date 14 years ago. (Photo: WDTV)
An explosion in an Upshur County mine killed 12 people on this date 14 years ago. (Photo: WDTV)(WDTV)
Published: Jan. 2, 2020 at 5:57 PM EST
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Every January 2nd, flowers rest at the base of a memorial in Upshur County dedicated to 12 miners killed in a 2006 mine explosion.

It's been 14 years now since the world's attention was on Sago, West Virginia.

It began when the explosion trapped 13 miners two miles below ground. They were trapped for nearly two days.

Investigators believe a lightning strike was the likely cause of the explosion.

During the rescue mission, false reports spread that the men all survived.

When news reached the Sago Baptist Church where families awaited news of any kind it was anything but silent. Cheers, tears of joy and music filled the Upshur County air.

Some declared it a West Virginia miracle.

In the end, only one made it out alive. Randal McCloy Jr. was 26 at the time.

"I thank God, mostly," he told WDTV after he was rescued. "It's because of him I'm still here."

It was the worst mining disaster in West Virginia since the 1968 Farmington Mine disaster.

Today, roses rest amongst the rocks at the memorial honoring all 12 men who didn't make it out.

One of the notes recovered from inside the mine is etched in stone on that memorial.

"We'll see you on the other side," it reads.

New state and federal laws were enacted after the disaster to improve safety and security standards in mines.

Joe Manchin was governor when the disaster happened. He released a statement Thursday on its anniversary:

"Fourteen years ago, twelve coal miners went to work at the Sago mine and never returned to their families. After that tragedy, I joined all West Virginians as we grieved with the coal miners’ families and loved ones.

"Today and every day since that horrible disaster, my thoughts are with those who lost a loved one that day. After the Sago disaster, West Virginia passed historic legislation to improve safety standards for our coal miners who power America.

"Today’s anniversary is a reminder that our coal miners health, safety, and security must continue to be our highest priority. I remain committed to ensuring no family has to suffer this unimaginable loss ever again and continue to keep the coal miners’ families in my thoughts.”

"They loved their families

They loved their country

They loved their god"

Marty Bennett

George Junior Hamner

Marshall Cade Winans

Jackie Lynn Weaver

Fred G. "Bear" Ware, Jr.

Martin Toler, Jr.

David William Lewis

Jesse L. Jones

Terry Helms

Jerry Lee Groves

James A. Bennett

Tomas "Tom" Paul Anderson