The Sago Mine Disaster, Jan. 2, 2006

January 2, 2013 by Ken Ward Jr.

It was 7 years ago this morning that an explosion ripped through International Coal Group’s Sago Mine in Upshur County, W.Va. Twelve miners died and another barely got out alive.

Miner Randal McCloy Jr. survived, and the miners killed were:

Tom Anderson, Terry Helms, Marty Bennett, Martin Toler, Marshall Winans, Junior Hamner, Jesse Jones, Jerry Groves, James Bennett, Jackie Weaver, Fred Ware, and David Lewis.

Investigators said the deaths were avoidable, and a report by Davitt McAteer’s team had plenty of blame to spread around.

And as I’ve said before, it’s always worth remembering these words from the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, spoken on the Senate floor after Sago:

I’ve seen it all before. First, the disaster, then the weeping and then the outrage. But in a few weeks, when the outrage is gone, when the ink on the editorials is dry, everything returns to business as usual.

3 Responses to “The Sago Mine Disaster, Jan. 2, 2006”

  1. Bill Howley says:

    Sen. Byrd wasn’t the first to despair of any change after a coal mining disaster. Here are the words of Welsh poet Idris Davies after a mine explosion in South Wales in the early 1900s –

    BELLS OF RHYMNEY

    Oh what will you give me?
    Say the sad bells of Rhymney.
    Is there hope for the future?
    Cry the brown bells of Merthyr.
    Who made the mine owner?
    Say the black bells of Rhondda.
    And who robbed the miner?
    Cry the grim bells of Blaina.

    They will plunder will-nilly,
    Cry the bells of Caerphilly.
    They have fangs, they have teeth,
    Shout the loud bells of Neath.
    Even God is uneasy,
    Say the moist bells of Swansea.
    And what will you give me?
    Say the sad bells of Rhymney.

    Throw the vandals in court,
    Say the bells of Newport.
    All will be well if, if, if,
    Cry the green bells of Cardiff.
    Why so worried, sisters why?
    Sang the silver bells of Wye.
    And what will you give me?
    Say the sad bells of Rhymney?

    — from “Gwalia Deserta” by Idris Davies

  2. Celeste monforton says:

    Thanks for not letting us forget.

  3. Thomas Rodd says:

    SPRINGHILL MINE DISASTER
    by Peggy Seeger

    In the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia
    Down in the dark of the Cumberland Mine
    there’s blood on the coal and the miners lie
    In the roads that never saw sun nor sky (2x)

    In the town of Springhill, you don’t sleep easy
    Often the earth will tremble and roll
    When the earth is restless, miners die
    Bone and blood is the price of coal

    In the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia
    Late in the year of fifty-eight
    Day still comes and the sun still shines
    But it’s dark as the grave in the Cumberland mine

    Down at the coal face, miners working
    Rattle of the belt and the cutter’s blade
    Rumble of the rock and the walls closed round
    The living and the dead men two miles down

    Twelve men lay two miles from the pitshaft
    Twelve men lay in the dark and sang
    Long hot days in the miners tomb
    It was three feet high and a hundred long

    Three days passed and the lamps gave out
    Our foreman rose on his elbow and said
    We’re out of light and water and bread
    So we’ll live on song and hope instead

    Listen for the shouts of the barefaced miners
    Listen thru the rubble for a rescue team
    Six hundred feet of coal and slag
    Hope imprisoned in a three foot seam

    Eight days passed and some were rescued
    Leaving the dead to lie alone
    Thru all their lives they dug their grave
    Two miles of earth for a marking stone

    In the town of Springhill, you don’t sleep easy
    Often the earth will tremble and roll
    When the earth is restless, miners die
    Bone and blood is the price of coal.

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