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Mixed news for Mountaineers, Jan. 3, 2006

2006 has gotten off to a mixed start for those of us from West Virginia.

On the day that our beloved Mountaineers won the biggest grid victory in the history of the school by beating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl (the SEC should lose its automatic BCS berth), 13 coal miners were trapped in a mine explosion. Their prospects were not good this morning.

There are likely few who were born in West Virginia who don’t have a relative or know someone who was killed or injured in a mine accident. My dad had been in several over the course of more than three decades in the mines, suffering a broken back and an ankle injury that nearly crippled him.

Upshur County, where Monday’s &uot;accident&uot; occurred, is just about 20 miles from where I was born and many of my relatives still live. My mom told me this morning that a first cousin of mine, Jon Boni, and his son were among the 19 miners who went in the Sago mine

at about 6:30 yesterday morning. They had all piled into one car when they thought they had it overloaded and Jon’s son went back for another car. The six who waited got out alive.

It’s tough to watch the families waiting around for word on loved ones, trying to keep some hope afloat while deep down they likely know the chances for a happy ending are slim and none.

The word accident above is in quotes because from the bits and pieces I’ve heard, the mine had more than 200 safety violations in the past year and wives interviewed on the news told how their husbands had told them about dangerous carbon monoxide levels in the mine. It was likely more due to negligence than acts of God.

While mine accidents have been with us since mining has been around, the chances of such &uot;accidents&uot; are greater now than ever before. Coal is experiencing a boom of sorts, with oil prices rising. That coupled with a gutted labor movement and a federal government that is bending over backwards to help corporations at the expense of workers and middle class taxpayers is a recipe for disaster.