It’s been more than eight years since two men died at the Aracoma Mine. A dedication ceremony was held Monday morning at the National Mining Academy in Beaver, to honor the victims.
The event was meant to honor the victims of Aracoma, miners Don Bragg and Ellery “Elvis” Hatfield. The widows sued MSHA for not citing violations that could have prevented these deaths. The event also marked the beginning of a training course. Federal regulators agreed to create a mine fire prevention training course after investigations found lax enforcement from MSHA at the then Massey Energy operation.
A bronze plaque baring Bragg and Hatfield’s names will hang at the entrance of the fire training facility. Assistant Secretary of Labor, and head of MSHA Joe Main unveiled the plaque and had this to say after the dedication.
Emotions swept over Hatfield’s two children and widow throughout the ceremony. MSHA officials instructed them to walk up front and stand with the plaque. The family gathered at the plaque … wearing sorrowful looks on their faces.
The two men died of carbon monoxide poisoning after being separated from ten other miners.
"The reason they are here," the families of Bragg and Hatfield's Attorney Bruce Stanley said, "and the reason they have fought this fight for so long is to try to ensure that the grief and the pain that they feel every day that we’re talking about doesn’t beset other families in Southern West Virginia or the coalfields anywhere. They’re here to keep another Aracoma from happening."
Congress also passed the 2006 Miner Act as a result of the Aracoma tragedy as well as Sago, and Darby, Kentucky. The Miner Act required operators to provide improved training on the use of breathing devices, provide improve emergency evacuations and training and more.
MSHA has worked to implement several provisions to improve mine safety. Listen to West Virginia Public Radio for a closer look at the results of those provisions.