UBB victims' families furious over amusement park attraction

Oct 28, 2013

Kings Dominion does not plan to host a Halloween themed attraction called, Miner's Revenge next year.

Miner's Revenge was one of the featured attractions at Kings Dominion in October this year.
Credit KingsDominion.com

The Virginia-based amusement park does not plan to host a Halloween themed attraction called, Miner's Revenge next year. The  park charged more than $32 for admission during the weekends in October. The haunted attraction's similarities to the Upper Big Branch disaster similarities infuriated the families of the victims. Some have said it’s eerily similar to their real life nightmare.

Halloween Haunt 2013 at Kings Dominion featured attractions included Edge of Darkness, a show described to “bring a decaying circus back to life.” Zombie High is listed as “an outbreak that would cover the world in days." Miner’s Revenge doesn’t have a description on the website anymore.

Ellen Smith, Owner and Managing Editor of Mine Safety and Health News quoted the description in an article before it was taken down stating in part: 

"It was reported to be the worst coal mine accident in history. The families of missing miners begged for help but it was decided that a rescue was too dangerous. The miners were left entombed deep underground. Lamps at their sides and pick-axes in their hands they are searching for the men who left them to die…"

After reading this Smith started a petition to have the attraction stopped.

“I questioned whether or not I was overstepping a line in journalism where I was becoming part of the story," Smith said. "I didn’t want to be but I wanted Kings Dominion to understand just how serious this was."

"You would not make an attraction from what happened on 9-11. You would not have an attraction of someone being stuck in a 110 story high-rise and not being able to get out because the middle part of the structure was blown apart and that people was jumping out of windows you would never do that. I did not understand why they chose to take this theme when it hits this close to home. And they’re in Virginia they’re next door neighbors," said Smith.

Smith also said, even despite her status as a journalist, she "cannot be silent."

Smith's petition collected more than 300 signatures while a petition started by a Beckley resident collect more than 100.

The Halloween Haunt event ended this past weekend concluding the amusement park’s season as well. Still, Smith says she plans to present the signatures to Kings Dominion and hopes to send a message along with the names.

“What might seem so innocent can really really hurt people and bring back memories and traumatic events that they don’t need," she said. "They’ve already been traumatized.”

Gary Quarles, who has actively spoken out to honor the memory of his son Gary Wayne Quarles, in the past, rounded the courage to share his fury about the attraction. 

Twenty-nine helmets hanging on red crosses close to the UBB entrance is just one memorial the community setup after the explosion.
Credit Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

“We’re all trying to heal and go on with our everyday life," he said. "We would like to be just left alone."

In an email, Kings Dominion spokesperson Gene Petriello said, “Miners Revenge is not designed, nor intended, to depict a specific situation. Rather it is simply a themed Halloween attraction for the 2013 Haunt season at Kings Dominion.”

But Quarles says the description hits way too close to home.

“The public don’t really need to know," he said. "They don’t need to know about all that stuff about our loved ones whoever could have been blown plum to pieces or who wasn’t.”

The UMWA joined the families to say “We are very disappointed by this outrageous "attraction" at Kings Dominion. It's extremely insensitive to all families who've lost loved ones in mining tragedies over the years.”

Petriello said, upon completion of each season, all Halloween attractions are reviewed to allow for new themes. As part of its regular rotation, Kings Dominion does not intend to operate the Miner’s Revenge Halloween attraction next year.

It's unclear if the attraction will remain on the "regular rotation" schedule past 2014.