Families to rally for victims of Upper Big Branch mine disaster - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Families rally for victims of Upper Big Branch mine disaster

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The Upper Big Branch mine was closed in 2012. The Upper Big Branch mine was closed in 2012.
CHARLESTON, WV -

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On Saturday it will be four years since the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster in Raleigh County took the lives of 29 miners. Yet for friends and family of those loved ones, that fateful day is still an open wound.

"I just wish, just wish, just wish it never happened. It will never go away," said Pamela Naper. The underground explosion took the life of her son, her brother and her nephew.

"They didn't have to be done this way," she said. "They had a lot of life to live. And Blankenship, he decided their fate real quick for them and he knows he did. He knows he's wrong. He needs to be punished."

Naper and other family members and friends of the victims rallied outside of the US Federal Courthouse in Charleston Monday. Their goal was to put pressure on US District Attorney Booth Goodwin to make additional arrests in connection to the explosion.

They said it's been four years since the explosion and Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, has still not been charged.

"Don Blankenship, he's got control. He should have shut it down. He could have closed it down. He could have brought the men out," said Tommy Davis.

Davis, a former miner at the UBB site, lost his brother and his nephew. In fact, he was working that day and made it out of the mine minutes before the explosion.

"It's fresh because you think about it everyday, especially since you had a son who you loved so much and cared about," he said.

Those at the rally also protested a new documentary, ‘Upper Big Branch, Never Again.' The controversial film was released Monday, days before the four year anniversary, and tells Blankenship's version of what happened during the explosion.

"Natural gas inundated the mine through a crack that was found in the mine's floor," the documentary says.

A 2011 report from the Mine and Safety Health Administration found 369 citations at UBB, 21 of them flagrant violations of safety standards.

Blankenship has not yet been charged but federal prosecutors say there is still an ongoing investigation.

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Families and friends of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster victims gathered in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Charleston April 2.

They rallied to get U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin to make additional arrests in connection with the explosion, which happened four years ago.

The deadly blast killed 29 miners in Raleigh County April 5, 2010.

Investigators said the blast was sparked by worn and broken equipment.

The rally started at noon. The federal courthouse is located at 300 Virginia St. East in downtown Charleston.

The four-year anniversary of the explosion is Saturday.