The Men of the Sago Mine

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The 12 miners who did not survive the disaster at Sago Mine were fathers, sons and husbands. Some had been in the business their whole adult lives and were close to retirement. Others were in their 20s. We hear the names of those who lost their lives and some of what we know about them.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Most of the miners who were trapped at Sago mine were veterans of the coal industry, though some were just beginning to make their living underground. The miner who survived is Randall McCloy, and at 27, he is one of the young men of the group. He is at a hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia, in critical condition. He has a collapsed lung and is suffering from dehydration.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

While people pull for Randall McCloy's recovery, there is grief for the loss of the other 12 miners. Their bodies were found huddled together behind a fabric barrier designed to protect against carbon monoxide. Here's a bit about who they were as we've learned from the Associated Press and our reporters and staff. There is one name we still don't know.

SIEGEL: Alva Martin Bennett was 50 years old; he went by Marty. He was from Buckhannon, West Virginia. He loved the outdoors, four-wheeling and camping, and he also loved to dig for ramps, a sort of wild leek with mythical status in West Virginia.

NORRIS: Jim Bennett from the town of Philippi was 61. He had planned to retire this year. His half brother says he loved the mines, but he would pray daily for the workers who were heading underground.

SIEGEL: Jerry Groves was a lifelong miner, like his father and grandfather. He lived in Cleveland, West Virginia, and at age 57 was hoping to retire soon. He's survived by his wife and two adult children.

NORRIS: George Hamner Jr. lived on several acres with his wife and daughter in Glady Fork. Hamner had worked in coal mines for some 30 years, but he'd been in and out of the business because of his weight. Gastric bypass surgery recently helped him lose more than 170 pounds, and he was glad to get back to mining.

SIEGEL: George Hamner's niece Melissa Currance(ph) says he had a lot of friends who worked at the mine. In their off time, they sometimes went sport fishing and often hunted on his property.

Ms. MELISSA CURRANCE (Niece of George Hamner Jr.): Several of his friends would come down and they would camp all week in this Army-like tent and go hunting and, you know, eat together and camp together. They just made a week out of it.

NORRIS: George Hamner was 51.

SIEGEL: Terry Helms also worked in mines for more than 30 years. He knew the dangers, and he wouldn't let his son follow in his footsteps. Nick Helms says his father didn't talk much about his work because he didn't want them to worry. Terry Helms was 50, and he was engaged to be married.

MORRIS: David Lewis' family owns a dairy farm, but he worked at the mine so he could be home in the evenings with his three daughters while his wife went to graduate school. David Lewis was 28 years old.

SIEGEL: Martin Toler was a mine foreman, a miner most of his life. He was 50. His son Chris Toler had worked with him at a different mine until recently, when Chris was laid off.

NORRIS: Fred Ware Jr. of Tallmansville, West Virginia, was planning to be married on Valentine's Day. He was 59, and his fiancee Loretta Ables says Fred always thought he would die in a mine.

SIEGEL: Jack Weaver was 52. He was also from Philippi. He's survived by an adult daughter and an 11-year-old son as well as his wife, who works for Freedom Bank.

NORRIS: And Marshall Winans from Talbot(ph), West Virginia, was 49. He was not the only one in his family to lose his life in an industrial accident. His brother died working on a natural gas rig. His mother told NPR's "Day to Day" program that her other sons had dangerous jobs, too.

Ms. HELEN WINANS: One works on a strip job, running the dozer, and the other one works for J.F. Allen, a rock quarry and works on-the-road job. Anything you go out's dangerous.

SIEGEL: Helen Winans says that she'll do now what she did when her other son died. `Life goes on,' she says. `You cope with it.'

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