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Sago miner's family offers support

MONTCOAL, W.Va. -- Three family members of Marty Bennett, one of the 12 men killed in the Sago Mine disaster, drove from Buckhannon to deliver a letter to the families involved in the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster.

Sam Lantz and Vicki Sharp said their sister, Judy Bennett, asked them to come down to talk with the families and show their support. Judy Bennett is Marty Bennett's widow.

"She has severe emphysema. She wanted to come, but she couldn't," Lantz said. "So she sent us."

Hearing about the latest mine disaster brought back memories of Sago, said Kevin Sharp, Vicki's husband.

"It was like a flashback, like here we go again," he said.

Vicki Sharp said originally they wanted to speak with the families, but State Police told them the families didn't want to talk to anyone else right now.

"I understand that," Vicki said. "You don't want any distraction until you find out what happens. You just want left alone."

Kevin Sharp believes the changes made in mine safety regulations since Sago were good, but they didn't stop this disaster from happening and wouldn't prevent any disasters in the future.

"It's not going to make any difference how many shelters they have in the mine," Kevin Sharp said. "They can have all the shelters they want and it doesn't matter if the methane isn't controlled."

Vicki Sharp said that a big problem seemed to be that MSHA has written minimum requirements and when a coal company is cited for violating those minimum requirements, they bargain the fine down.

"To a coal company, if they have to pay $500, $1,000, what is the incentive?" she said.

Reach Gary Harki at gharki@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.


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