Two More

Another coal mine tragedy claims two more miners.

Rescuers on Saturday found the bodies of two miners who disappeared after a conveyor belt caught fire deep inside a coal mine, bringing to 14 the number of West Virginia miners killed on the job in less than a month.

The bodies were found in an area of the mine where rescue teams had been battling the intense blaze for more than 40 hours. Rescuers could not enter that portion of the mine until the flames had been mostly extinguished and the tunnels cooled down.

“We have found the two miners we were looking for,” said Doug Conaway, director of the state Office of Miners’ Health Training and Safety. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a positive outcome.”

The miners became separated Thursday evening as their 12-member crew tried to escape a conveyor belt fire at Aracoma Coal’s Alma No. 1 mine in Melville, about 60 miles southwest of Charleston. The rest of the crew and nine other miners working in a different section of the mine escaped unharmed.

“We have two brave miners that have perished,” Gov. Joe Manchin told reporters.

Conaway said it appeared the two miners made a “valiant effort” to escape, but were blocked by high temperatures and thick smoke.

As far as I’m concerned, coal miners go beyond bravery. Not many of us go to work each day and live with the idea that we might not come home. Yet that’s what these guys do. Just like cops. Just like fire fighters. Each one of them should be honored, not just during a tragic moment like this, but every day.

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