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W. Va. Coal Mine Blast: The Victims

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W. Va. Coal Mine Blast: The Victims

Here's a look at some of the people killed by a huge explosion in an underground coal mine owned by Massey Energy Co. in West Virginia, the worst U.S. mining disaster since 1984.

Timmy Davis Sr.

Timmy Davis Sr. loved coal mining and when he wasn't doing that, he was out hunting and fishing.

"My dad was the best hunter and fisher you've ever seen. The biggest buck or bear would come to him so he could shoot them," said Timmy Davis Jr. "He's got five or six in here. He's killed a lot of big deer."

The elder Davis' wife of 30 years, Diana, said he and two nephews Josh Napper, 27, and Cory Davis, 20 were killed in the blast. Davis Jr. said his uncle Tommy Davis and brother Cody Davis also were at the mine at the time and survived the blast. Cody Davis and his father were best friends, Davis Jr. said. Cody Davis was on his way in at the time of the blast, said Davis Jr., who works as a coal truck driver.

"He loved to work underground," the younger Davis said of his father. "He loved that place."

Benny R. Willingham

For Benny Willingham, retirement was just five weeks away.

The 62-year-old had been a coal miner for 30 years and spent the last 17 working for Massey, said his sister-in-law, Sheila Prillaman. Willingham and his wife were supposed to go on a cruise next month to the Virgin Islands.

"Benny was the type he probably wouldn't have stayed retired long," Prillaman said. "He wasn't much of a homebody."

Gary Quarles

Gary Quarles' life was consumed by his wife and two children. The 33-year-old from Naoma took trips every summer to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with the kids, ages 9 and 11, as well as his wife. The family often went fishing along the New River there.

"He liked to hunt and spend time with his kids," Janice Quarles said. "That was about it. That's all he did."

Gary Quarles started coal mining when he was 18. He was among those finishing a 10.5-hour shift when the explosion happened, his wife said.

Steve Harrah

Steve Harrah was "always thoughtful and would give you a hand," his father-in-law said.

The 40-year-old enjoyed hunting deer in Pocahontas County, said father-in-law Jack Bowden Junior, who also is director of the Raleigh County Emergency Operating Center. In a hometown obiruary it was said of Harrah: "Steve enjoyed hunting though he was never concerned with killing anything. Steve enjoyed fishing though he was never concerned with catching anything. Steve enjoyed playing poker though he was never concerned with winning anything. He simply wanted to be with his friends and family and they in return cherished every moment spent with him.

Harrah lived in Cool Ridge, West Virginia, with his 6-year-old son, Zach, and wife of 10 years, Tammy. "They went to the same high school, and they just knew each other and started dating," said Bowden, who choked up as he spoke. "It's pretty rough."

A 1988 graduate of Shady Spring High School, Harrah served in the US Army for six years, having held duty stations at Fort Drum, N.Y., Fort Stewart, Ga., and throughout Germany. Harrah had been employed for Massey Energy for the past 10 years.

Harrah was leaving the mine when the explosion happened. The mining company told the family that Harrah was killed instantly, Bowden said.

Deward Scott

Deward Scott met his wife, Crissie, when she was his karate student. The pair loved to go hunting together -- Deward Scott taught her to bow hunt when they first met nearly 20 years ago, she said.

They've been together ever since -- usually enjoying the outdoors while hiking, hunting, fishing or gardening. The 58-year-old Montcoal resident had been a miner for 21 years and loved his job. But he also was kind and outgoing, Crissie Scott said.

"He was a Christian man who loved to help people," Crissie Scott said, her voice choking. "He's one of those people that once you met him, you wouldn't forget him."

The company notified Crissie Scott that her husband was among the miners killed in Monday's explosion.

Carl Acord

Carl Acord shared a big Easter dinner with family on Sunday and doted on his infant grandsons, 9-month-old Chase and 3-month-old Cameron, said his sister Sherry Cline.

"He was looking forward to riding them around on the tractor this summer," Cline said. "He kept talking about that at Easter dinner." Acord also enjoyed fishing with his two sons, 24-year-old Cody and 19-year-old Casey.

Even though he was about 6 feet tall, everyone called Acord "Pee Wee" which he hated. "That was his nickname since he was a little tyke. It just stuck," Cline said.

A lifelong resident of Bolt, Acord was a graduate of Trap Hill High School, Class of 1976. Entering the mines at the age of 18, he began his career with Peabody Coal Company at Kopperston, then worked for Beckley Coal company for a number years. His last 16 years have been with Massey, where he was a member of the coveted "Old Man Crew" of the mines, who had vowed to "stay together" until they retired.

Acord, 52, had worked in mines for 34 years and liked the work, Cline said. But he told his family on Sunday that he was concerned about the mine's roof and worried about going to work Monday.

Jason Atkins

Jason Atkins was born and raised in Boone County, near the coal mine where he lost his life, said his father-in-law, Rick Withers.

The 25-year-old miner and his wife, Amanda, 28, met when they were students at West Virginia Tech and got married in 2008, Withers said. Amanda Atkins could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Withers said he was not sure when Atkins began working at the mine.

"He was an hourly guy," Withers said. Atkins played second base on his high school and college baseball teams, but left West Virginia Tech without graduating, Withers said. He enjoyed golfing.

The state medical examiner's office said Tuesday that Atkins was among the dead.

Josh Napper

Josh Napper was a hulking man with a simple claim to fame: He could bench press more than 500 pounds.

"If there was any way he could, he could have moved half that mountain," said Napper's cousin, Timmy Davis Jr. "That's about all he did was lift weights." The 25-year-old Napper came to work in the coal mines just two months ago after working in the health care industry in his hometown of Rutland, Ohio, Davis said.

"He made decent money in Ohio," Davis said. "He just knew it was more money underground. He came here for the money." Napper lived in Giles, W.Va., with his grandparents and spent his days off with his infant daughter, Davis said.

Howard "Boone" Payne

Howard "Boone" Payne was a "gentle giant" in his early 50s with flaming red hair and broad shoulders.

"He would go out of his way to help someone," said his brother-in-law, Terry Wright of Roanoke, Va. "He loved to have fun. He was quiet and loved his family."

Payne began working as a coal miner shortly after graduating high school in 1977. He had worked for Massey Energy for eight to 10 years. Massey told Payne's wife, Debra, about his death at 2 a.m. Tuesday, Wright said. Wright said Payne never expressed any fears about his profession. As a former coal miner, himself, Wright understands why.

"You know any mistake may be the last day of your life. You know any day you work may be your last. But you just can't think about that. You can't stay in mining and think about that."

Cory Davis

Cory Davis played baseball in high school and followed his family into the mines.

The 20-year-old from Dawes, W.Va., worked with his father, Tommy Davis, and cousin Timmy Davis Jr. at a surface mine, but all three were laid off in the past two years. And all three ended up at Massey.

Cory Davis loved the outdoors and would often spend his weekends at a family camp on a mountaintop. "We'd just run around, build a fire, ride four-wheelers," Timmy Davis Jr. said. "Our life was kind of boring. We're kind of hill folks. We stay up on the mountain."

Robert Eugene Clark

Forty-one-year-old miner Robert Eugene Clark was described in an obituary as a "caring, loving person who never met a stranger. He was always willing to help those who were in need and made a lasting impression on all who knew him."

Clark loved spending time with his family, riding his motorcycle, fishing, hunting, restoring vehicles, golfing, wood working, boating and doing mechanic work. He had one son, Steven, with his wife, Melissa.

One of four children, he was born in Logan County, W.Va., on Feb. 20, 1969, to Leonard and Linda Noe Clark, both of whom have since died.

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