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Doomed miner had "sick feeling" and left note for family


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Coal miner Josh Napper had a sick
feeling something wasn't right at his job, so he put his thoughts
on paper, to those he loved the most before heading back to work.
It would be his last communication with them.
"If anything happens to me, I will be looking down from
heaven," his handwritten note read.
The 25-year-old Napper left it with his family in southeast
Ohio, where he commuted to on weekends. Napper was among 25 people
killed in an explosion at a West Virginia mine.
His mother, Pam Napper, didn't find out about the note until
after he returned to work at the Upper Big Branch mine on Monday,
the day of the explosion.
"I just knew that Josh in his heart knew that something was
going to happen," Pam Napper said Friday.
He knew because his April 2 shift had ended about two hours
early over ventilation concerns at the mine. He drove to Ohio to
spend Easter with his family.
"I said, 'Why aren't you working?"' Pam Napper said. "He
said, 'Mom, the ventilation's bad.' And they sent him out of the
mines. Everybody."
She rushed to the mine site after the explosion. Also that day,
his fiancee, Jennifer Ziegler, drove to West Virginia to show her
the note written to his mom, 19-month-old daughter and fiancee.
"Dear Mommy and Jenna," Pam Napper recalled. "If anything
happens to me, I will be looking down from heaven. If you take care
of my baby girl, watch over (her), tell her all the good things
about her daddy. She was so cute and funny. She was my little
peanut. And Jennifer, I know things have never been the greatest
sometimes, but I just want you to know I love you and I care about
you."
Not all the dead have been identified. These are the stories of
those who have been named so far, either by mine owner Massey
Energy Co., the medical examiner or family members.
---
Carl Acord
Carl Acord shared a big Easter dinner with family 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.
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.
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.
---
Robert E. Clark
Just a few months ago, Robert E. Clark, 41, came forward and
committed himself as a born-again Christian at the Beckley Church
of God, his pastor said.
The decision in January offered a degree of solace to Clark's
churchgoing friends. He leaves behind his wife, Melissa, and a
young son.
"It really is a big relief to know that all is well with his
soul, that he can go to heaven," said the Rev. F.D. Sexton, who
has spoken with Clark's family since the explosion at the mine.
Sexton said he remembered Clark's big smile as the miner left an
Easter service at the church.
"Everything was still good with him as far as his soul was
concerned," Sexton said.
---
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."
---
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."
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, who was from Cabin Creek, W.Va. "He loved that place."
---
Steve Harrah
Steve Harrah - known to his co-workers as "Smiley" - 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 Jr., who also is director of the Raleigh
County Emergency Operating Center. Harrah lived in Cool Ridge,
W.Va., with his kindergarten-age son, Zach, and wife of 10 years,
Tammy.
His sister, Betty Harrah, said other workers thought of her
brother as a good boss.
"He wouldn't ask them to do anything he wouldn't get down in
there and do," she said.
"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."
Harrah was leaving the mine when the explosion happened. The
mining company told the family that Harrah was killed instantly,
Bowden said.
---
William R. Lynch
William Roosevelt Lynch wore many hats, including that of a coal
miner.
Over his career, the 59-year-old who went by Roosevelt was a
teacher, coached three sports and was about to welcome his fourth
grandchild into the world. He also worked in the mines for more
than 30 years.
Lynch was among the dead, said his brother, Melvin Lynch of
Mount Hope, who also was in the mine at the time.
Roosevelt Lynch was a longtime Oak Hill resident who coached
basketball, football and track and taught on the high school and
middle school levels.
"A lot of people around town called him coach," Melvin Lynch
said. "He would substitute teach, then coach and then work in the
mines. He used to have that rigorous schedule."
Oak Hill High basketball coach Fred Ferri said Roosevelt Lynch
also competed in a summer basketball league in Beckley.
"He was in excellent condition," Ferri said. "He played last
summer. He's out there running with kids. Roosevelt was a heck of
an athlete."
---
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."
---
Gary Quarles
Gary Quarles' life was consumed by his wife and two children.
The 33-year-old from Naoma, W.Va., 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."
He liked to hunt everything from raccoons and deer to wild boar,
and he had wanted to stay home from work Monday because his
children were still on Easter break, she said.
Janice Quarles said her husband was a quiet, laid-back man
nicknamed "Spanky." She was told of his death by a Massey
official.
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.
---
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
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."
---
Benny R. Willingham
For Benny Willingham, retirement was just five weeks away.
The 61-year-old from Corinne, W.Va., 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."
Willingham was remembered at his funeral as a generous and
religious man who had recently given a stranger his used car. He
was known for other random acts of kindness, like filling up a gas
tank or giving away $10.
---
Associated Press writers contributing to this report were Greg
Bluestein in Mount Hope, W.Va., Vicki Smith in Montcoal, W.Va.,
Dorothy Abernathy in Charleston, and Kate Brumback and Ray Henry in
Atlanta.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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