Several Darby Mine Widows Protest Outside Harlan County Mine

By: Jon Sonnheim Email
By: Jon Sonnheim Email

Supporters of several Kentucky Darby Mine widows protested outside of a Harlan County mine Thursday, with hopes of extending health insurance for the widows and their families. Some of the widows say their children deserve to be taken care of.

Three year old Seth Lee says he knows where his father, Kentucky Darby Miner Jimmy Lee, is now after the May 20th explosion killed him, and four others. While their surviving family members say they've been provided health insurance since the accident, they say it will soon expire on December 31st.

"The wives are asking for a continuance, just long enough to stabilize ourselves and our families," said Melissa Lee, Jimmy Lee's Widow.

Supporters of the widows say it's not a legal issue, but rather a moral matter. Something they believe Darby Operator Ralph Napier should extend for 18 months.

"They died providing and supporting their family, and now they're gone. He’s forgotten about us," Melissa said.

Lee says that after Napier ignored their letters and three to four phone calls a day, they protested, hoping to draw attention to other coal miners. Miners that the protestors say have been understanding are honking their own horns in support.

"It strikes a note with coal miners going in, that makes him wonder how his family would be treated if, God forbid, he should lose his life in one of the mines," said Kenny Johnson.

So mother and son have a different wish list this Christmas. One wanting health insurance for her family, the other wanting a father he says is now up in Heaven.

"I think about him coming back down, and I want Christmas to bring him back," Seth said.

Attempts to reach Mine Operator Ralph Napier both at home and work were unsuccessful, as those at his offices said he wasn't there. Napier's lawyer says the company has met all of their insurance obligations to the family.

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