Local Miners Reflect on Sago Documentary

By: Jeff Allen Email
By: Jeff Allen Email

Tuesday marked the one year anniversary of the Sago mine disaster in West Virginia.
Tonight, a documentary will look back at the tragedy. Some former coal miners in Harlan County are taking lead roles in telling the story.

Roger Raleigh spent thirty years in the mines. "There were always good days in the coal mines . . and there were always bad days in the coal mines," he said.

Roger remembers one day when he had to carry out one of his fellow miners . . who died on the job. "Very hard to see a coal miner killed . It holds a special place in my heart," he said. So it was with a heavy heart that Roger performed a central role, as the mine foreman in a Discovery Channel re-enactment of how 13 miners tried to survive at Sago . . after being trapped in a mine explosion. Only one, Randal McCloy Jr., survived. ":Writing our letter to our family...it was very emotional doing some parts of it," Roger said.

With many local mine rescuers and former coal miners playing the roles , an old Harlan County coal mine became the stage. The Portal 31 mine in Harlan County is actually being restored, and will become an amusement park style ride to tell the history of coal mining. Since it's abandoned, and production crews didn't have to compete with current coal mining operations, it was the perfect backdrop to re-create the story of Sago.

Roger Raleigh couldn't help thinking about miners recently killed in Harlan County, and many of his close calls. "Could've been when I was in the mines just as well as it was them . We were very lucky as you know," he said. So Roger paid tribute to the fallen miners by helping to tell their story--the story of their final moments.

The Discovery Channel crew shot for three days in Harlan County back in November.
The documentary on the Sago mine disaster airs tonight at nine p.m. on the Discovery Channel. It also re-airs at one a.m. in the morning.

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