Miners killed were family men, hunters, unforgettable
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Here is a look at some of the miners killed in Monday's explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine-South in Raleigh County.
Carl Acord shared a big Easter dinner with family 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, Cody, 24 and Casey, 19.
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, she 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 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. 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 playing golf.
The state medical examiner's office said Tuesday that Atkins was among the dead.
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 is director of the Raleigh County Emergency Operating Center. Harrah lived in Cool Ridge 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 outright, Bowden said.
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."
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 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'd 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.
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."
Associated Press writers contributing to this report were Vicki Smith in Montcoal and Kate Brumback and Ray Henry in Atlanta.