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'We just lost a big chunk of our family'

Lawrence Pierce
Cody Davis, 21, who survived the explosion Monday, plays with his niece in Cabin Creek.
Lawrence Pierce Timmy Davis Jr., 30, of Cabin Creek, lost three members of his family in the mine disaster, including his father.

CABIN CREEK, W.Va. -- The sign tacked to Timmy Davis Sr.'s porch reads, "Coal Miner Blvd."

Davis took pride in his work. But he'll never go to work again. Neither will his nephews, Cory Davis and Josh Napper.

All three men died in the explosion that rocked the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County on Monday. 

"We just lost a big chunk of our family," said Misty Davis Cooper, Timmy Davis Sr.'s daughter.

Cooper's family gathered at her father's home in Cabin Creek Tuesday. They were told that the three men's bodies were found together.

"They all went to sleep together," Timmy Davis Jr. said. "My dad and his two nephews."  

Two other family members also were at the mine Monday, but they survived: Davis Sr.'s son, Cody, and brother, Tommy, who lost his son, Cory. 

"We knew something was wrong," said Cody Davis, whose shift started just minutes before the explosion. "The wind and everything just kept coming. It never stopped."

Davis Sr., 51, had worked for Massey Energy about 20 years. He would have been off work Tuesday, Cody Davis said. 

"We would have been fishing," he said.

Hunting and fishing were Timmy Davis Sr.'s passions, his family said. He also loved joking around and spending time with his family, including five grandchildren. 

But he always worked hard, too.

Ten years ago, a work accident put his father out for more than a year, Timmy Davis Jr. said. He lost all his teeth. He needed a knee replacement.

He went back to work as soon as he could, his children said.

"If he would have made it out today, he would have been back tomorrow," Davis Jr. said.

Napper, 25, had moved from Ohio a few months ago, his family said. He had worked in nursing, but hoped to make more money in mining. A hulking man, his claim to fame was being able to bench-press 500 pounds. He had an infant daughter.

Cory Davis, 20, played high school baseball and followed in his father Tommy's footsteps when he went to work in the mines.

Near the Davis home, coal trucks wound around the curves of Cabin Creek Road, past railroads lined with empty cars waiting to be filled.

Up until this week, Timmy Davis Jr. drove one of those trucks. He was laid off.

"I lost my dad and my job in the same day," he said.

The 30-year-old doesn't want to drive coal trucks again. He wants to leave the state. Maybe find a warehouse job.

"I'm gonna find a whole new lifestyle."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Alison Knezevich at alisonk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.

 


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