A person who displays courage and the will for self-sacrifice is described as a hero, and that is exactly the description given by the families of two miners killed Monday evening in a tragic mining accident.
Gary P. Hensley, 46, of Chapmanville, and Eric D. Legg, 48, of Twilight, were killed at Patriot Coal’s Brody No. 1 Mine in Wharton after an apparent roof collapse.
Both men’s families spoke to the Coal Valley News in an exclusive interview Tuesday afternoon.
“My dad and the other miner were special men,” said Jessica Legg, daughter of Eric Legg. “It takes a special kind of man to go to work in an underground coal mine. They were both heroes.”
Gary Hensley’s son, Caleb, agrees.
“My father was a great man,” Caleb said. “He was always very positive and had a happy outlook on life. He taught me to be strong and keep my chin up, even when facing tough situations. He always said, ‘Do the best you can with what you have.’”
Jessica was especially sad when she explained her father’s plans for the coming week.
“He was planning on getting married next Saturday,” she said.
She said her dad, Eric, was a family man and loved spending time with his only grandson, 6-year-old Boston.
“Boston called his granddad ‘Poppy’ and they enjoyed being with each other,” Jessica said. “Dad loved to hunt and fish.”
She said her dad was working his last shift at the Brody mine.
“He had been called back to Black Oak and was going back,” she said.
Jessica said her father had worked as a coal miner for at least 32 years.
“He has been a miner since before I was born,” she said. “Everyone respected him for what he did and what he stood for. He was just an all-around good guy.”
Jessica, 24, is Eric’s oldest child. Eric also has a son Jacob, 21, a daughter Morgan, 17, and two stepchildren, Hannah Johnson and Colton Vint.
Caleb said his father, Gary, had only been a coal miner for the past three or four years.
“Dad was self-employed, and when he got this job he felt is was a great opportunity for him,” Caleb said. “I don’t think he ever wanted me to be a coal miner because it was a dangerous job, so I never really had an interest in it, but we all respected him for doing what he felt he needed to do to take care of his family and put food on the table. He was a great man and we will truly miss him.”
Caleb said he also has three younger siblings.
Both families said the outpouring of love, support and prayers from the communities in which they live and surrounding areas has been overwhelming.
“We truly appreciate all the thoughts, prayers and kind words of support from everyone,” Caleb said. “It means so much to us during this very difficult time.”
Jessica echoed Caleb’s sentiments.
“We are really thankful for all the love and support we have already received,” she said. “We really appreciate it.”
Funeral arraignments are pending, both families said.
State Rep. Joshua Nelson, R-Boone, says he has been in contact with both miners’ families and created a website for donations to help the families.
“Folks, we have lost two of our own, two of America’s best coal miners,” Nelson said. “Let’s help take care of our own and help the families. All donations raised will go directly to the families to help with any and all costs.”
Donations can be made by going online at http://www.gofundme.com/94v6c4.