WHITESVILLE, W.Va. — Clay Mullins says he’ll never forget the day before his brother was killed in one of the nation’s worst mine explosions.
He said his brother, Rex Mullins, talked about the fears he had regarding the conditions at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.
“It would just flip flop from having too much air to not enough air, not enough ventilation to ventilate the mines. They were supposed to have a ventilation change and then the next day is when we lost him,” Clay Mullins said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Rex Mullins was one of 29 coal miners who lost their lives on April 5, 2010.
Thursday marked the 8th anniversary since the disaster.
The mine was owned by Massey Energy. Family members, to this day, continue to blame former CEO Don Blankenship for the explosion.
“He was a dictator. He didn’t care what was going on as long as it was production,” Mullins said.
Mullins and other family members spoke out against Blankenship’s run for U.S. Senate during a remembrance ceremony Thursday at the UBB Miners Memorial in Whitesville. Blankenship is running for the Republican nomination in hopes to replace Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Last year, Blankenship was released from federal prison. He served one year on a misdeamoner charge for violating mine safety standards at UBB.
“I just can’t understand,” Mullins said. “I know all the facts of UBB was highly publicized. He was found guilty.”
He said he has trouble wrapping his head around the fact that Blankenship wants to represent West Virginia in the U.S. Senate.
“I just feel that him running for Senate — how would he run this state? Would he dictate again?” he asked.
Blankenship released a statement ahead of Thursday’s anniversary, in part, saying:
“My expression of regret, sorrow, and condolences to the families of the miners has never been enough for several of the families, and I understand that. And it is also not enough for me to say “sorry.”
Therefore, my goal today is the same as it has always been. That goal is to honor these lost miners by using lessons learned from the accident to prevent other miners and families from ever experiencing such a tragedy again.
My efforts to prevent another UBB like tragedy began shortly after the explosion when I hired an explosion investigation expert and directed that, no matter what the truth was, I wanted to know what really caused the explosion.”
Sen. Manchin attended Thursday’s ceremony. He said in a statement:
“On the eight year anniversary of this tragedy we must not forget that no family or community should have to ever deal with a tragedy that was preventable like the one at Upper Big Branch. We must strive to ensure that there are adequate safety standards in place so that miners will come back to their loved ones each and every day,” Manchin said.
“Every miner who enters the mine each morning should be confident that they will come out at the end of the day. Gayle and I join all West Virginians in grieving the loss of these miners and we honor their memories and pray for the continued strength of their families.”