CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For Timmy Davis Sr. and his family — like so many in the mountainous coalfields of West Virginia — descending into the mines was a way of life.
So when Davis Sr. went into the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal on Monday with his two nephews, Josh Napper and Cory Davis, it was just another day in the family business.
This time, they never came out.
An explosion shook the underground mine operated by an affiliate of Massey Energy Co. while Davis Sr. and his nephews were inside, killing 25 miners and leaving four others unaccounted for inside the mine.
Timmy Davis Jr. said Massey officials notified the family that his father and cousins were among the dead.
Davis Jr.'s brother, Cody Davis, also works as a miner and was on his way into the mine when the blast happened. Now, he is without his dad — his best friend. Cory Davis won't be at any more family campouts in the mountains. Napper won't see his infant daughter grow up.
Here is a look at those killed in the explosion for whom information is available.
The 20-year-old from Dawes, W.Va., worked with his father, Tommy Davis, and cousin Timmy Davis Jr. at a surface mine, but all three were laid off in the past two years. And all three ended up at Massey.
Cory Davis loved the outdoors and would often spend his weekends at a family camp on a mountaintop.
"We'd just run around, build a fire, ride four-wheelers," Timmy Davis Jr. said. "Our life was kind of boring. We're kind of hill folks. We stay up on the mountain."
Timmy Davis Sr.
He loved coal mining — and when he wasn't doing that, he was out hunting and fishing.
"My dad was the best hunter and fisher you've ever seen. The biggest buck or bear would come to him so he could shoot them," said Timmy Davis Jr. "He's got five or six in here. He's killed a lot of big deer."
Davis Jr. said his uncle Tommy Davis and brother Cody Davis also were at the mine at the time and survived the blast.
Cody Davis and his father were best friends, Davis Jr. said. Cody Davis was on his way into the mine at the time of the blast, said Davis Jr., who works as a coal truck driver.
"He loved to work underground," the younger Davis said of his father, who was from Cabin Creek, W.Va. "He loved that place."
The 40-year-old enjoyed hunting deer in Pocahontas County, said father-in-law Jack Bowden Jr., who also is director of the Raleigh County Emergency Operating Center. Harrah lived in Cool Ridge, W.Va., with his 6-year-old son, Zach, and wife of 10 years, Tammy.
"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 instantly, Bowden said.
Harrah was "always thoughtful and would give you a hand," Bowden added.
This hulking man had a simple claim to fame: He could bench press more than 500 pounds.
"If there was any way he could, he could have moved half that mountain," said Napper's cousin, Timmy Davis Jr. "That's about all he did was lift weights."
The 25-year-old Napper came to work in the coal mines just two months ago after working in the health care industry in his hometown of Rutland, Ohio, Davis said.
"He made decent money in Ohio," Davis said. "He just knew it was more money underground. He came here for the money."
Napper lived in Giles, W.Va., with his grandparents and spent his days off with his infant daughter, Davis said.
His life was focused on his wife and two children.
"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."
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.
He 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 had 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."
Retirement was just five weeks away for the 62-year-old from Corinne, W.Va.
He 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."
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