The flag was lowered following the order of Fred W. Crow III, judge of the Meigs County Common Pleas Court. It reads: “Meigs County has been a coal mining community for years. All Meigs County citizens feel the horrific loss and we wish to express our solidarity with sympathy for the affected families.
“Our own Meigs County citizens have personally suffered the loss of lives. We wish to express our thoughts and prayers in this time of sadness and grief.
“To show our support for the Napper family and their friends, we, the citizens of Meigs County, should pause for a moment of silent prayer this evening and burn our porch light all night in memory of the lost coal miners.”
Joshua Napper, 25, son of Scott and Pam Napper of Salem Center, was killed in the explosion at the mine, as were his uncle Timmy Davis, Sr., 51, and a cousin, Cory Davis, 20.
Napper was a 2002 graduate of Meigs High School and went on to Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, graduating from there with an LPN degree. He was employed at the Hickory Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on The Plains until a few months ago when he left to pursue a career in the coal mining industry.
Napper was described by his cousin Timmy Davis, Jr., as a hulking man with 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 Davis, whose father Timmy, Sr., died in the disaster. “That’s about all he did was lift weights.”
“He made decent money in Ohio,” Davis added. “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.
High levels of dangerous methane gas made it impossible for rescuers to venture inside a coal mine Wednesday to search for survivors of an explosion that killed 25 workers.
Crews drilled holes to release the gas, but by late afternoon the levels remained far too high for searchers to safely enter the Upper Big Branch mine to look for four people missing in the worst U.S. mining accident in more than two decades. They could not say when they might be able to go in.
Workers wanted to drill another hole so they could lower a camera into an airtight rescue chamber to see if anyone had managed to get inside, Kevin Stricklin of the Mine Safety and Health Administration said at a briefing Wednesday.
“If we’re going to send a rescue team, we have to say it’s safe for them to go in there,” Stricklin said. “We want the air to be clear enough to let them go without being in smoke.”
The disaster has brought new scrutiny for mine owner Massey Energy Co., which has been repeatedly cited for problems with the system that ventilates explosive methane gas and for allowing combustible dust to build up. The federal mine agency on Wednesday appointed a special team of investigators to look into the blast, which officials said may have been caused by a buildup of methane.
Like many other mine operators, Massey frequently sidesteps hefty fines by aggressively appealing safety violations at the mine, according to an Associated Press analysis of mine safety records.
Rescuers hoped the four miners might somehow have reached a chamber where they could survive for four days, though they acknowledged the odds were against them. Rescuers banged on a drill pipe for about 15 minutes after the first hole was complete but got no response.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)