The Miners: The Lives They Lived

The 13 men who worked together in the Sago Mine depended on friends, family and each other. Here are their stories

01 of 14

BAND OF BROTHERS

BAND OF BROTHERS
ED REINKE/AP

Like the tunnels and chambers of the mine in north-central West Virginia, the lives of the 12 good men who died in the Jan. 2 explosion were inextricably linked. "They were actually family underneath there," says Anna McCloy, wife of the sole survivor. (Here, a local pays his respects.)

02 of 14

RANDAL MCCLOY JR:HER ONE TRUE LOVE

RANDAL MCCLOY JR:HER ONE TRUE LOVE
COURTESY MCCLOY FAMILY/AP; CHRIS USHER

"Randy always puts us before him," says childhood sweetheart and wife Anna (on Jan. 8, with Randal III, 4, and Isabel, 14 months). The lone survivor, McCloy has been in critical condition, but Anna has kept her faith, reflecting on the good times: her senior prom, their April 2001 wedding (for which she and her mom cooked ham and mashed potatoes for 60 guests) and family vacations, most recently to Virginia Beach.

03 of 14

MARTIN TOLER JR.: LIVED FOR GRANDKIDS

MARTIN TOLER JR.: LIVED FOR GRANDKIDS
COURTESY TOLER FAMILY/AP

At the end of a 10-hour workday, section foreman Toler (pictured escorting daughter Courtney down the aisle in 1997) always made his rounds. "First," says son Chris, 29, "he would stop off and see my kids, then my cousin's and my sister's." Indeed, the 51-year-old grandfather of four had turned his 45-acre property into a family compound. Says Chris, "I'd seen my father every day of my life."

04 of 14

DAVID LEWIS: 'A GOOD, QUIET MAN'

DAVID LEWIS: 'A GOOD, QUIET MAN'
COURTESY LEWIS FAMILY

Lewis – at 28, the youngest to die in the mine – became a miner in 2003 so he could be home with young daughters Kayla and Shelby while wife Samantha (left) studied for her master's degree. Lewis, who grew up on a farm and enjoyed hunting, "was a good, quiet man," says Barbour County sheriff John Cutright. "He went to church, went to work and came home to his family."

05 of 14

MARSHALL WINANS: NASCAR FAN

MARSHALL WINANS: NASCAR FAN
COURTESY WINANS FAMILY

Known as a skilled hunter with a soft heart ("He'd give the shirt off his back to anyone," says sister-in-law Patricia), Winans, 50, of Talbott, had three daughters, a wife – and a passion for NASCAR. He also loved his dog Reno, listed among his survivors in his Clarksburg Exponent Telegram obituary.

06 of 14

ALVA MARTIN BENNETT: A HELPING HAND

ALVA MARTIN BENNETT: A HELPING HAND
COURTESY BENNETT FAMILY

Marty Bennett, 51 (pictured with son Russell, now 30), was known for helping people, but when wife Judy, 56, began requiring an oxygen tank for emphysema, he really went to work. He added a seat to the back of his four-wheeler and a latch to hold her tank; leaving her at home wasn't an option. "Most men wouldn't do that," says his brother-in-law Jim Campbell.

07 of 14

JESSE JONES:BROTHERS LEFT BEHIND

JESSE JONES:BROTHERS LEFT BEHIND
COURTESY JONES FAMILY

Jesse and his two brothers followed in their father's footsteps, going to work in the Sago Mine – but brother Owen, who was there when the explosion hit, escaped with his life. "It's going to be hard going back," he says. Avid hunters and fishermen, their last conversation was about a fast-moving deer that got away from Jesse, 44. "He said he stood there like an idiot. We just giggled."

08 of 14

FRED WARE:A FUN DAD

FRED WARE:A FUN DAD
COURTESY PEGGY COHEN/AP

Nicknamed Bear, Ware, 58, was an outdoorsman from Tallmansville who would "light up" when he saw his two grown children, Peggy Cohen, 35, and Darrell Ware, 37. And he was known to throw snowballs in the house. "If you weren't laughing" around him, Cohen says, "you would be soon."

09 of 14

TOM ANDERSON:FAMILY AND GOD

TOM ANDERSON:FAMILY AND GOD
COURTESY ANDERSON FAMILY/AP

After 15 years of marriage, Anderson, 39, and wife Lynda, 54, still enjoyed Friday-night dates. Anderson, of Rock Cave, left a note in the mine expressing love for his family and God. He would take son Ti, 10, bow-hunting and fishing. "He was very involved with Ti," Lynda says.

10 of 14

GEORGE 'JUNIOR' HAMNER A PRIVATE MAN

GEORGE 'JUNIOR' HAMNER A PRIVATE MAN
COURTESY HAMNER FAMILY

Hamner, 54, a mine foreman from Gladyfork, leaves behind a wife, Deborah, and daughter, Sara. The family has requested no further details be released at this time.

11 of 14

JIM BENNETT:'HE WAS PROUD'

JIM BENNETT:'HE WAS PROUD'
COURTESY BENNETT FAMILY

A religious man and the father of two grown children, Bennett, 61, recorded a greeting on his answering machine heard days after he died: "You have reached the Bennetts. Do you know the Lord as your savior?" Married for 43 years to Lily (left), he "was like a grandpa to younger miners," says fellow miner Nick Myers. "Jim liked to joke around. We were all brothers."

12 of 14

JACKIE WEAVER:'JESUS SAVES'

JACKIE WEAVER:'JESUS SAVES'
COURTESY WEAVER FAMILY

Before Weaver, 51, put on his hard hat, the married father of two from Philippi would scrawl "Jesus Saves" on his mine car. Says a cousin: "If he had any time to talk to the other guys before he died, he'd probably talk ... about meeting God."

13 of 14

TERRY HELMS:PRACTICAL JOKER

TERRY HELMS:PRACTICAL JOKER
COURTESY HELMS FAMILY

Helms, 50 (left, in camouflage, with brother John), talked to his kids not about the dangers of coal mining, but of the pranks he'd pull – like hiding coworkers' lunches or etching tiny footprints in the mine and suggesting a gnome lived there. "He only gave us happy stories," says his daughter Amber Helms, 22.

14 of 14

JERRY GROVES: MORNINGS WITH DEBBIE

JERRY GROVES: MORNINGS WITH DEBBIE
COURTESY GROVES FAMILY

Before Groves went off to work on Jan. 2, his wife, Debbie, 54, suggested he stay home after a bad night's sleep – his arthritis flaring up. But Groves, 56, simply gave her a kiss and dashed out to catch his ride. "Love ya," he said. "See you in a little bit." Debbie says Jerry reveled in life above ground with his three grandchildren, ages 3 to 10.

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