Coal miner's mother-in-law: Daughter devastated by husband's death
I was very close to my son-in-law and regularly spoke with him on the telephone and in person. I also helped them care for my grandson. My daughter and I are particularly close. Since the death of her husband at the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion, my daughter Gina has been very upset. She will not go out unless I am with her, even to the beauty salon. She will not go out unless I am with her, and then she just cries the entire time. She’s having an extremely difficult time with the loss of her husband and her concern for the future.
Dean told me many times that he had concerns about the ventilation at the Upper Big Branch mine. He often told me and his wife that he was afraid to go to work because the conditions at the mine were so bad. He also told me that, at least 7 times, he was told by Massey supervisors that, if he shut down production because of the ventilation problems (bad air), he would lose his job. They knew about his son and that Dean needed to keep his job to make sure his son could get the medical care he needed. On more than one occasion, I called the mine and told them there was an emergency regarding his son that he had to come home and handle in order to get him out of the mine, because I feared for his safety.
My son-in-law was a very good miner and could have gotten a job anywhere â€” he had a college degree in mine engineering. However, because of the physical disability of his son and the absolute necessity of maintaining his health insurance benefits, Dean was unable to leave Massey’s employment. He continued to work in that mine even though he knew it was unsafe because he was afraid of being fired and losing his health insurance coverage.