Thursday, May 25, 2006
The other two funerals will be Thursday.
HARLAN, Ky. (AP) -- The sole survivor of a coal mine explosion in southeastern Kentucky wept quietly with his head bowed in the front row of a church Wednesday at the first of five funerals for his friends and co-workers.
Jimmy D. Lee's widow acknowledged Paul Ledford's pain as she remembered her husband before nearly 100 mourners.
"Paul, he loved you and I love you, and I'm glad you were spared," Melissa Lee said.
Ledford later attended funerals for two other miners -- Paris Thomas Jr., 35, and George Petra, 49. Funerals for Amon Brock, 51, and Roy Middleton, 35, will be Thursday.
At Thomas' funeral, the Rev. Sonny Dean said the communities in mountainous Harlan County are "real tight. If we lose one, it saddens all of us."
At Petra's funeral, the Rev. Jerry Reynolds asked the standing-room-only crowd to pray for the safety of all miners.
The miners died early Saturday at the Kentucky Darby Mine No. 1 in Harlan County. Lee and Brock died from the blast itself, while the other three died of carbon monoxide poisoning, according to preliminary tests. Ledford was rescued after he managed to crawl toward the mine entrance.
Middleton died after he turned back to try to help Thomas and Petra, Ledford told federal Mine Safety and Health Administration investigators, according to a report Wednesday in The Courier-Journal of Louisville. The newspaper obtained details of the survivor's account from unnamed people close to the investigation.
Those three and Ledford were in a different part of the mine than Lee and Brock, who were using acetylene torches to cut metal when the explosion occurred, the newspaper reported.
Ledford told investigators that he and the three other miners boarded vehicles and traveled some distance before encountering smoke, when they put on self-contained breathing devices and continued. According to the newspaper report, Thomas and Petra fell behind when they all had to walk, and Middleton went back for them while Ledford continued ahead and was eventually found by rescuers.
Ledford declined to speak to reporters at Lee's funeral, which was led by Lee's cousin.
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