BROOKWOOD, Ala. (WIAT) — Thursday marks the 20 years ago that 13 men died in a mine explosion in the small community of Brookwood in Tuscaloosa County.
On Thursday, a special memorial ceremony will be held to honor the coal miners killed in the accident at Jim Walter Resources Mine No. 5, where the roof caved in, releasing methane gas that caused the explosion.
The miners who were killed in the explosion include:
- Gaston Adams
- Raymond Ashworth
- Nelson Banks
- David Blevins
- Clarence “Bit” Boyd
- Wendell Johnson
- John Knox
- Dennis Mobley
- Charles Nail
- Joe Riggs
- Charles Smith
- Joe Sorah
- Terry Stewart
James Blakenship was a miner who was near the shaft at the time of the explosion and said it continues to be a devastating memory for him, adding that he admired the courage of the miners who went back to work after the explosion. The shaft was eventually closed in 2006.
Despite the two decades that have passed since the accident, Blakenship said their memory remains in the hearts of so many people. He said making things safer in the mining industry remains a top priority for him on the United Mine Worker’s Board and that more needs to be done to prevent similar tragedies from happening.
“It would definitely help to get more funding to put more inspectors in the mine,” Blakenship said. “So we can get these mines inspected from its entirety from one end to the other give inspectors more leeway to do their jobs to write inspectors to write citations if they find them.”
Better training for young miners is also a goal the mining board is working to put into place.
Thomas Wilson was a representative with the United Mine Workers Health and Safety board at the time of the explosion and knew all 13 miners who were killed. He said each of them loved life, loved one another, and were hardworking Americans. Wilson said holding remembrance ceremonies help those still grieving their loss.
“Healing and support for the families for the other miners. I also believe if we don’t remember what’s killed workers, we are bound to repeat,” Wilson said.
The ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday at West Brookwood Church.