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Profiles: Tallmansville miners


(CNN) -- Families have shared their thoughts about some of the 13 men who were trapped in the Sago Mine in West Virginia.

The survivor

Randal McCloy

The sole survivor, Randal McCloy, had talked of quitting his job.

"He just wanted to get into another career, and just to let the mines go," his wife, Anna, told CNN. "It was just too dangerous. It wasn't worth it."

At 26, McCloy was the youngest of the 13 miners. He has worked 18 months at Sago, about half his mining career.

McCloy is a licensed electrician, but working in the mine paid better, family members told The Associated Press.

"He had this job because he didn't believe in me working," Anna said. "He wanted me to be home with the kids. So he worked this job so that he could pay for everything that we have."

The couple have two children: 4-year-old Randal Jr. and 1-year-old Isabel.

The dead

Alva Martin Bennett

Alva Martin Bennett, 51, had always been a coal miner.

"He loves the coal mines," said Ronnie Casto, whose wife was one of Bennett's cousins. "He loves to work. And we've been friends most of our lives. We've done a lot of things together, hunting. He's always happy with what he does.

"He's just a good guy. If you need help, he's there."

Bennett was a continuous mine operator, working with cutting and drilling machines. He had 29 years of experience.

Bennett's brother-in-law, Roger Perry, was one of at least five miners who got out of the mine after the explosion, the AP reported.

"Marty was very knowledgeable and such a good worker, he could do just about anything," Marie Bonner, Bennett's aunt, told the AP.

Jim Bennett

Jim Bennett, 61, was a shuttle car operator who was close to retirement. He was known as a religious man who said he loved working in the mine.

His daughter Merideth said Bennett was going to retire in April, after 25 years as a miner.

"Every day he would come home and pray for who was going in (the mines)," said his son-in-law Daniel Merideth, according to the AP.

Martin Toler

Martin Toler.

Martin Toler, 51, was a mine foreman with 32 years of experience.

Before he died, Toler wrote a note that included the words: "It wasn't bad just went to sleep."

Randy Toler, a nephew, told CNN that the note was comforting.

"Well, it was the most precious thing that I believe I've ever seen," he said. "I think he wanted to put our minds to ease, and that we knew he didn't suffer, and I just think that God gave him peace at the end."

According to the AP, his son Chris had also worked in the mines before being laid off.

Jerry Groves

Jerry Groves.

Jerry Groves, 56, was a third-generation miner who had worked in the mines for 28 years.

The bolt cutter also wrote a note before he died.

Bill Rogers, a brother-in-law of Groves, 56, said he found solace in the note.

"Our only comfort would be that there was no suffering, that they would go to sleep, and there it is," Rogers said. "I hope it's not the fault of the mine and that it's an act of God rather than negligence."

Terry Helms

Terry Helms.

Terry Helms, 50, was the first miner found, his body discovered near the site of the explosion.

As fire boss and mine examiner, part of his job was to check that conditions in the mine were good before other miners entered.

He was apart from the others, and it is believed he was killed almost immediately in the explosion.

He had worked at the Sago Mine only six months, the AP reported, but had been in mining for 29 years.

His family was aware of his death during the three hours when other families thought their loved ones had survived.

"I took a lot of comfort in the fact that they were so happy, because that's exactly how my dad would have wanted it," Amber Helms, his daughter, said. "He would have given his life for these coal miners, and I was so extremely happy whenever they were so happy.

"I did feel bad that I wished that my dad would have been OK, too, but, you know, he would have given his life for them and, you know, that's how he would have wanted it."

Terry Helms didn't want his son to be a coal miner and persuaded him to move away -- to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Terry Helms' fiancee, Virginia Moore, told the AP that he was an avid hunter, golfer and fisherman, and never expressed any fears about being a miner.

David Lewis

David Lewis, 28, was a roof bolt operator, with just 20 months of mining experience.

He was a good student and had grown into a good man, high school teacher Tammy Martin said.

"He was the kind of guy that would do anything for anybody," she said. "It just touched our hearts here in Barbour County because here he was giving up his life, he gave his life for his family. He, he did this so his family could be well-supported. And he was a good father."

His wife, Samantha, told the AP that he was trying to make a good living until they could find something different and she finished her master's degree in health care administration at night school.

Fred Ware Jr.

Fred Ware Jr.

Fred Ware Jr., 58, had gone to work that Monday to earn holiday pay.

His daughter, Peggy Cohen, said he had spent nearly 40 years in the mines.

"He was entirely committed to the mines, has been since he was 18 years old," she said. "My grandfather was a miner. And that's all he wanted to do. He never perceived to do anything else. Just like his dad did.

"He'd bring my kids pieces of coal out and say, "look, there's a fossil," and show them how to put clear fingernail polish on it to bring out what looked like a fossil."

Ware, a continuous mining operator, was resigned to the dangers of his job.

"I don't think he ever worried. He said that's where he would die," Cohen said.

He was engaged to Loretta Ables, who told the AP that they had planned to get married on Valentine's Day.

George Hamner Jr.

George Hamner, 54, was a shuttle car operator.

He had gone back to the mines, friends told the AP, because of high demand for coal caused by an increase in natural gas and oil prices.

He had once quit the mines after gaining weight, and went to work on a cattle farm, the AP reported. After undergoing stomach surgery and losing 200 pounds, he returned to the mines, where he had 26 years of experience.

Marshall Winans

Marshall Winans, 50, was a scoop operator with 23 years of mining experience.

His sister-in-law, Lisa Ferris, told the AP he had been a minister for 20 years.

Jack Weaver

Jack Weaver, 51, was a section electrician. According to the AP, he was married with an 11-year-old son. He had worked 26 years in the mines.

The other victims have been named as: Thomas P. Anderson, 39, a shuttle car operator with 10 years of experience; and Jesse L. Jones, 44, a roof bolt operator with 16 years of experience.

Copyright 2006 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

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