Last nine bodies taken from mine

Workers carried the last nine bodies of 13 miners killed by the Sept. 23 explosions at Blue Creek No. 5 to the surface early Friday morning.

Crews extracted all nine bodies at the same time, bringing them from a depth of 2,140 feet at the deepest coal mine in North America.

Those recovered were Gaston Adams Jr., 56, Bessemer; Nelson Banks, 52, Bessemer; Clarence Boyd, 38, McCalla; John Knox, 44, Pleasant Grove; Dennis Mobley, 56, Brent; Charles Nail, 59, Birmingham; Joe Riggs, 51, Cottondale; Charles Smith, 44, Brookwood; and Terry Stewart, 44, Cordova.

The bodies of Dave Blevins, 52, Tuscaloosa; Wendell Johnson, 52, Cottondale; and Joe Sorah, 46, Duncanville, were recovered last weekend. Ray Ashworth, 53, of Cottondale was injured in the blasts and died the next day at University Hospital.

Gary Tramell, president of United Mine Workers Local 2368, was at the mine’s entrance shaft when the bodies were brought to the surface shortly after midnight.

“I represented those men when they went into the mine and I was going to be dang sure that I was going to be there when they came out,” Tramell said. “It was a very somber moment.”

Tramell and officials from Jim Walter Resources praised the recovery crews for their efforts during the past few weeks. “They had their hearts in their jobs.”

The remains were placed in three vehicles from the Tuscaloosa County Medical Examiner’s Office. Tramell said workers at the mine stood side-by-side in tribute as the vehicles left.

Flags at the Brookwood mine, which have been flying at half-staff since the accident, were raised to full staff Friday morning.

“They weren’t going to raise it back up until the last man was out,” said Dennis Hall, a spokesman for Jim Walter Resources.