miners revengeBy Peter Galuszka

A couple of weeks ago, Scott, the photographer with whom I worked on my book on Massey Energy and the worst mine disaster in 40 years, emailed me to ask if I knew about a new Halloween amusement at Kings Dominion, the amusement park just off Interstate 95 in Doswell.

Called “Miner’s Revenge,” the maze featured garish, half skeletal coal miners holding pick axes and vowing revenge against colleagues who had abandoned them for safety after the worst coal disaster in the world.

In 2011 and 2012, Scott and I had spent days driving the narrow hollows of southern West Virginia talking to survivors and families of the 29 miners killed at the Upper Big Branch disaster in April 5, 2010 that three investigative reports said were preventable and were the direct cause of Massey Energy’s atrocious safety policies. My book, “Thunder on the Mountain: Death at Massey and the Dirty Secrets of Big Coal” was published by St. Martin’s Press in September 2012.

When you consider the “War on Coal,” remember now-defunct Massey and its former CEO Don Blankenship who made a religion of decrying “government regulation.”

First step was calling Kings Dominion. Finally, I reached their flak, Gene Petriello and told him who I was and that I planned to blog about the issue. He needed a day or two to come up with a response. When he did, I contacted The Washington Post which wanted both a blog posting and a print story.

The op-ed piece was online Friday afternoon. Within a couple of hours, I had a call from NBC12 television in Richmond which wanted an interview. I obliged.

Next day, I was in West Virginia attending the premiere screening of an unfinished documentary by Evening Star Productions and executive producer Mari-lynn Evans. Titled “Blood on the Mountain,” it deals with the coal company culture in the Appalachians, miner death and mountain strip mine destruction. About 100 people attended the movie to which I had made some research contributions and am a talking head. It is due out through PBS and the BBC next spring.

Afterwards, I went to a party in downtown Charleston and shared a beer with a retired miner. When I told him about the Kings Dominion maze, he stared at me incredulously and asked, “What?”

By then, other people were asking the same question, including the United Mine Workers of America (“insulting”) and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (“beyond my understanding and comprehension that anybody could stoop that low for the all-mighty dollar.”)

By Monday night, NPR was reporting that Kings Dominion had decided not to include the amusement in its “Halloween Haunt” next year.

So, some justice has been done. But the news in West Virginia is bleak. Coal is truly in the pits and is unlikely to come back. Pittsburgh-based Consol plans on selling five large mines in West Virginia for $3.5 billion to Murray Energy, the Ohio company that figured prominently in Republican Mitt Romney’s “War on Coal” ploy last year.

Consol, which has been mining coal in the Mountain State for about 100 years,  wants to concentrate on natural gas.

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7 responses to “The Birth and Death of “Miner’s Revenge””

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    Well done. I am guessing that King’s Dominion never even thought about what they were doing in the context of actual mine disasters. However, they should think of such things.

  2. well DJ.. next time you think about hammering the Imperial Clown Show for their incompetence.. think about this non-govt example!

    This is yet another pew in the church of “what were you thinking”.

    think about this – there are corporate people in KD that are getting recommendations from obviously yahoo staff types or perhaps yahoo consultants, who knows… but it don’t take no miner to see how shallow and thoughtless this concept is.

    Remember, this is the same KD that successfully messed with Virginia’s schooling schedules…with our vaunted GA folks…

    but – Excellent article Peter! Now if we could only get you to do as good a job on the MWAA or CTB as you’ve done with Massey, you’d be GOLDEN!


    1. It’s called the “Kings Dominion Law.” However, I understand KD no longer opposes its repeal. The repeal bill has been killed in the Senate Education Committee. George Barker (D) and Richard Black (R) are two local senators who helped kill the bill. Dick Saslaw voted for repeal, but said he will oppose it again.

    2. DJRippert Avatar

      LarryG – When confronted with their (unintentional) mistake Kings Dominion agreed to change by not doing the same thing next year. The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond screws things up and then repeats the screw up year over year for decades.

      We’ll see how ethics reform goes now that we’ve had Star Scientific, CONSOL Energy, the Dominion phony alternative energy charge, Orion Air ,etc.

      Nothing will happen.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    But Bacon won’t pay anything!

    1. Hey, Bacon’s Rebellion pay stinks, but at least you don’ t have to worry about on-the-job safety!

      Seriously, that’s a remarkable gaffe on Kings Dominion’s part. Why not have a starving Somalis ride or a Chinese earthquake victims ride while they’re at it?

  4. Actually I was thinking of a ride that flies past all the scary things Cucinelli would presumably do as Governor!

    it would be an odd ride as liberals would be screaming in abject fear and conservatives would be cheering and “atta-boying”.


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