Story by Jeff Jenkins, MetroNews

SAGO, W.Va. — January 2 marks a tragic day in West Virginia history.

Joe Manchin

It was on this day in 2006 that an explosion rocked the Sago Mine in Upshur County eventually claiming the lives of 12 coal miners.

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, who was governor at the time, issued a statement recently marking the 18-year anniversary of the tragedy.

“Eighteen years ago, we lost twelve brave coal miners who went to work at the Sago Mine and never returned home to their beloved families. In their honor, West Virginians worked together to pass legislation that improved safety standards for our miners who sacrifice every day to power our great nation,” Manchin said. The anniversary of this tragedy reminds us that our miners are willing to risk their lives for us, and we owe it to them to prioritize their health and safety. Gayle and I will keep the miners’ families and loved ones in our thoughts and prayers, and we encourage all West Virginians to take a moment to remember and honor the twelve courageous West Virginians who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our great state and nation.”

One worker died in an explosion at 6:30 a.m. Twelve others were trapped in the mine.

A U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration report determined lightning striking an abandoned cable as the likely cause of the blast.

A rescue crew reached the group nearly two days later, but 11 of the men had died from carbon monoxide asphyxiation. A miscommunication led to inaccurate reports that all 12 miners trapped underground were found alive.

Rescuers pulled Randal McCloy Jr. out of the mine on Jan. 4. McCoy spent weeks in a coma and received treatment for severe brain injuries.

Officials identified the victims as Tom Anderson; Jerry Lee Groves; James Bennett; George Junior Hamner; Marty Bennett; Terry Helms; Jesse L. Jones; Fred G. Ware Jr.; David Lewis; Jackie Weaver; Martin Toler Jr. and Marshall Winans.