By Jonathan Williams
Times West Virginian
On Nov. 30, 2012, an embankment over a coal slurry pond at Consol Energy’s Robinson Run mine collapsed, pitching a dozer — and its operator — into the murky depths of the slurry pond.
For 14 harrowing days, the Winfield Volunteer Fire Department, which specializes in water rescues, worked day and night to locate the vehicle and retrieve the body of Mark Koon.
The dedication hasn’t gone unnoticed.
On Friday evening, Mike Caputo, Marion County delegate and United Mine Workers of America regional vice president presented the fire department with two checks in recognition of their hard work, one from the UMW and one from Charleston.
“When I got there, these guys were already there, they were on the water, out in the area where the dozer was last seen,” Caputo said. “That was day one.
“Fourteen days later, when we recovered Mark Koon’s remains, these guys were still there. They were the last ones to leave.”
Impressed by what he’d seen, Caputo went back to the UMW and asked the organization to support the firefighters who’d supported them. The response has been fantastic.
“Local Union 1501 under the leadership of Chris Yanero immediately donated $5,000 to your team,” he said. Caputo wrote to all the local unions in his district and raised an additional $6,375, $2,000 of which came from the United Mine Workers International.
Meanwhile, in his other duty as a state legislator, he approached House Speaker Rick Thompson to secure a grant, which will go toward the purchase of an underwater RV camera. The Marion County delegation presented the fire department with a check for $20,000 through the state.