Coal Mine Rescue Hall of Fame Member Bio
Virgil graduated from Bluefield High School in 1968 and began his Coal Mining career with Consolidation Coal Company in 1969. While working for Consol he enrolled at Bluefield State College in 1969 and received an Associates degree in Mining Engineering in 1971.
Virgil joined the Consolidation Coal Company McComas A Team, Mine Rescue team in 1971. While a member of the McComas A Team, Virgil began as a gasman, served as the team map man and became the team captain. He continued service with the McComas A Team until 1979 when he left the team to enroll at Bluefield State College and graduated with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Mining Engineering in 1982.
After his graduation from Bluefield State College, Virgil rejoined the Consolidation Coal Company McComas A Team in 1982 and remained a team captain until he left Consol in 1985. The McComas A Team competed in and won numerous contests over the years as well as responding to 6 actual emergency situations including Mine Fires and Explosions. During his time as a Team Captain, Virgil was responsible for at least 3 of the current National Mine Rescue Contest rules being adopted for contest work. From cutting out a door in a temporary stopping with his knife to gain access to the mine to pre-dating and initialing index cards and throwing them on the field were D and I’s were required. The rule prohibiting pictures or video evidence to be used as part of a team’s protest can be traced to Virgil. Some of Virgil’s teammates are present tonight and they can attest to these “indiscretions” and probably countless more.
In 1987 Virgil joined MSHA as an electrical inspector in District 3. He became a member of the Mine Emergency Unit that same year and in 1995 he became the Mine Emergency Unit Specialist.
From 1987 when he became a member of MSHA’s MEU until now Virgil has responded to 52 Coal Mine Fire, Explosion, Inundation or Entrapment events as well as responding to emergency events ranging from an aluminum plant explosion, terrorist attacks, railroad tunnel fire, building collapse, Hurricane relief and recovery efforts up to the recent propane gas explosion at a service station in the community. Virgil’s most recent rescue illustrates his true human spirit and even though he doesn’t show it, his compassion for all. After an 8 hour drive from Nashville, Virgil and his wife traveled to Charleston, WV to assist with an unusual entrapment. A coon dog named Belle had gotten trapped inside and auger hole and had be trapped for 3 days. When Virgil was told of this he responded as soon as he could and through his knowledge, skill and experience, Belle was rescued from the predicament.
In addition to his full time job at MSHA which includes being the Chief Bench Judge for the National Mine Rescue Contest he is a member of the Ghent Fire and Rescue Departments.