Miner celebrated on Coal’ reality show dies
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Miners at the famed Cobalt Coal mine in McDowell County are in mourning after losing a miner they hailed as "The Legend."
Andy Christian, who became famous for his expert use of the continuous miner machine on the 2011 Spike TV reality show "Coal," died Sunday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 51 and a third-generation miner.
The show followed the miners at the small mining operation in Premier and depicted life deep underground.
"Our hearts are broken and we are saddened with the loss of Andy Christian," Cobalt CEO Mike Crowder said in a written statement.
"Andy was not only a loyal Cobalt Coal miner and nationally known figure on the TV show 'Coal,' but he was an expert underground Miner Operator, known as 'The Legend.'
"He was a hero to the coal mining industry."
Christian was an expert with the machine, Crowder said.
He worked the same shift as his son, Andrew Jr., who had hopes of becoming a continuous mine operator like his father.
"He was a hero to a lot of people, especially his own son," Crowder said in a phone interview. "To me, he was not only a "Legend" but also a friend. I have heroes in the coal mining industry, and Andy was at the top of that list.
"It's tough men like Andy you can't help but admire, but what I admired most about Andy was behind the seasoned chiseled hands of a coal miner, he was a devoted husband, caring father and family man."
Christian, a married father of two, was ill for a long time. Complications from kidney and heart failure ultimately led to his death, Crowder said.
"We knew Andy was sick for a long time, and he kind of prepped everybody that it was serious," Crowder said. "He just really struggled for a long time with it."
Crowder said Christian would be off work for weeks at a time because of his illness.
"We just worked with him on whatever he needed," Crowder said. "There were times when he was off for a month or two, but he'd come back ready to work.
"This last time he had been off for well over a month, and he was talking about retiring. He was sicker than people realized."
Crowder said Christian had only one kidney and recently had a stent put in, but an infection developed and spread.
He said Christian was a private man but he blossomed on television.
"It was nice that even with a private guy like that people could see his life," Crowder said.
The funeral will be Thursday at the Ark of Safety Church in Roderfield with a burial in Christian Cemetery.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.