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EDITORIAL: Stay out, stay alive


The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.


May 08--MSHA has found a tremendous teammate in its efforts to inform youngsters of the dangers of entering abandoned mines and quarry sites.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration, along with Kansas City Chiefs running back Thomas Jones, kicked off its annual "Stay Out -- Stay Alive" public safety campaign Friday.

Jones, whose mom and dad were both coal miners from southwestern Virginia, was a natural choice.

The campaign was established in 1999 to warn outdoor enthusiasts -- especially children -- about the dangers of exploring and playing on mine property. Every year, numerous people are injured or killed in accidents at active and abandoned mines and quarries around the country.

The tagline of Jones' public address announcement expresses his simple plea: "Take the advice of this coal miner's son: Stay Out and Stay Alive."

With hundreds of quarries and abandoned mines in our area, it's an issue worthy of reminding our youth.

Jones knows the dangers first hand, though he personally escaped injury.

As a boy, he was in an abandoned mine with friends and got lost when a flashlight failed.

Another friend was not as fortunate when he ran an ATV off the high wall of a surface mine and suffered severe injuries in a separate incident.

"Underground mines have shafts that are as deep as skyscrapers," Jones relays in his message. "And they can collapse at the slightest disturbance. Water-filled quarries are dangerously deep and cold. Old surface mines have cliffs and steep ledges that are constantly changing."

Jones has taken up other causes related to mining in our area over the past year.

His appearance at a Soul of Coal fundraiser in Beckley last year benefited the Roosevelt Lynch Memorial Fund, set up through the Beckley Area Foundation. The fund will provide need-based scholarships that will send young people to West Virginia University's summer basketball camp.

It also honored Lynch and Joel "Jody" Price, two black miners who lost their lives in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

Since, Jones has become the national spokesman for "Stay Out -- Stay Alive."

In Beckley last July, Jones said: "I am a coal miner's son. I've been proud of that my whole life. My recipe for success has always been hard work. Some people think that's cliched, but it goes back to coal mining."

His influence as a professional athlete and strong message will no doubt resonate with young people.

That's worth more than any touchdown scored on a playing field.

For that, we cheer athletes like Jones who use their talents and platform to make a difference.

And perhaps save lives.


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(c) 2011, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.



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