EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSTheme Park Attraction Causes Controversy With Families Of Fallen Miners
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Katy Brown
Web Producer: Heath Harrison
Also Contributing: Associated Press
Reported: Oct. 26, 2013 4:51 PM EDT
Updated: Oct. 27, 2013 7:30 PM EDT
A Halloween attraction is causing some big controversy
It's meant to be a good scare, but coal mining families are not happy with an amusement park attraction in Virginia.
It's a haunted maze called the "Miner's Revenge."
West Virginia has seen a lot of heartache because of mine disasters, and families of those victims are not OK with the attraction.
The Mullins family has been in the coal mining industry for years, but tragedy struck when one of their own was killed in one of the nation's worst coal mining accidents.
Now the family feels King's Dominion amusement park is making light of their pain and suffering to make money.
Clay Mullins gets angry as he reads the description of the "Miner's Revenge" attraction at King's Dominion in Virginia.
That's because the reality of coal mining's danger are no stranger to his family.
“The only sound is the pulsing of your heart, as the searing heat slowly boils you alive,” the description reads. “It was reported to be the worst coal mining disasters in history."
His brother Rex was one of the 29 miners killed in the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion.
Mullins can't imagine how anyone would think a Halloween thrill about that pain is okay.
"It's dirty,” he said. “It's very offensive for someone to try to profit off of our loved one’s death and off of our pain, because this is very painful."
United Mine Workers of America representative Phil Smith echoed Mullins.
"This is an insult to the memories of the thousands of miners who have died in America's mines."
According to the amusement park's website, Miner's Revenge is based on miners who died trapped in the underground coal mines, seeking revenge when their rescue was deemed too dangerous.
Back in 2010, Rex Mullins and 28 other miners never returned home for that same reason.
And while the park does not specify on any particular mining accident, Mullins say it hits too close to home.
"Every Sunday, we all come home,” he said. “We all have dinner. Last time I saw Rex, it was Sunday and we all were up here having dinner. I talked to Rex too. And he went to work the next morning and he never came home."
Mullins said the 29 miners killed at Upper Big Branch have been dishonored by this haunted maze.
"Our family members, we buried them,” he said. “And they're in the hands of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ now, not any Halloween sideshow."
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., whose district covers the Upper Big Branch mine, weighed in on the attraction.
"Using mine tragedies for profit is an insult to a region built on the backs of miners," Rahall said in a statement. "King's Dominion has demonstrated an appalling lack of sensitivity by developing an attraction based on the tragedies suffered by legions of coal miners. Mine fires, collapses, and explosions are not science fiction, or ghost stories, or the fantasies commonly cooked up for innocent Halloween fun. They are the all-too-real nightmares of miners and their families."
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin is also sounded off about the controversy.
"My heart goes out to the families,” Manchin said in phone interview with Eyewitness News. “To continue to have to relive this in the most horrible way and people to commercialize it - it's just beyond my understanding and comprehension that anybody could stoop that low for the all mighty dollar. It's unbelievable."
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant shared her thoughts on the attraction.
“I am appalled that Cedar Fair Entertainment Company is using the heartbreaking loss of our coal miners’ lives and the very real guilt of their colleagues and rescuers to make a buck," Tennant said in a statement. "Our miners work hard and honorably, and for Cedar Fair Entertainment to exploit tragedies such as the 1968 explosion at Farmington or the Upper Big Branch disaster in 2010 for ‘amusement’ is too unbelievable for words.”
A King's Dominion spokesperson responded to concerns about "Miner's Revenge."
"Miner's Revenge is not designed, nor intended, to depict a specific situation,” the spokesperson said. “Rather, it is simply a themed Halloween attraction for the 2013 Halloween haunt season at Kings Dominion."
WHAT DO YOU THINK?: Do you think the "Miner’s Revenge" is insensitive to families impacted by mine disasters, or is it just a spooky Halloween attraction? Stop by Facebook page and join in on the conversation.
The union representing America's mine workers is speaking out against a Virginia theme park's Halloween attraction that depicts an underground mine disaster.
The United Mine Workers of America is raising concerns about Kings Dominion's "Miner's Revenge" Halloween Haunt attraction.
The Doswell amusement park's website describes it as miners that were left entombed deep underground following a mine disaster searching for the men who left them to die and get revenge.
In an email statement, union spokesman Phil Smith said the attraction is an insult to the memories if the thousands of miners who have died in America's mines.
A spokesman for Kings Dominion did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Saturday. The Halloween Haunt event began Sept. 27 and runs through Sunday.
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