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National News

April 7, 2010

Among the dead, a family man and cheerful son-in-law

MONTCOAL, W.Va. — Steve Harrah was always willing to help, even a stranger. His easy-going personality and cheerful demeanor earned him the nickname "Smiley."

"If he saw you on with a flat tire on the side of the road, he'd pull over and help you out," said Jack Bowden, his father-in-law. "... I can't say enough good things about him."

Harrah was among 25 miners killed Monday afternoon in an explosion at the Performance Coal Co. mine in Montcoal, W.Va. Four others were still missing as of Tuesday afternoon.

Harrah, 40, was a resident of Cool Ridge. He was with a group of nine miners leaving the facility when the explosion happened, his father-in-law said. Seven of the nine were killed. Two others were injured.

Bowden, who is director of the emergency operations center in Raleigh County, where the mine is located, was on vacation when he learned of the explosion. As soon as he returned, he learned his son-in-law was among the dead.

Harrah married Bowden's daughter Tammy 10 years ago. The couple had gone to high school together. Their son, Zach, will turn seven on April 16.

Bowden said his son-in-law enjoyed deer hunting in Pocahontas County.

He was also a good family man.

"Of course, it's a tragic loss," he said. "It's a tragic, tragic, tragic, tragic loss."

Amelia A. Pridemore writes for The Register-Herald of Beckley, W.Va. Reach her at a pridemore@register-herald.com.

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