Update: Union County Miner

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) -- They were drilling roof bolts forty feet up, in almost pitch dark.

Then all of the sudden the roof collapsed, hitting them with four tons of rock.

That was the reality, three days ago for two limestone miners in Union County.

On Saturday afternoon, one of them told us what he still faces on the road to recovery.

"I used to race motocross and I've been body slammed pretty hard before, but nothing like this, said Ricky Blunkall who is still recovering at UT Medical Center from the accident.

His bent fingers could make you flinch, but the bandages and cast almost mask Ricky's pain.

"All these ribs are broke on this side," he said. "My arm's broke, my leg's broke, my back's broke in two places. I have a lacerated liver and a hole in my lung.

"He looked a mess when I first saw him," said Rhonda Blunkall, Ricky's wife. "I said oh my God, I'll be all right, I'll be all right."

Thankfully Ricky's safety harness broke his fall and likely saved his life.

"They're supposed to operate on my back on Tuesday," he said, "and operate on my leg in two weeks."

The recovery time could be long.

Ricky's doctors tell him it could take two years.

"It's all relying on BTE Contracting and workmen's comp," Rhonda said. "Savior my Lord Jesus Christ is the only thing getting me through it."

Rhonda says her husbands one year in the mine may have been the most heart-wrenching in their 24 years of marriage.

"I just don't think you can make it through the day if you're in that mine if you ain't got some faith," she said.

"You just never know when a rock is going to fall," Ricky said, "it's a risk that I guess you just have to take."

A risk Ricky will no longer take.

For Rhonda, the ordeal has been a true test of her faith.

"I told him, if you ain't religious now, you will be." she said. "I'll tell you what, God had his hand in every bit of this."

Ricky and Rhonda say the mine operator, Oglebay Norton Minerals, is covering their needs, right down to the car payments.
Their church, Living Well Ministries, plans to set up a bank account to help cover Ricky in the long term.

It will be at the Green Bank in Gordonsville.


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