OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) — The West Virginia Division of Highways says Interstate-70 at the West Virginia-Pennsylvania state line is finally opening back up to four lanes in the coming days. For the past 9 months, crews worked to replace the I-70 Stoolfire bridges that were torn down ahead of a coal mine’s longwall mining under the interstate.
But now, the WVDOH says the coal company, Tunnel Ridge, will be crossing back under Interstate-70 come January of 2023.
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When 7NEWS aired the story in the spring, multiple viewers reacted to the news. One particular reaction came from a grieving son who said, “It makes their deaths seem so much more meaningless.” He was talking about his mother and father. And so, 7NEWS sat down with Nathan and Bethany Tinstman.
I think about how she must have been feeling already, sitting there on their trip. And just in the blink of an eye it’s over. I’ve had to struggle with: Were they scared? Did they even realize? Was there enough time for there to be terror? And, again, for there to be any added factors that were unnecessary, money driven? Anything.Bethany Tinstman, bereaved son and daughter
You have driven on I-70. You have come to a stop on that section of roadway. You have even considered taking another route. So, too, did Marc and Terri Tinstman. In fact, their children say Terri had a fear of sitting in traffic.
It is hard to say what flashed through their minds as they sat in their Honda CR-V at the state line and were struck from behind by a commercial motor vehicle in May of 2022. The driver was charged with negligent homicide.
“I remember telling them: Watch getting close to The Highlands. You got to watch that traffic. People are nuts,” said Nathan Tinstman.
Two months after their deaths, bereaved son Nathan said 7NEWS’ coverage was his first-time hearing of the coal mining operations under that section.
“I think it cheapens everything out,” replied Nathan.
The pastor from Brilliant, Ohio, and his smiling wife faced an end that was out of their control. But who takes responsibility for the safety of I-70 as the coalmine works?
In a statement, Tunnel Ridge, LLC says:
According to District 6 Engineer Tony Clark with the West Virginia Division of Highways, no replacement would have been necessary if it were not for the mine subsidence.
As for the family’s plea for transparency and 7NEWS’ request for comment, Tunnel Ridge responded:
Furthermore, all of the road repairs, lane closures, traffic control, and signage within this area are under the exclusive management of West Virginia’s Department of Highways. Tunnel Ridge will continue to communicate and work closely with DOH regarding mining activity in this area.Tunnel Ridge, LLC
But are the slowdowns a thing of the past? No. Clark received word the longwall mining will move to the next panel; just West of the newly constructed Stoolfire bridges. Though, not nearly as long as 9 months.
“It will be down to one lane to monitor subsidence for the next two weeks or so.”Tony Clark, WVDOH District 6 engineer
“Nothing is important enough to risk what happened to our parents,” said Bethany. “So, if this is going to continue on, somebody, everybody, needs to do better.”
7NEWS asked the son and daughter if they think the operations should continue on.
“I personally don’t have a problem with continuing to mine through the area. What I do have a problem with is shortcutting and going for the low-hanging fruit, knowing you’re putting people at risk when it could be avoided,” responded Nathan.
“I don’t want to disparage energy production at all. I don’t think that does anyone any good. But I say that through gritted teeth because at the same time, there is a level of impact that has now had that you can’t unsee.”
“If you’re going to mine, great. Go for it. If you’re going to do construction, great. Go for it. But do it safely. Figure out how to take extra precautions, not less. Because otherwise, you’re taking away someone else’s world.”Nathan and Bethany Tinstman
7NEWS reached out under the “Freedom of Information Act” to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which has yet to provide blueprints of when and where Tunnel Ridge will cross next.
Stay with 7NEWS for updates.