An internet search provided me with the information. The Code of Virginia Law 64.2-2300 reveals any person missing for seven successive years can be declared legally deceased. Reading this information was a somber moment. On November 8, it meant that Eric Smith, my former co-worker and the previous Buchanan Mine Foreman, could be declared legally dead on this grim seven-year anniversary, even though no proof of death has ever been disclosed in Eric’s missing person’s case.
Every day folks do not have the ability to solve this mystery that began in 2013, but we can generate attention to this tragic disappearance of a son, husband, father, coal miner, mentor, and friend and keep Eric Smith’s memory alive and hopefully the case ongoing. Here are a few testimonials about Eric from friends and co-workers:
Brett Holbrook was the Superintendent of the Buchanan mine when Eric disappeared. Brett provided Buchanan mine rescue members during the early morning hours in November 2013 to assist the search party seeking Eric’s whereabouts. The search focused on the wooded area where Eric supposedly journeyed to hunt the day before. For several days after the initial search, Mr. Holbrook provided mine personnel and assistance without reluctance. Now seven years later, Brett says he thinks about Eric often and commented about his friend and co-worker, “People become miners for various reasons, close to home, money. Eric was a miner due to answering a calling. Mining was what he was born to do.”
Emmett Casey was the Longwall Coordinator at Buchanan, and worked closely with Eric but had retired before Eric disappeared. He didn’t hesitate to give assistance when he received a call about Eric. Mr. Casey and his son volunteered and participated in the search for Eric. “Eric was a very good man, true to his job and the people he worked with and was responsible for. In my eyes, he was excellent fulfilling those obligations, and did a very good job.”
John Teets, the former Fire Prevention Manager for CONSOL, gave a somewhat different perspective about Eric. As a supervisor and manager, Eric understood the importance of recognizing people for their commitment ensuring the success of Buchanan. John shared a conversation he and Eric had while attending a training class in Atlanta just days before Eric’s disappearance, “Eric said he should mention to me more how much he appreciated my work, my dedication to the job, and for being a good friend. He was so sincere when he told me that.” With years of mine rescue experience, John readily participated and provided assistance during the search for Eric. “Jack Richardson, Vice President of Operations, told me to do all I could to help. And I did so willingly.”
Reggie Lambright retired as the Buchanan Safety Mentor in May 2013 about six months before Eric disappeared. He has followed the case closely. “When I think about Eric, I remember the passion he had for his job. He was totally committed and also fair, firm and consistent. You knew what you were getting with Eric. As a manager, he had a great personality dealing with people.”
Dave Semones was the shift supervisor at the Buchanan mine following Eric’s shift. Dave took direction from Eric every evening before his shift started as the two met in Eric’s office. Mr. Semones recently said, “Eric was a phenomenal person, just a great individual. As a shift foreman, I had to rely on Eric for information. He was honest and truthful, and very dependable. It was a pleasure working with Eric.”
Harry Mulisch, a Dutch novelist and writer of many philosophical reflections wrote, “Boundaries have to be continuously sealed off, but it is a hopeless job, for everything touches everything else in this world. A beginning never disappears, not even with an ending.”
A declaration of death is not Eric’s ending, and never will be. Eric Smith may be absent but he is not forgotten. His life and kind, friendly spirit inspired many people. Our prayers are with his family, and our request to authorities to solve this mystery issued once again.
Don V. Hylton