W.Va. paramedic returns watch to mine disaster survivor 10 years later

Whitesville Paramedic Terry Vermillion reunited with James Wood, who was critically injured in the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, last week


By Laura French

BECKLEY, W.Va. — A West Virginia paramedic who kept the watch of a mine disaster survivor for 10 years reunited with his patient for the first time last week. 

Whitesville Paramedic Terry Vermillion was able to return the watch he removed from then-mine electrician James Woods while starting an IV after meeting with him last week, the Coal Valley News reported

"I can't really put into words how good it feels to be here right now," Vermillion told the Coal Valley News. "Finally, these items are back where they belong." 

Woods' family agreed to meet with Vermillion, a 36-year EMS veteran, after seeing an interview Vermillion gave to the newspaper last month expressing his desire to return the watch. 

Woods, an Army veteran, was among two injured miners who survived the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster on April 5, 2010, that killed 29 mine workers. He suffered a traumatic brain injury that affects his memory, according to his wife Teresa Woods, who serves as his caregiver. 

Teresa Woods said her family has stayed private after the disaster due to the pain of talking about it, but that they wanted to thank Vermillion because keeping the watch for 10 years in the hopes of returning it showed how much he cared about his patient. 

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