A Whitley County coal miner who died Thursday morning in an accident at a Rockholds strip mine was laid to rest Monday.

Thirty-three-year-old Joe Partin died when a section of hillside, into which the crew was mining, at Green Hill Mining, Inc.’s GHM#51 off of Tyes Ferry Road (Ky. 3423), collapsed onto him.

Partin was a 2003 graduate of Whitley County High School.

Mike Campbell, who coached the Colonels football team at the time, said Partin was a unique person and athlete.

“He was so big and agile,” Campbell said of the 6’4”, 335 pound Partin. “Despite his size, he could actually run.”

Campbell said because of his size, Partin was known throughout the community as “Big Joe.”

“Some kids growing up with size, don’t know how to handle it, “Campbell said. “Joe did. He was a very humble young man, who was very well liked.”

Campbell said he saw Partin from time to time after graduation and knew he had been working in various trades including construction, paving and coal mining.

“He was a worker who supported his family,” Campbell said of Partin.

Rob Powers, Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Williamsburg, said while he had known Partin for years, it was over the last three years that he really got to know him.

Powers said Partin’s wife, Becca, works for Compcare in Williamsburg.

“About three years ago, we started having a Wednesday morning service for Compcare. She started coming and he started coming when he had the day off,” Powers explained.

Powers, who teaches kindergarten at Whitley Central Primary, said between church and having their children at school, he got to know the entire family.

“They were just a good little ole family,” Powers said.

Powers said Joe Partin came to him to talk, with the conversations eventually shifting religion.

“I shared the Lord and the salvation story with him,” Powers said.

Powers said when Partin became a Christian, he did it with all of his heart and everyone around could see the change.

“He did a complete 180,” Powers said of Partin. He stopped a lot of the orneriness and got serious about being a dad and husband.”

Powers said Partin’s family told him they had noticed the change in him as well.

“When they called me about the accident, the first thing they told me is they were so thankful he had made things right with the Lord,” Powers said.

Powers added that Joe Partin became more active in the church, helping with events such as the annual Passion play.

“He is strong as an ox. He could pick up everything,” Powers said explaining he saw Partin pick up two speakers that typically took two people to move, at one time and carry them like they were nothing.

“Despite being strong and physical, he was just as gentle as he could be,” Powers said. “He would laugh and cut up and was real good with kids. Everybody just loved him.”

In addition to his wife, Joe Partin is survived by two children, Joseph and Megan, his mother, Linda Sue Cox of Williamsburg, his fathers, Terry Wayne Partin and Larry Dean Campbell, a sister, Misty Partin, and his grandmother, Pauline Cox.

Condolences may be made to the family at www.croleyfuneralhome.com.

John Mura, a spokesperson for the Kentucky Energy and Environmental Cabinet, said Partin was performing maintenance work on an auger used to drill into the vertical face to extract the coal when the collapse occurred.

“He was toward the front of the machine changing some equipment,” Mura said of Partin.

Cabinet officials said Partin was an auger operator/foreman at the mine with eight years of mining experience.

Cabinet officials said the mine was last inspected on December 15 and a safety initiative was held at the mine on January 9.

“Neither visit turned up unsafe conditions,” cabinet officials stated

Two coal miners in Kentucky died from on-site accidents in 2016. Partin’s death marks the second such incident in Kentucky in 2017.