By David White
"We saw the UFO drop fragments of itself and then disappear. Now we can't locate the pieces. We're not imagining this encounter -- you can believe that."
The mountains of southern West Virgina split the heart of the Bible Belt. People who live along the winding narrow roads in Raleigh Country are mountain folk -- God fearing and trustworthy.
Terry Daniel and Thomas Maynor are no exception.
Daniel, 39, has worked as a bulldozer operator for the Consolidation Coal Company for nine years. Maynor, 40, has run a roller at the Rowland Mine site at Collins Fork nearly as long. Their jobs are not glamourous. They move and press the piles of excess slag from strip mines into a structure that will later be used as a dam.
Others who have known these men all their lives say both are truthful and sane. They go to Church and are what is known as "saved" Christians. These men work hard and care for their families.
On the afternoon of August 17, 1978, this comfortable, traditional existence was shattered, forcing the two men to come to terms with the bizarre.
"I don't know exactly what it was but I can tell you what I saw," said a determined Maynor. "I was in the roller on the refuse dump and as I was going back up facing the mountain I saw something that I first thought was a jet airplane."
Then it happened. the object came down the mountain and as it neared it appeared to be a parachute. "I thought somebody flying may have had engine trouble and bailed out. It was about halfway down the mountain appearing just slightly above the treetops. I tried to get the dozer operator's (Terry Daniel's) attention. I was going to tell him somebody was hung up there in the trees in a parachute. But before I could get him to look it had already gone back up past the trees and I was afraid to tell him what I saw."
He said wind currents didn't seem to affect the object at all.
"He drew my attention to it," said Daniel. "I've never seen anything like it before in my life. It was a big white object... pearly white in the shape of a parachute. It was definitely something substantial but I don't know what it was."
Maynor said the object then descended again and returned to the location where he first spotted it. He said it moved over to the left at the base of the mountain, then back to the right and upward again.
"Then after it got to a certain height, I guess about 2,000 feet, it started moving out over Workmen's Creek. It was moving in a northeasterly direction. As it started moving slowly upward six pieces separated from it and it looked like one of them went back to the main object and the other five fell to the ground."
When the separations occurred, Maynor said the object assumed more of a triangular shape. "Then it started moving real fast straight up and we could see that it was black on the bottom. Then it just vanished out over the mountains."
The men said they were about a quarter mile away from the object and said from that vantage point it appeared to be about four feet in diameter. "Of course if we had been closer we might have seen it better," Daniel said. "We were pretty close though, and it was right up there in the sky.
"I've worked up here for nine years and I've never seen anything like it before, but it sure was there today."
Maynor said the pieces that fell to the ground looked oblong in shape. "They kind of floated to the ground very slowly. We know about where they hit and if someone wanted to go up there and look for them I'm sure they could find some of it." he said.
A team of five newspaper employees set out the following day to search for pieces of the UFO. Maynor had said he had looked "for about 10 minutes" after work that day but said a complete search was next to impossible.
He was right.
We could see the slag dump was at the base of five or six mountains which had been strip mined for some time.
Several layers of 60 foot high walls contoured with the terrain and looked almost like a maze.
Strip mined mountain sides are not a hospitable environment for human beings. We descended into a 1930s science fiction movie landscape with fantastic neck-high shrubs and thickly planted locust trees, limbs covered with three spikes.
The slate covered hillside was infested with rattle snakes -- a virtual jungle
We spread out
It was tough going. Moving through the brush at a snail's pace, we kept in contact by yelling to each other. Scrambling to keep our balance, we scanned the area looking for any of the five pieces of a now vanished craft. Hoping for success and trying to ignore the threat of snakes beneath our boots, we pushed on.
When we had walked nearly half a mile around the rim of the hollow the two witnesses had designated, we looked far below to see a gnat-sized Maynor standing atop the roller pointing directions to a now disheartened crew. Looking down from the ridge made us realize the deceivingly vast distance involved... whatever the two men saw, it had to have been of considerable size for them to have noticed it from the fill sight they worked at.
We were too far around the mountain at this point, but had started up at about the right place. We looked down the hollow where, with out binoculars, we could see Maynor's gestures. There was no way we could go up there. While we had searched the rim, we realized the men had meant the slope which was a vertical dropoff of several hundred feet, uninviting to untrained explorers like ourselves.
And so the search was futile. We were forced to see that a thorough search would take more manpower and time than we few could give. We left that day covered with sweat and scratches, blood drawn by locust limbs and razor sharp shale.
"I'm going to wait until some of the brush dies down this fall and some of those leaves fall off so I can see what I'm doing," Maynor said later.
Daniel told us that when they told their superintendent what they had seen he told them they'd been out in the sun too long. "It wasn't anything like that," Daniel said. "It was up there in the sky and we saw it and we just wish some of the other men could have seen it too."
The men said they watched the object for an estimated eight to 10 minutes. "It could hover like a helicopter, it had very good control of its maneuvers," Maynor claimed.
Several months have passed since that clear day up the hollow near Workman's Creek when the two men saw something neither can explain. But for Terry Daniel and Thomas Maynor their quest for an answer is not yet complete.
Today they still can't believe what they saw and have taken no small amount of teasing because they told their story. "Some of the men I work with still call me 'Space Man,'" said Daniel, who still remains somewhat spellbound. "If we'd just caught a glimpse of it, it would be a lot different. But we stood there and watched it. There's no way anybody can deny it when we watched it for ten minutes. The UFO looked to be solidly constructed. It could move around in any direction and whoever was driving it had good control. If it was something from another planet I guess they saw what they came to see."
Daniel seems almost obsessed with the object. "It makes you study, that's for sure. It gives you a feeling of not being sure of what's in the future. I lay down at night and try to go to sleep and when I close my eyes I can see that thing hovering up there. I watched those television programs about outer space UFOs, but there has never been anything on there that could compare to what I saw. The thing that gets me is that it was broad daylight and it wasn't anything we could have mistaken for something else. It still bothers me during the day at work, I'm always looking up there on the mountain. I wish we could see it again.
"But we're going up there to find those pieces. I know we can if they're still there. We saw where it hit. Maybe then we'll know what it was."