- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 30, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - President Barack Obama’s visit, two high-profile court cases and a fiery train derailment marked a memorable 2015 in West Virginia.

In his third trip to a state where he has been unpopular, Obama participated in a panel discussion Oct. 21 in Charleston on the epidemic of heroin use and prescription painkiller abuse.

Federal prosecutors stayed busy in 2015 with the convictions of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship and Freedom Industries President Gary Southern. Blankenship was found guilty Dec. 3 of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety rules at the Upper Big Branch Mine, where an April 2010 explosion killed 29 men. Southern pleaded guilty in August to federal pollution charges in a 2014 chemical spill in Charleston that sullied tap water for 300,000 people.

In mid-February, a CSX train went off the tracks in Fayette County, shooting fireballs into the sky and leaking oil from 20 cars. Investigators determined the accident could have been prevented. The year also was marked by visits to the Greenbrier by the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals. Up in Morgantown, West Virginia’s football team overcame a four-game losing streak to win four of its last five games and earn a berth in the Cactus Bowl on Jan. 2.

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