The family previously accessed the cemetery via Stringtown Road. However, a section of the road leading to the cemetery was removed by Oxford Coal during its mining process, according to Danny Stewart.
Now, the family must travel to the cemetery through a mine access road off Kentucky 189, which has a locked gate, guard shack and a security guard through Clark Security of Evansville, Ind.
Christie Stewart Sheppard said her family arrived at the gate to access the cemetery on Memorial Day with 11 family members including five children. They found the gate unlocked, and they didn't see a security guard, she said.
However, while the family was driving to the cemetery, they were stopped by security guard Stephanie Eubanks, who allowed them to proceed to the cemetery, said Sheppard. When the group tried to leave, the gate was locked and the security guard was not there, she said.
After waiting at the locked gate, Sheppard said she squeezed herself through the gate, and made her way to Kentucky 189. There, she said she saw Eubanks sitting in her vehicle on the side of the road.
Sheppard said Eubanks left the gated location leaving the family trapped inside. Sheppard said she called 911 but dispatch could not locate any key holders. A family friend saw her and stopped to help, and they attached a chain to the gate and pulled the lock apart, she said.
The Stewart family is very upset about the incident and have been trying to call the security company to complain. Phone numbers listed on a sign by the gate have not been answered, said Sheppard.
SurfKY News contacted Eubanks but she declined to comment referring questions to Clark's spokesman Tom Waters. Eubanks could not supply a phone number for Waters nor identify his position with Clark Security.
When SurfKY News called Clark Security's main office in Evansville, the person that answered would only identify himself as Jeff. He said that while he was aware of the incident, he had no comment. He said he would have someone call SurfKY, who could speak on behalf of the company, however, no calls have been returned.
David Stewart and Danny Stewart said they have maintained their family gravesite along with the Fortney family graveyard, which is close to theirs.
Danny Steward said the road to the Fortney Graveyard is so bad now that they cannot drive their vehicles to mow and cut weeds. He said the Fortney graveyard has become so overgrown, tombstones are no longer visible.
Charles Riley II
SurfKY News Reporter
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