All But 1 West Virginia Miners Found Dead; Early Reports Said 12 Survived

January 4, 2006

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 3 a.m. EST. News prior to then indicated that early reports were 12 miners in a West Virginia coal mine explosion had been found alive. Hours later, officials said that was not the case.

Early news reports looked grim Tuesday evening in the search for a dozen coal miners trapped 260 feet below in a West Virginia mine following an early Monday explosion.

After authorities reported finding one of the miner’s bodies, hopes for the remaining miners grew dimmer. A few hours later, though, the news brightened. What happened just a few hours later was hard to fathom.

Following initial reports that 12 of the miners were found alive late Tuesday night, CNN broke a report at 3 a.m. EST that 12 of the miners had in fact died. The first miner brought out was taken to a local hospital in critical condition and later identified as the only survivor, Randal McCloy.

Mine officials broke the news to family members at the Sago Baptist Church and several media reports said fistfights had broken out and many family members left the church in tears. A number of family members said they had been lied to by mine officials. Mine officials in a later press conference said there had been a miscommunication between rescuers underground and the command center.

W. Va. Gov. Joe Manchin initially told a crowd that there were 12 alive and some were going to need medical attention.

International Coal Group Inc., which owns the mine, did not immediately confirm that the 12 other men were alive, but a relative at the local church said a mine foreman had called and said the miners had been found.

Rescuers had paused in their search for the miners earlier Tuesday evening to replenish their air supplies, as officials had earlier discovered very dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the part of the mine where the men were thought to have been.

Earlier in the evening at a press conference televised nationally, it was learned that one miner was found dead inside the mine. The body was located about 700 feet from a mine car, and it appeared the employee was working on a beltline, which brings coal out of the mine.

Editor’s note: See related story in National News.

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