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Tragedy at Sago Mine in West Virginia Kills 12

Aired January 4, 2006 - 08:00   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: From euphoria to despair, all in a matter of three hours.
I'm Miles O'Brien live in Sago, West Virginia, where 12 of the 13 trapped miners are now considered dead and are now involved in a recovery operation as they try to remove them from the mine. And many families not only saddened, but very angry at the false hopes that they were giving.

The one survivor is in a hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia. Many wondering how he could have possibly survived for 41 plus hours. We expect a news conference from his doctors very shortly.

Good morning, I'm Miles O'Brien. And it's good to have you with us on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING, an extended edition.

A sad morning here in the hills of West Virginia, Upshur County, as people try to grapple with the loss of 12 of those 13 trapped miners. That word coming down some 41 hours after the initial explosion, which caused the accident which trapped those miners.

One person was killed immediately. The other 12 survived that initial explosion. And now, according to the rescuers, they were able to barricade themselves and protect themselves against the carbon monoxide.

At the Baptist Church where family members have gathered to console and grieve and try to uplift their spirits, all at once bells rung shortly after midnight, when word initially came out that 12 of the 13 were, in fact, alive.

But it was a miscommunication, a horrible miscommunication. It spread like wildlife and it took the company three hours to set the record straight.

The sadness came and so did the anger. And this morning many questions for the company, for officials on how that information was handled, as well as how this accident happened and how one person could have survived -- Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: One has to imagine, Miles, just brutal for these family members, who were so hopeful for three hours. And then as time went by and no sign of these rescued miners, clearly, and then the press conference that confirmed it all, that, in fact, they had not survived. What a roller coaster for these family members.

Let's lay out for you how it all played out around the clock.

At 6:31 a.m. on Monday, an explosion causes a power outage at the Sago mine, Mine Number One, as two crews enter the mine to resume production. The mine had been shut down for the holiday. All 13 members of the first crew are trapped about 13, 000 feet into the mine. The mine superintendent finds dangerous levels of carbon monoxide at about 9, 000 feet.

5:00 p.m. on Monday, drilling crews arrive and at 5:51, a rescue team finally enters that mine. They're working through the night and into the morning.

And at 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, workers begin drilling a hole, trying to provide some fresh air to the miners, who are 260 feet beneath the surface.

A second hold is begun about two-and-a-half hours later. And with that hole, they're able to determine air quality. Mine officials, at 7:42 a.m. on Tuesday, they say they dropped a camera into one of the holes and they see on this camera no survivors. They also say about those air quality tests, they are discouraging because there are very, extremely high, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.

5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, the president of the International Coal Group says rescue teams are 1, 000 to 2, 000 feet from the trapped miners.

9:10 p.m. on Tuesday, things are looking very bad. And ICG President Ben Hatfield announces that, in fact, the body of one of the miners has been found in a mine vehicle.

11:53 p.m. on Tuesday, suddenly it all changes. Church bells begin ringing. There are reports that 12 miners, the other 12 miners have all been found and they're alive.

And then, almost as quickly as it started, after a three hour wait, 2:30 a.m. this morning, company officials tell families at a Baptist Church that, in fact, there was a miscommunication between the rescue crews and the command center. Only one miner, in fact, had survived, Randal McCloy, Jr. 27 years old, with two children.

All 12 of the other miners are dead.

Miles, as you mentioned, lots of questions that will be answered, if not today, over the next several days, as the investigation on many fronts now must go forward -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Soledad, the federal government, as a matter of fact, made its statement this morning. The federal agency which was responsible for mine safety and health will be looking into not just the accident and what happened beneath the ground for those 41 hours or so, but also how communication was disseminated to the families, to the media, and, ultimately, to the public. So there's a lot to contend with here, many dimensions to this tragedy, a tragedy laced with anger and also one glimmer of joy. CNN's Adaora Udoji is at the mine about a half a mile up the road from where I stand right now near the command center with more on all this from Sago, West Virginia -- Adaora Udoji.


Yes, a terribly sad ending that the mining company CEO says was triggered by a miscommunication between rescue workers who were in the mine shaft and people in the command center. At some point they were talking and the people in the command center thought those rescue workers were saying that 12 of the 13 trapped miners had actually survived, that they were alive. And that spread very quickly to the families, who were congregated -- hundreds of family members who were congregated at the Baptist Church, which is right up the street here from the mine.

And, of course, there was absolute joy and a tremendous amount of celebration. And the governor, Joe Manchin, he describes exactly what was going on at that point.


GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: I walked in there not, you know, not knowing anything. I kept thinking, I kept asking our people how could this information, we not know about it? We've been called about something all along. And then you just, I mean, the ecstatic. And the Fury just pulled up and everybody's running and the bells are ringing. And I'm thinking my goodness, you know, our prayers were answered. We have 12 miracles.


UDOJI: CEO Ben Hatfield says the company never formally announced that 12 out of the 13 miners had survived, and, indeed, it was just a couple of hours later, three hours later, that the families learned that 12 miners had died -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Adaora Udoji, sorry to interrupt you, but as you can see, via video phone, these are pictures coming to us live from the West Virginia University Hospital. And that is where the sole survivor, Randal McCloy, is right now being treated.

Let's listen as they offer us a statement on his condition right now.

BILL CASE, HOSPITAL SPOKESMAN: We are here this morning at the request of Mr. McCloy's family to give you an update on his condition.

Dr. Larry Roberts is the director of the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center, who has been treating Mr. McCloy and talking with his family.

And I'll turn this over to him.


Good morning.

Mr. McCloy, I've been caring for him since about 3:00 this morning when he arrived. And, as you know, he was injured in the mining accident.

When he arrived, he was sedated with a breathing tube in, very dehydrated from his prolonged period of time underground. And we've evaluated him and I've talked to the family, to his wife and his mother and other family members, and they have been willing to let me describe a couple of his injuries.

In broad detail, he's still critically ill. He's in our intensive care unit. He suffered some collapse of one of his lungs, which we are attempting right now to reopen and there is good progress in that regard. He remains very dehydrated and we're actively managing that. He still is sedated. We have no evidence that he has a head injury, but because of his sedation that's required right now, we're a little bit unable to assess his level of awakeness. And that's something that will come in time.

So -- and in many other ways, he's relatively uninjured. But the degree of dehydration that he suffered, the prolonged immobility that he obviously suffered, have both played significantly and are causing him to remain in critical shape.

We have all the hopes that he will continue to improve as we aggressively manage him and -- which is what we're doing in our intensive care unit.

I think I'll stop at that and answer questions.

CASE: Yes, we'll take a couple of questions.

Dr. Roberts has to get back to the hospital in a bit.

So if we could just get like one or two from each outlet, if you've got a question.


QUESTION: The carbon monoxide poisoning that he suffered (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ROBERTS: Yes, we could tell. And, yes, he did. It wasn't a significant amount of carboxyhemoglobin. That's what we measure in the blood. But he did suffer some and that has been steadily reversing since, actually, when he was at the other hospital and then upon arrival here.

So that has been steadily improving.

QUESTION: Do you expect it to be today, and at what point do you think people might be able to talk to him about what happened in the mine?

ROBERTS: I would have great difficulty to speculate on that. I think there are too many issues. He's only been with us for a handful of hours and we haven't really had a chance to fully assess which way his progress is going to go.

But my hope is that we will try to awaken him later today or tomorrow, would be my hope.


QUESTION: I understand that he's one of the youngest, or the youngest of the miners.

Any idea how he may have survived and whether his youth helped him in any way to survive?

ROBERTS: Well, I think youth always helps you in that regard. I don't know about the other miners and it would be very difficult for me to speculate on that at this point. But youth always has its advantage.


ROBERTS: I do not know the name of the referring hospital -- St. Joe's Hospital in Buchanan. And he was brought by ground ambulance. I do know that. And I believe that was because of weather.

QUESTION: Has he had a chance to see his family at all?

ROBERTS: Yes, he has. They are in the intensive care unit waiting room and they've -- his wife has been in, and, I believe, his mother. And I'm not sure about other family members.

QUESTION: We heard his breathing apparatus was still working.

And how does that help? You know, I'm just curious about him being down there for 41 hours and with the breathing apparatus only having so much air.

ROBERTS: I don't know about the breathing apparatus. I do know that the report we got from St. Joe's was that he was spontaneously breathing, breathing on his own, when he arrived at the other hospital, but was short of breath. And based on that, they put the breathing tube in, which I think was absolutely the right decision at the time.

QUESTION: Has he had a brain scan?

ROBERTS: Yes, he has.

QUESTION: And so I guess, number one, you're certain that -- or can you tell, I should say, whether there's been any injury to his brain, perhaps?

ROBERTS: We can't tell that based on the studies we've done, but the studies that we have done at this point show no other injuries except the ones that I've mentioned.

QUESTION: No hypothermia and what is (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ROBERTS: No hypothermia. He was extremely well cared for, all things considered, and no hypothermia. And the ongoing fear at the moment is, as I described, fluid management, ventilator management, sedation and whenever you get large volumes of fluid, you have to control electrolytes and other things. And we are controlling all of those things at the moment.

QUESTION: What are his chances, would you say, of a full recovery?

ROBERTS: I would speculate -- I would say he's still in critical condition. I haven't had enough time to observe. I think I would have more information to give you later today or tomorrow. I'm hopeful that he can make a recovery.


ROBERTS: I beg your pardon?

QUESTION: In shock?

ROBERTS: Is he in shock?


ROBERTS: No, not at the moment.

QUESTION: Has he been able to speak?

ROBERTS: No, he has a breathing tube and he's asleep, or sedated.

QUESTION: Is he showing any response, like moving?

ROBERTS: Yes. Yes, he does.

QUESTION: The earlier hospital gave us a briefing this morning. They said he was moaning when they brought him in (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ROBERTS: Not specifically, because, again, he has a breathing tube and it's very difficult to make sounds with a breathing tube in. But he is moving and responding, so, to stimuli and to things that we're doing. And most of the time we've then re-sedated him to protect him and to allow us to do what we need to do at the moment. Obviously, we'll stop doing that at some point, when we deem it's safe.

QUESTION: So he came to and he was conscious?

ROBERTS: No. He's -- we've never allowed him to be awake enough to be what you would call conscious.


ROBERTS: Moving legs, moving arms... QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ROBERTS: To touch or to any kind of stimulus. And he's breathing spontaneously, not just relying on the ventilator on the machine. So those are all good signs.

QUESTION: So he'll remain here or will he be moved to another hospital?

ROBERTS: No, he'll remain here at the moment. There would be no reason at the moment to move him.

QUESTION: What does that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? I mean does that indicate (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ROBERTS: I think the best description -- and, again, this is very difficult because he's sedated and so responses are very variable. But it means that there is a -- that he has brain functioning, central nervous system function. He responds to stimuli, and that's good.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) hyperbolic chamber?

ROBERTS: Hyperbaric oxygen?

QUESTION: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Commonly done with high levels of carboxyhemoglobin or carbon monoxide. By the time he arrived here, his levels were already low enough that that's not necessary. So, no. I don't believe that's necessary.

QUESTION: I heard reports that bringing him up would have been too -- might have been too fast (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ROBERTS: I don't know about that. I don't know what the true depth of the -- I know that he was two miles down, but I don't know if that was straight down or at an angle.

QUESTION: It wasn't.

ROBERTS: I couldn't answer that.

Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, doctor.

S. O'BRIEN: We've been listening to the briefing from West Virginia University Hospital.

This is the trauma center where Randal McCloy was transported. The 27-year-old is the only survivor of 13 miners trapped in that mine, the only survivor. And that was his doctor briefing reporters, telling us a little bit about his condition.

First, he said he's sedated. He is not conscious because he's being kept sedated. But he's moving his legs and his arms. He's moving to touch and any kind of stimulus.

He also said that he is, to some degree, breathing on his own, even though he remains connected to a ventilator. He said he was dehydrated and also it is difficult to tell at this stage any brain injury. He's had a brain scan, but because he is in a sedated state, it's unclear exactly the degree to the injury of the brain.

Let's get back to Sanjay Gupta -- Sanjay, I know you were listening to this briefing, as well.

The doctor pointed to the dehydration and the prolonged immobility, he said, as causing him to remain in that critical category.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean because it looks like everything else is sort of starting to get ruled out, which is very good news for him.

Soledad, one of the biggest concerns was, was there some obvious trauma to the brain, which would have shown up on that C.T. scan, that brain scan that he was talking about. And it sounds like that didn't show up. And that's a very good thing.

He could still have some evidence of what would be almost stroke- like injuries on the brain. Now, you wouldn't see that just right away. It would take a few days for that to show up.

But for the time being, it looks like things are very favorable. So it looks like dehydration, just immobilization, appear to be the primary culprits here in terms of why he was so sort of semi- conscious.

But the fact that he's moving everything, he continues to move everything, the fact that he's actually requiring sedation and the fact that he was moaning when he came in, those are all actually very good signs.

He does have this lung that has been injured and in order to collapse a lung, it actually requires a fair amount of force. So at some point during all of this, he had a fair amount of force on his body, maybe during the time of the explosion. But that can be easily treated at a hospital like this.

So this is a favorable sort of a diagnosis by the doctor right now -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: The doctor said that there -- they would plan to awaken him either today or maybe tomorrow. So the sedation is sort of what's keeping him in that unconscious state. It's not necessarily that he would be in the unconscious state.

Why are they doing it? Is it just to give his brain time to heal or his body time to heal? GUPTA: Yes, I mean that's basically it. Sometimes after patients have been through a trauma like this, if you don't sedate them, they tend to be very wild, actually, you know, flailing their arms and their legs, maybe even pulling out their breathing tube, pulling out their I.V.s. It's a state of confusion, which is not uncommon at all after a significant trauma like this.

So a more common approach is to actually go ahead and sedate, let someone sort of rest up, heal up and then slowly bring them out of their sedation in a more familiar setting, perhaps with his family around, to sort of talk him through what has happened here. And that's a pretty common thing that's done.

The biggest thing, you know, it was interesting, the previous hospital mentioned that he had no carbon monoxide poisoning whatsoever. This doctor is saying actually, based on their studies, he did have evidence of some carbon monoxide intoxication, which would make a lot more sense and could also, in part, be explaining some of his semi-conscious state, as well.

Once that corrects and the sedation wears off, you have a much better picture of how he's going to be.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, he seemed to say that that was reversing, that -- what he called the carboxyhemoglobin, I guess the measure of the carbon monoxide in the blood.

GUPTA: That's right.

S. O'BRIEN: A final question for you.

There was an interesting question, I thought, to the doctor, which was how do you think he survived? Was it his youth? And the doctor said very frankly, youth always helps.

GUPTA: Yes, it does, certainly in situations like this. I mean, Soledad, it may come out that some of these men may have had heart attacks, may have had, you know, sort of what would otherwise be considered natural deaths in very extreme circumstances. You know, these extreme circumstances sort of exacerbating that.

So youth does help in a situation like this, being able to tolerate these extreme circumstances. But it's just so hard to say, Soledad. It's confusing.

You brought up the point earlier, I thought a good one, about this breathing apparatus, why it was still on. Was it still pumping oxygen into his bloodstream? Did that somehow protect him against carbon monoxide poisoning?

These are all good questions, maybe questions that'll be answered, maybe not. But it's curious, for sure.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, and how long they survived down there and how close a call it was.

Sanjay Gupta, thanks for the explainer.

We sure appreciate it.

We're going to take a short break.

We continue to follow this story because, as Sanjay said, many questions remain. Why for three hours were family members who were worried and nervous and grieving, were suddenly overjoyed? Why for three hours were they not notified that, in fact, that joy was misplaced? What happened to the men in the mine? And why did Randal McCloy survive, where his 12 colleagues did not?

We continue our coverage right here on AMERICAN MORNING.

A short break and we'll be back.


M. O'BRIEN: It is a gray, damp morning, which matches the mood re in Sago, West Virginia.

There you see the Sago Baptist Church, which for a time held wards of 500 people -- loved ones, friends, all part of this tight-t community, all people who were trying to get through a terrible ordeal, those 13 miners trapped 260 feet below the surface.

Where I'm standing right now, if you look over here in this field, most of these people here are members of the media this morning.

This had been a gathering place for rescue personnel, people who just had a general interest in the well being of those miners.

Overnight, of course, everything turned for the worse after a fleeting moment where it all seemed like it was going to be good. Some bad information indicating 12 of the 13 miners were alive. Three hours later, it turns out just the opposite -- only one survivor.

Many of the family members, many of the people who were inside that church angry this morning, in addition to being deeply saddened by the loss of their loved ones.

Among the people with some anger and sadness this morning is John Casto, who spent a lot of time in that church, as a matter of fact, helped build that church, and, for a time, was worried with 500 people that it might actually -- the floor might give way. You build a good church, John.


M. O'BRIEN: Being inside through that whole ordeal, is it -- can you find words to describe it?

CASTO: Well, I know that there was a lot of sadness there at times and a lot of happiness at times. And I know the lord was with us through it all. And, you know, there are a lot of sadness here today.

But I just want to say that our hearts in this community is with each and every loved one that lost their family over there under that heel. I want you to know that the lord says that there's a time to be born and a time to die. And I guess this week was the time for them to die.

M. O'BRIEN: John, tell me about one important point, because there's been some conflicting information. The initial word that, hope against hope, 12 of them had survived.

How did that word spread to the church? How did it get from the command post, where the bad information was, to the church? Was it -- did somebody come over here or was it just one cell phone call and the word spread like wildfire?

CASTO: Well, me and my brother was in the community building, we call it, hooked onto the church. And we was waiting for them to come over and give us a briefing on what was going on because they come over every so often. And when we was waiting, we just heard a commotion, people hollering and shouting and saying, "They're alive! They're alive!"

And so I went around the building. And when I got around the building, a lot of people was done and out of the church. And then I couldn't understand what was going on. But I began to ask questions, but this is just hearsay. And they said the governor was ready to give a speech and somebody came through the back door, which I -- they didn't know who it was. I don't know who it was.

And they said that there was a miracle. They are miracles. There are 12 people alive in the mines and one dead.

M. O'BRIEN: Who was that person? No one knows?

CASTO: I don't know, but if he's watching right now, I would love for him to let us know that he done this thing. And I don't understand why he done it. No one understands.

M. O'BRIEN: How do you feel about having to go through that and wait upwards of three hours to get the real story? What emotion does that leave you with?

CASTO: Well, it was a terrible thing for the loved ones because they understood that there was 12 of them alive under there and they was pretty sure they knew which one was dead. And we rejoiced for the ones that was alive. And we mourned for the one that was lost, supposedly.

And we was told that the ambulance would go over and pick them up and they would bring them over and they would feed them and they would bring them to the hallway and down the hallway into the church and the immediate family would talk to them; they would rejoice with them when they got there. And then the friends could rejoice.

And we waited and waited and it must have been three-and-a-half hours. But the loved ones and the family was out on the porch wrapped in blankets awaiting for their fathers or their brothers to come up and just give them a hug, because that's what we was told, they was -- they was alive.

And when we began to see the black vehicles come up through there and the state police -- and they all come in there, we still thought they was alive. We still was a looking for them to come through the door, just like we was told.

But then when they come up there -- names is not good for me, because I can't remember a name. Names don't matter to me, really, because I believe that we're all brothers. But there was somebody come up there, I think it was a mine official, and said well, I'm sorry of the delay, because he was supposed to have been there earlier, I think 11:00, maybe. But this was like 2:30 or whatever it was. It doesn't really matter, really, to me.

But he come up there and said he was sorry for the delay and he said I've told you the truth clear through. I told you that I was going to tell you the truth and I'm here to tell you the truth now. And he said that there was one survivor.

And I believe that everybody was stunned because they didn't really understand what he was saying. Some people didn't really know what he said. But there was a couple of people that understood what he said, and they began to shout and curse and -- but just a few minutes before that they was praising God and then they was cursing because they thought they lost a loved one. Well, they knew they did at the time.

But, anyway, they got them settled down. And another one asked, said what are you saying? And this guy said, there are 12 dead and one alive. And you know it hit them people's hearts so hard. They didn't know what to do, didn't know what to do at all. But, you know, they began to holler and curse. And our pastor, we stay, got them settled down and he said look toward God in this tragedy. And one guy, I don't believe in cussing, but one guy said what in the hell has God done for us?

But just a few minutes before that, we was praising God because they believed they was alive. But the one that had loved ones that they knew was dead was over in the other room. And, you know, we praise when we know that 12 was alive and we mourn when the one was gone.

And the pastor asked the one -- the people to come up and pray for the one that was gone and you know there was three people came up to that altar and prayed. Because I notice things like that. And they was tears flowing down their eyes and I began to pray with them. There was tears flowing down my eyes. I couldn't understand why the other 400 or 500 was just sitting back there talking about the ones that was alive. I couldn't understand that.

You know, I'm not (INAUDIBLE) these people under that hill over there, but each and every one of them is a brother to me. Each and every one of them. Because you're my brother and you're my brother, the way I look at it, because I love Christ. And we're going to pray for each and every one of these people. We're going to pray that this community believes today in peace and always be in peace in the town of Sago.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, John. That's an amazing story. It's an amazing story and I can't think of any words to follow that up. I wish you and everybody well here in Sago, West Virginia. Soledad, that was the story right there, Soledad, in a nutshell.

S. O'BRIEN: What a description. What a description of the confusion and the moment inside that church where they go from praising God because 12 have been found alive to cursing God because, in fact, it's wrong, 12 have not been found alive. What a brutal, brutal experience for those family members.

M. O'BRIEN: Hard to imagine. It really is hard to imagine.

S. O'BRIEN: My goodness. For those of us -- those of you, rather, who are just joining us, we should reset for you as we come up on 8:33 in the morning here. We have a split show today. We're coming to you live from New York City and Miles is reporting from Sago, West Virginia, with an update on the tragedy at the Sago mine, Number 1, where 12 miners dead. One minor is now in critical condition. He's been transported to a trauma center.

Many questions remain today. Miscommunication seems to be the focus of what went wrong. Why, in fact, as we heard in that terrible description -- why, in fact, were people at the church ringing the bells and praising God, believing that 12 miners were alive? When, in fact, just the opposite was, indeed, the case. Where did this miscommunication come from?

No one seems to be able to pinpoint exactly who was the person who gave the word that, in fact, the 12 miners had been found alive. Erroneously just word spread through the church like wildfire. We've heard that description. But no one can say who exactly gave that first word. Also, why was this word allowed to circulate?

Officials knew within 20 minutes or so that, in fact, that rumor was false. Why, then, three hours before their next press briefing, before they came to the public and said, actually, we have a terrible tragedy to report to you, it's not 12 alive, it's 12 dead -- what exactly happened to the men? And why did one survive? All of these questions and many, many more as we continue our coverage here on AMERICAN MORNING.

Let's get back to Miles, though, at Sago mine.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much, Soledad. You know, it's such an emotional thing. Just listening to John here a few moments ago kind of took our breath away here. It's hard to even imagine what it was like being inside that church just a little -- a few hundred feet from where I stand right now. But his description pretty much put us there, I think.

Another person who was there last night and who, in many respects, broke the news for us was Lynette Roby, here with her handsome children, two boys and a girl here. Lynette, you literally ran up to Anderson Cooper last night in the wee hours of the night and said sort of a stop the presses moment.


M. O'BRIEN: What -- how did you find out about it and what made you run over and let us know all about what was going on?

ROBY: Well, we had been watching CNN for hours of the wonderful miracle, quote, "miracle," that had happened. And we live just behind the church, not too far. And when the miners had supposedly made it out alive, we -- I woke up the children. We immediately came down. We wanted to be here for this. And so we were here and waiting, waiting for, I don't know, two or three hours.

And then suddenly we saw Governor Manchin come by in an SUV and three or four SUVs behind him. The look on his face, he did -- he looked very distressed, but we thought it was because he was exhausted. And everybody just took off running to the church. And we made it in probably on the second row. And it was packed, elbow-to- elbow.

And it just -- it was just a real emotional time. Suddenly, he had stated that he had some bad news, that he took total responsibility for the error and -- he took total responsibility for the error and there was some miscommunication. And people, at that point, people just started screaming and yelling and they were screaming liar, liar, and hypocrite.

And he immediately -- at that point, he immediately said, I mean, just -- I don't think it was in a very nice way he did it. He screamed, I took total responsibility. And then he said there is only one that made it out of alive and it was Randall -- whatever his name was. And then people just took -- plunged forward.

There were I don't know how many officers, six to ten, it looked like, state troopers in a scuffle within yards away from Mr. Hatfield. And people were going forward and we -- I grabbed the kids and we took off running out of there. It's -- I've never, ever been -- you know, we came down here to celebrate and chased -- everybody ran into the church to what was going to be a wonderful -- wonderful experience, and blindsided for three hours.

M. O'BRIEN: It's hard to imagine what it was like being in that room, particularly being in a church when you see that kind of anger.

ROBY: Yes. It was scary. It was like a mob scene. I mean, once the people started losing it, everybody was charging forward and we immediately went out. And then, you know, it was just -- I guess the news knew nothing about it. And what doesn't make -- what doesn't seem fair is, sure, there might have been this, quote, "miscommunication error," but why did it get broadcasted all over the world? Why didn't somebody stop it? When we came in, they were singing "Amazing Grace," right here in front of the church, and "I'll Fly Away," you know, for three hours. Put everyone through this. It's unbelievable how -- I mean, where's the compassion in that? That went on for three hours. Children, young children, obviously, young children -- just, you know, it's a small community. How could nobody have compassion to say, just hold on for a minute, something -- there's an error and the survivors -- or something. It's unbelievable.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, unbelievable tales. And I've never met a youngster who wasn't fascinated by one of those. He's true to form. Thank you for telling your story.

ROBY: Thank you, sir.

M. O'BRIEN: What an amazing tale it is. Sago Baptist Church, a scene of incredible emotion, from euphoria to just utter despair. Anger, even a shoving match inside a church. Back with more AMERICAN MORNING in just a moment.


M. O'BRIEN: The pictures tell the story of the past 48 hours or so here in Upshur County, West Virginia, as a community, tightly-knit community, mining community grappled with this accident, which began with a thunderous underground explosion, 13 miners trapped, and then a roller coaster ride of emotions as to whether they were safe or not, culminating last night with that horrific bad piece of information, that 12 of them had survived.

Ultimately just the opposite of the case. One survivor this morning at West Virginia University Hospital remains unconscious and sedated. But otherwise, as you saw a little while ago, his condition appears to be good given all that he has been through.

The federal government has announced that its investigation will begin in earnest. The department in charge of this, the Department of Mine Safety and Health, initiating that, and indicating they will not just do an analysis of what happened inside the mine in those tunnels beneath the earth, but also get into the communication, and how the communication breakdown led to what is a lot of recriminations and anger here this morning.

Davitt McAteer is joining us now. He is a former director member of that particular department, of Mine Safety and Health. Thank you for being with us, Mr. McAteer, once again.

If you were doing the investigation this morning, if you were leading it, what would be the first thing you would do?

DAVITT MCATEER, MINE SAFETY EXPERT: I think what you try to do, is you try to get to three points. One is look at what actually happened the moment of the explosion. Second is look what led up to that explosion. And thirdly, look at what happened after the explosion.

The horrific events that you talk about in the last 12 hours are ones that should not happen and ones that the agency must investigate, so to see that it doesn't happen again. Mine disasters are so traumatic for families, but for this to occur is just unbelievable.

But I think what we need to be also looking at, is what kind of lessons can we learn to see that this does not happen again in this country ever again on this scale?

M. O'BRIEN: Well, let's go through those steps, if we could. First of all, the way this began, a lot of supposition about the possibility of lightning sparking methane, methane which might have built up during the holiday break in this mine. Do you have any reason to steer us away from that this morning? Do you still think that's a logical place to start at least?

MCATEER: Well, you look at all possible events that might of been causing the explosion. One, you'd certainly look at the lightning strike. History suggests otherwise, that the lightning strikes that we've had in the past in other mines don't lead to this kind of explosion, or typically have not led to this kind of explosion, but you need to look at any other source of ignition, whether that be the restarting of the equipment underground or whether that be some other source of ignition. So you try to isolate the source of the ignition and the source of that.

Secondly, you look at the methane question. As you know, this mine did not liberate large quantities of methane, but as you just pointed out moments ago, during the idle period, that is the period of time during the holiday when the mine was closed and the ventilation was disrupted, methane could have accumulated in the mine at a level sufficient to cause an explosion. So that if you either through the lightning strike or the restarting of equipment and getting an arcing, you could have ignited that methane and caused this explosion.

But you also want to look at the system that were in place to prevent explosions to occur, and that's number two, so that you want to take a look at what led up to the explosion and what were the conditions in the mines, what were the 208 violation for that led up to the period of time before the explosion? And are they factors that go to the cause of the explosion? Those are terribly important things to look at. So that you can stop the process of catastrophe from occurring here and in other locations.

And then thirdly, you have to look at the question of whether or not you could have prevented the miscommunication in this instance. We have had instances in the past of miscommunication, but there have been efforts to try and make certain that the communication is clear, particularly to the families and to the widows in this instance. That did not occur, and that is unfortunate.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about that middle point for just a moment. The fact that 12 miners survived the initial explosion, it now seems quite evident, managed to barricade themselves in some way. It begs the question as to how long they could have survived, and if there would be some way, if there is something that could be devised, that could get to them sooner, because presumably, time was of the essence, and they could of survived if you could of gotten to them sooner. MCATEER: In any of these disasters or mine explosions, in an effort to make a recovery, the enemy is always time. Now that has to be balanced against the safety of the rescue teams, and the judgment has to be made on the ground among those rescue teams, and you had the most professional, most highly qualified rescue teams that this country, and in fact, in the world, were there making the decisions.

Now, we don't know how those decisions were made, and those decisions would be reviewed, obviously, by a team to look at were they made in the most efficient and timely way.

But we, first of all, we give credit to those rescue teams for the brilliant work that they've tried to do here and in other places, and then look at how the lessons might be learned for us to could we have gone forward in any other fashion.

And then your point is, could we use some other technology to try to get to the miners? And do we need to put new technologies in place to try to have a better communication system, that if we had had a communication system that was operative, if the first system broke down and we had a second emergency system, we would have had information from these miners.

Obviously, we would have information to get them. We need to look at bringing new technologies into the mine and applying that.

Then we would look at the question of how the organization of the rescue efforts went about and whether or not we had the best information that we could have had and how we could act to that information in the most expeditious way.

M. O'BRIEN: Davitt McAteer, thank you. Lots to think about there and lots to discuss. We'll keep checking in on all of those points as this investigation progresses.

Thank you very much for your time. Back with more in a moment.


S. O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Utterly horrible news for family members who had thought for a few hours that their loved ones were alive and, actually, the exact opposite was the case, 12 miners dead. We're going to get back to our updates on that story in just a moment.

First, though, business-wise, a closer look at the industry itself. Andy's got that as he minds your business. Good morning, Andy.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" COLUMNIST: Soledad, good morning to you. Coal mining is a very dangerous business. Thousands of injuries every year and, sadly, dozens of fatalities.

Why do we mine coal? We need it desperately for energy in this country. Ninety percent of our electricity comes from coal. Other sources include nuclear power and natural gas, but coal is the primary source of electricity in this country, you can see here on that pie chart.

There are three primary regions where we mine coal in the United States. The Appalachian region, of course, in West Virginia being the center of that, as we know so well. The third -- the second region is Illinois and Iowa in the Midwest. And then Wyoming is, of course, the largest coal producing state, 30 percent of our coal comes from that state.

And, obviously, this is a business we will continue to be in in this country because we need coal and, unfortunately, it's a dangerous business and the miners are going to have to keep going underground and getting the coal. But our hearts go out to the people who do this job and it's just a very dangerous business.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, it is. And how tough. I mean, to hear all those family members say as they were waiting and waiting how concerned they were and how much concern their loved ones had about going down into the mine.

SERWER: Right. And these families live with this every day.

S. O'BRIEN: That is tough business. All right, Andy, thank you for the update.

Obviously, on a day like today, we get continual updates on the story from the scene and the latest on the miners' families, recovery efforts, the sole survivor, things like that. Well, now you can be on top of every piece of breaking news, even if you're at work this morning.

CNN Pipeline, a special new service from, debuts this week and it's going to reshape the way you can get your news on the Internet. Let's get right to a demonstration of how this multi-stream broadband news service can right get to your desktop.

Richard Lui's at the CNN Pipeline Control Room. Hey, Richard, good morning.

RICHARD LUI, CNN PIPELINE: Hey, good morning to you, Soledad.

Well, yes, that's right. If you get to work, you're just sitting down and weren't able to follow the news and you do want to find out what the latest is with what happening to Sago Mine, you could go to the pipeline player. And on the pipeline player, you can start by going to the live feeds. We've got four of them, as you probably already know, Soledad, on the player itself.

You can go to the main screen, which we have an anchor who's going through the latest stories we try to pull from all the sister networks, as well as all the feeds, as well, at the bottom, we've got four pipes. Now those four pipes, right now for instance, on pipe three, we just got a camera set up at the site, at the mine accident aftermath is what it's (INAUDIBLE) right now. So those are live feeds.

Then on demand on the left side, we put the top stories so you can see the shot of Randal McCloy there. You can click on that if you want to find out the status of Randal McCloy. Right below it, the outrage which you've been describing this morning, the questions that happened overnight. That's on demand.

And then also, if you want more than all of that, you can go to the upper right-hand corner, where we've got a search feature. You just type in the word for instance, "mine," go ahead and hit enter, there's over 120 individual that CNN and all of its affiliates and all of its bureaus have put together. That is also at your disposal, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: What if, in fact, Richard, you want the other headlines and you want to get other information on the mine story?

LUI: That's right. So let's say you finish looking at all of the videos and you're content with the information have you when it comes to the Sago mine.

You can go "Now in the News." That's on the left side of your player, right below the top stories. You can click on that. This is the two-minute headlines that we produce at least once an hour, if not more than that, to make sure you have the latest information and the latest news and top stories. And that's all on demand.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Richard, looks good. Thanks. Thanks for update. Great way to get information, especially on a story like this that just continues to break, essentially, around us. Thanks, Richard Lui from Pipeline for us. You can get on Pipeline right from our Web site, of course. It's, or directly at

Ahead this morning, more on the tragedy at the Sago mine. Twelve of those 13 trapped miners dead. That news coming overnight just hours after family members heard, in fact, they'd had survived. Now they are understandably outraged. Just how was this information so wrong? The latest on that's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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