Skip to main content
U.S. Edition


Return to Transcripts main page


Details of Rescue Efforts in West Virginia Mining Accident

Aired January 4, 2006 - 00:01   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Small Baptist church in Sago, West Virginia. It is truly a remarkable moment. The hope all along -- the hope all along was that 12 miners had somehow barricaded themselves. CNN's Joe Johns is also just behind me. All this is happening, just to get a sense of where I am, about 200 yards or so off in that direction. Joe Johns is on the scene, on the phone as well.
Joe, what are you seeing?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I'm on the road up from you probably about a quarter or a mile or so where a number of ambulances had staged right over sort of in the mine yard. And looking through the trees, just a couple moments ago, we couldn't see anyone because it's so dark, but we heard this huge cheer of men just moments ago. And shortly after that, all the ambulances apparently -- some of which you saw at your location -- have now started moving away. So it's pretty clear that there's a lot of exhilaration out here right now. And a lot of excitement.


JOHNS: You can only hear voices . . .

COOPER: Joe. I've got to interrupt you, Joe. CNN's Randi Kaye is with Michelle Mouser, the niece of Terry Helms.

Randi, go ahead.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are here with Michelle.

And, Michelle, you are getting some word about what might be the situation for your uncle who was one of the trapped miners, Terry.


KAYE: And what are you being told at this point?

MOUSER: We were told, I think a couple hours ago, that they have confirmed that one of the miners is dead and that they found him at the belt. And that's where my uncle gets dropped off, at the belt. So that's his job. And he wasn't far from that. But now it hasn't been confirmed that it's him yet because they have to take the tags off his belt and off his pocket, run an identification on him and see if it's really him.

KAYE: Have you been told that they believe it is him?

MOUSER: Yes. Yes.

KAYE: Who has told that?

MOUSER: It's just some of the crew up here that's been over there.

KAYE: First of all, our condolences.

MOUSER: Thank you.

KAYE: We're so sorry to hear that. And I'm sure it's very difficult for you to be here with these other families who are celebrating.

MOUSER: Yes. Well, it's a relief, though, that they're all out.

KAYE: I'm sure. Tell us a little about Terry. From what I understand, he held the position of fire boss. Is that . . .

MOUSER: He's the fire boss. And what he does, he goes, in the mornings, he walks the length of the mines, the whole thing, to check for gas and any kind of leaks or anything, and then he comes back in, turns his report in, and then he gets ready to go back in with his crew to do the mining part.

KAYE: And what was it like for you? You've been here now about 40 hours waiting since that explosion in the mine early yesterday morning. You've been waiting with these families. The waiting has now come to an end. Certainly not the ending that you were hoping for.

MOUSER: No. I feel great for the other families. I'm glad that they all got to come out alive. I mean, it's been an emotional roller coaster for my family and myself, up and down, you know, not knowing. But we kind of said in our minds yesterday that, you know, by what happened and how they explained it, that he was the one that probably was -- got hurt. And so we're just -- you know, we're just going to deal with it.

KAYE: Was his job as the fire boss (AUDIO GAP) he would stay back and he would send the rest of them in? Is that why he might have been alone in that area then?

MOUSER: Well, he has to get off -- if I get it right -- the belt is the thing that turns and digs the coal, I guess. So he gets off at that, and they have to get it running, I guess. Get it up and running, get it going. And then he'll go with the rest of his crew.

KAYE: So when you heard that there was one body that had been found and you heard where it was located, did you know in your gut?

MOUSER: Oh, we all knew. Yes, we all knew. The whole family knew. And a lot of the miners that, you know, know the situation, they knew, too. But it hasn't been confirmed. So once they do the ID tags and identify him, and if it is Terry, I'll be going over with the governor shortly and identifying him. And saying yes or no if it's him. But I'm pretty sure it is.

KAYE: All right, Michelle, we're so sorry.

MOUSER: Thank you.

KAYE: If it is, our condolences once again.


KAYE: Certainly thank you for speaking with us on such a difficult night.

MOUSER: All right. Thank you.

KAYE: Anderson, we're going to send it back to you from here at the church.

COOPER: Our hearts and our prayers go out to Michelle and the entire Helms family. We've been following their story for much of these last 41 hours. Terry Helms, a man who sent his own son out of West Virginia, told him he didn't want him working in the mines, he wanted a better way of life. If that is, in fact, -- if that has been confirmed, it is certainly terribly sad news for that family.

For 12 other families, there is elation at this moment. The news coming just a short time ago that 12 miners are alive. And it is certainly news that for everyone here, everyone here who has been following this story and covering it for these last many hours, is -- well, just kind of speechless. I've got to tell you. And there are a lot of smiles on some very tired people all around here. I can tell you that.

Randi Kaye is standing by. Randi, what is the scene around you that you are seeing?

KAYE: The scene here, Anderson, is -- the scene here, Anderson, if you can hear me, is the -- certainly joy. Lots of the families are celebrating. If you just actually walk over here with us, we can show you just a little bit of what's going on. These are some of the family members that are getting some of the good news here. If we can, maybe we can just listen in to what's happening right here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I started to leave. And I got down the road a couple miles and told my buddy Tom. I said, man, I can't leave. I've got to go back. I went in, turned around and came back and there was a news reporter on the telephone down there said there's 12 alive. And we walked right into it. And God blessed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, tell me from your heart, brother, what's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, man. West Virginia people, God looked out for them. And just proud of it. We stick together.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God bless you, brother.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to know, I watch you all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it your brother -- you brother who was in the mine?

COOPER: A (INAUDIBLE) moment for so many people here. This a moment really no one expected or people hoped for. People hoped for in their hearts, not necessarily with their heads. It is something hope got you through. Hope got the families through to this moment.

That when they heard that the tenor changed, the tenor shifted when the word came down that the vehicle which brings the miners into the mine was intact and that there wasn't debris around it and that the miners had exited that vehicle, seemingly safely. That they hadn't left any of their personal possessions behind. That seemed to indicate that they might have gotten ahead of the explosion or the explosion might not have been that big or might not have been around the area where they were.

We do not know at this point where the miners are. We do not know how they survived this long. But what a story those 12 miners will have to tell.

Randi Kaye, what are you seeing?

KAYE: Anderson, we're here with Lisa Ferris who's -- your brother-in-law was in the mine? Trapped in the mine?


KAYE: Your brother-in-law Marshall.

FERRIS: Winans (ph).

KAYE: And tell us how you are feeling at this moment.

FERRIS: Oh, my God. I was trying to lay down and get some sleep and my daughter come knocking on the van, "mom, they found uncle Marshall and he's alive!"

KAYE: And when you first heard the news?

FERRIS: I barefooted -- I ran barefooted to the church.

KAYE: And you've been in the church here since this all started yesterday?

FERRIS: Yes. Yes.

KAYE: And what has the wait been like for you and now to have it end in such joy?

FERRIS: Oh, it's been a long one. Thank God, but I'm so sorry for the other family.

KAYE: What has gone on in that church over these last 40 hours? FERRIS: Just a lot of worry. A lot of stress.

KAYE: What has gone on between these families as you all waited knowing that some of you may . . .

FERRIS: We've all been together as a group. As a group. Holding on tight to each other. Yes.

KAYE: And just a few moments ago you were looking around frantically saying "where is he? Where is he? When will I get to see him?"


KAYE: What will you say to Marshall, your brother-in-law, when you see him?

FERRIS: I don't know. I love him and I missed him. I'm so glad he's alive.

KAYE: Have you heard anything about when you might see them? When they might get them out?


KAYE: Have you heard anything about where they found them?


KAYE: What condition they're in?

FERRIS: They said, they're all fine. That's all we heard.

KAYE: They're all fine.

FERRIS: They're all fine.

KAYE: Is this a miracle to you? The governor's been saying . . .

FERRIS: This is the best miracle ever. Thank God and for the state of West Virginia for holding together for us.

KAYE: Tell us a little bit about Marshall. How long has been a miner?

FERRIS: Marshall's a wonderful man. He's been -- well, he's been in Sago Mines for six years now. Six years. But he's been a miner for over 20 years.

KAYE: And what's his level of experience? Why do you think he was able to make it?

FERRIS: He's very experienced. Because he's a strong man and he helped every one of them, I'm sure. He helped every one of them. They all stuck together. KAYE: And who else is in the family here that's been with you? (INAUDIBLE) celebrating?

FERRIS: Oh, my God. All of us are here. All of us are here. Everybody. Everybody. His wife's here. His children are here. His nieces. His nephews. Everybody. His friends. His mom.

KAYE: And what will -- this is certainly a very emotional way to begin the new year.


KAYE: What are your hopes now for the new year knowing that your brother-in-law is safe and to have him back?

FERRIS: It's going to be the best year ever. We will make it the best year ever.

KAYE: And what of this community?

FERRIS: I was just cured of cancer, too.

KAYE: Oh, my goodness. What a year it's been.

What will be of this community here, knowing that what you've all been through together? What has this done to the community and brought to the community?

FERRIS: All of us in this state have always been very close together. We stand beside each other no matter what. And it didn't change through none of this.

KAYE: Has it brought you closer?

FERRIS: We've always been close. One way or another, we're all -- we're all just West Virginians.

KAYE: There's much been said in the last couple of days about the Baptist church here, the Sago Baptist Church.

FERRIS: They're wonderful people. Wonderful people.

KAYE: That it's been -- it's the . . .

FERRIS: And the Red Cross have been wonderful to us. Wal-Mart. I mean, all the companies around here.

KAYE: They've said that the Sago Baptist Church is the rock in this community.

FERRIS: It is.

KAYE: What has it been like to shelter yourself in here with these families?

FERRIS: This is the first time I've ever been to this community. And bless these people, they're great. They are great. The whole community.

KAYE: Well, Lisa Ferris, congratulations.

FERRIS: Thank you. Thank you.

KAYE: Wonderful news for you and your families.


KAYE: Certainly your brother-in-law, Marshall.

FERRIS: Yes. Thank you.

KAYE: Anderson, just one of the many stories here. A lot of folks celebrating. It's certainly nice to see after all these hours of waiting.

COOPER: It is just an extraordinary night. Of course, now we want to try to find out exactly where the miners are, how are they going to be extricated, how long that is going to take. What we had previously been told is that the area that we are standing in, that the miners -- there's actually a bridge over there. As you see maybe perhaps some of the vehicles crossing over to my left, that the miners will be brought out -- this is what we were told hours ago, that the miners would be brought out over that bridge and perhaps go down this road right by us.

We are still awaiting word on that. We are awaiting word on the condition, if they are still in the mine. None of this is information that we know at this point. We anticipate a press conference at any moment now. We, of course, are going to bring that to you live.

As you can understand the scene here, somewhat chaotic, but it is a joyful chaos except, of course, for the family -- for one miner's family. That family believes they know who they are. They believe that that miner is Terry Helms. But that has not been confirmed.

We are awaiting a press conference. Let's take a look at the shot, if we have it. That is the scene -- that is the place -- that's about a half mile or so up the road where all these press conferences have taken place. About a half mile from the church. It is basically a place where there aren't really any families there. It is just media assembled there. And the mining officials and the governor sometimes go up there to give their press conferences.

So we, of course, are going to bring that to you as soon as it happens. But this is just an extraordinary development tonight. One that so many people here have been hoping for and praying for. I mean, you drive through the local communities around here and there are signs up saying "pray for the miners, pray for the families," and those prayers certainly seem to have been answered tonight. A miracle.

You know, the governor, for 41 hours or so, has been saying, we believe in miracles here. And certainly evidence of that tonight. Just an extraordinary, extraordinary moment. And they are -- what they're doing right now is actually -- the state police are actually going up, telling people to get off this road, to clear this road as quickly as possible. I don't know if that's any indication that they're going to be having some vehicle traffic coming down this road of the miners. We do not know at this point.

We saw a number of ambulances, though, moving in the direction over that bridge, moving away from the church, moving in the direction of where we believe the location of the mine to be from here. And, again, we are told that they are fine. That is what the families have been told. We don't know their exact condition.

You've got to understand, these people have been now below ground for 41 hours. It is cold. It is about 55 degrees down there. It is wet. And, obviously, the air quality has been very bad. High levels of carbon monoxide were reported earlier this morning when that drill came through.

That seems to be actually a -- someone in -- actually looks like a miner -- not one of the trapped miners, but someone maybe with the coal company in a vehicle, in an SUV that just has a siren to it. They are trying to, again, as I said, get this road cleared, state police, as quickly as possible. And I think that siren is part of that effort.

So we are awaiting any kind of official word. The scene here has actually now become very quiet. And the actual -- we'll be moving to that press conference when that happens. Joe Johns I think -- do we have Joe on the phone? Joe Johns - no? All right.

JOHNS: Hey, Anderson. I am here.

COOPER: Oh, yes, hey, Joe. Where are you, Joe, and what are you seeing?

JOHNS: I'm, you know, several hundred yards down the road from you. And we're at this intersection where at least some of the media expect either the ambulances to come across the railroad tracks, perhaps even the miners. Don't know for sure. It's sort of a state pandemonium. As you said, the state police trying to clear the roads.

A lot of exhilaration, as I said earlier, over here. Interesting -- apparently miner families, someone almost ran me down trying to get up to the church in his car. Obviously, not on purpose, but just very excited to hear the news, Anderson. So we're waiting and hoping that perhaps we'll get a glimpse of one or another of these miners.

Back to you.

COOPER: Joe Sbaffoni joins us now. He knows something about waiting and hope and miracles. He led the rescue at Quecreek and he joins us now.

Joe, just fantastic news out of Upshur tonight. Did you expect this? JOSEPH A SBAFFONI, DEEP MINE SAFETY BUREAU DIRECTOR: Well, you know, through all these interviews, I've never given up hope. I think that the rescuers never gave up hope. They were doing the job that they're trained to do. The miners definitely did the job that they were trained to do. They went to an area where they could barricade, stay away from the dangerous atmosphere and they waited for the rescuers to come get them. I think just another example of everybody working together, dedicated for the goal of rescuing those miners.

I feel very bad for the family that lost the one miner. But, I mean, definitely a time of jubilation.

That's what we train for. That's what we work for. We don't want these kind of things to happen. But when they do happen, we have to be prepared to deal with them. And I think that the West Virginia and the Mine Safety and Health Administration down there in West Virginia did a wonderful job, along with the coal company.

And I can't say enough about our mine rescue teams. When called upon, they drop everything and they go to help their fellow miner. And miners are a special breed. And it was proven again today in West Virginia. And miracles do happen. Not only in Pennsylvania, they happen in West Virginia.

COOPER: And miners' families are a special breed, as well. Joe, we talked just a short time ago, CNN's Randi Kaye talked with Michelle Mouser, who believes it is her uncle, Terry Helms, who has passed away in the mine. There has not been confirmation of that. She was going to go with the governor to view the body.

He was the fire chief or fire warden. Explain -- and she believed it was him because his job was -- he would get off that battery-operated vehicle first, the man car, and that is where the body was found some 700 feet from where the man car ended up. What does the fire chief do, if I'm using that term correctly?

SBAFFONI: Well, he's called a fire boss. And it's synonymous with a mine examiner. Normally he does the mine examinations and so forth. But when they go in the mine, one of his jobs may be to start the belts up, especially during the first shift of the week. So that's probably why he was dropped off, to do some kind of a special job there with that belt drive, to get the belt started or do something there. And evidently he must have been in that location when the explosion occurred. And more than likely the concussion may have been the cause of the fatality in that case.

COOPER: How is it possible -- and we talk about barricading -- but I mean how is it possible when, you know, this morning, we're told that the carbon monoxide levels were three times the lethal dose. That, you know, the amount a person could -- it would kill someone in 15 minutes. They had three times that level. How is it possible that they were able to find some sort of pocket of air to breathe in?

SBAFFONI: Well, again, you know, those areas where the carbon monoxide was high was where it was being checked by the rescue teams, by the monitoring holes and so forth. These individuals went to an area, probably towards the face, probably to an area where they didn't have to build a lot of barricades to isolate themselves. And they got to an area where the carbon monoxide was not present. And they did the things they're trained to do. They barricaded themselves in and they waited for their rescuers to come.

COOPER: Joe, I want you to hold on. Our Randi Kaye has another miner relative.

Randi, who are you talking with?

KAYE: Anderson, we're here with Jeff Weaver. And his uncle, Jack, was one of the trapped miners.

Jeff, when you got the word, what did you feel?

JEFF WEAVER, UNCLE TRAPPED MINER: Very relieved. You just can't describe it.

KAYE: What does it feel like really? I mean, really tell me, in your heart of hearts, to know that your uncle is very likely one of the 12 miners that survived the last 40 hours or so in that mine?

WEAVER: I just pretty much hope that he'll never go back underground.

KAYE: How long has your uncle been doing that?

WEAVER: Thirty-three years.

KAYE: Thirty-three years.

WEAVER: Ever since, I believe, he was 16 years old.

KAYE: And does he love this business?

WEAVER: Yes, he does, actually. He's always really liked coal mining.

KAYE: And have you always worried about him while he's in there?

WEAVER: No, because this is the first accident really he's ever had in the mines.

KAYE: What has the wait been like for you these 40 hours?

WEAVER: I think it's been hard on everybody. Everybody in my family and everybody else's family.

KAYE: What did you think? Was there ever a point for you where you gave up hope?

WEAVER: I just didn't -- you know, with all the gases and stuff a lot of people didn't think they was going to make it. But now I've always had good hope and thought that they would make it through.

KAYE: Share some of what you went through in the Sago Baptist Church here where now all the families are huddled. Were there prayers? And certainly, what were some of those? What did you share with the others here?

WEAVER: We're just pretty emotional people, I reckon. I really didn't know what to say about that.

KAYE: There were a lot of tears shed.

WEAVER: Yes. There was -- very a lot of tears shed.

KAYE: And what was -- where were you exactly when you got the news that the 12 were alive?

WEAVER: I was sitting right in the chapel.

KAYE: And describe that scene for me. Was there a holler? We heard the bells ringing.

WEAVER: The bells was ringing. People were screaming, hallelujah, praise the Lord. And just said that the 12 miners that had survived.

KAYE: And, Anderson, what's really remarkable here is that now we're being told -- I'm not sure if you've been told this officially yet -- but we're hearing here that they're actually going to bring the surviving miners back to the church.


KAYE: When you see your uncle walk up, what will you do?

WEAVER: Probably hug him. Tell him I love him and hopefully he'll never go back underground.

KAYE: All right. Jeff Weaver, thank you so much for joining us. And I hope certainly that the news is good for you and your family here tonight.

WEAVER: Thank you.

KAYE: Anderson, so we are expecting here, as soon as possible, to see the surviving miners. They'll be bringing them back here to the Sago Baptist Church where hundreds of family members have been huddled, relatives and friends.

And if you take a look up here on this stairway, you can see that's where the family members are gathering. Many of them are now exhausted, worn out completely. In fact, some of them are saying they don't even want to talk to the media anymore. This is such an emotional time for them. So they're keeping inside there and just waiting to see their relatives with their own eyes.


COOPER: Have you been able to confirm that that is actually going to occur? Because, I mean, that is just extraordinary that they would -- actually that these miners would be in good enough shape that they'd be actually be able to come to the church to greet their family members.

KAYE: It was surprising to us as well. But most of the family members that we have spoken to have all been told that. And they're telling us that their relatives are expected to come here. The 12 surviving miners are expected to be brought right across the street -- we know where the mine is -- over here to the Sago Baptist Church. And they're going to see that miracle happen as soon as it can.

COOPER: Man. What a night.

Joe Sbaffoni, does it surprise you that they would be in good enough shape to actually be able to come over to the church?

SBAFFONI: You know, it was very similar at Quecreek, you know, when we called Don (ph), you know, they -- because of the hypothermia issues and so forth, they wanted to take the precautions and take them to the hospital. But, yes, I mean, if they were in a dry area, a warm area, they're probably just -- they want to see their loved ones. They want to get to their families. And evidently their physical condition is going to permit that.

COOPER: Joe, how tough are these guys? I mean, they've got to be extraordinary guys.

SBAFFONI: They did the things that they have to do to stay alive. They stuck together. They followed their training that they're taught. They went to an area that they thought they had good air. They barricaded themselves.

Miners are tough. Miners are a special breed. Miners stick together and they look out for one another. And it's very special. I mean, in my case, it brings back memories. You can't describe the feeling when you get a feeling like that when you're up against the wall and something like this happens. Everybody down there that was involved with this rescue is to be commended and should take a lot of pride in what they -- the efforts they put forth.

COOPER: We see some ambulances moving toward the entrance of the mine. We've been seeing that over the last 10 minutes or so. How do you think they will be brought out? They won't walk out. They'd probably be brought on these man cars, yes?

SBAFFONI: Oh, I'm sure, you know, depending on their exact conditions, they'll be placed on the rubber-tired vehicles or the vehicles that they use to go in and out of the mine and they'll be brought out. And as a safety precaution, they may be -- I'm sure they're going to be checked out by doctors and paramedics. And if anybody is in question, I'm sure they're going to be taken to hospitals. Probably right now they want to see their loved ones.

COOPER: Yes, no doubt about that.

SBAFFONI: Yes, right now they want to see their loved ones.

COOPER: Yes, I can certainly understand.

I know I've asked you this question before but we've been getting a lot of e-mails from viewers about it. I mean we keep using this term "barricaded." That they barricaded themselves or likely barricaded themselves in. I mean are you literally talking about a construction that they made? And what were they barricading against?

SBAFFONI: Well, naturally, I mean, to barricade, if you went into the face of an area, it would only take one wall. If you were in an intersection or a crosscut, it may take two, three walls or four walls. But you would build those out of the materials you had available. Lime bradish (ph), canvas, posts. And, if possible, you would even use cement block to try to make sure that you isolated the area from a possible respirable atmospheres.

And evidently they found an area in the mine that was not contaminated with the carbon monoxide and probably felt that they didn't want to try to risk trying to escape for fear of going through that area. And they followed their training. They barricaded and waited for their rescuers to come get them.

COOPER: And how would they find that area? I mean, is it -- if they're wearing the breathing apparatus, is it with chemical-detection devices that they have? Or is it actually just breathing?

SBAFFONI: No. I mean, naturally, I mean, you can tell if you're having a hard time breathing and laboring. But some of those individuals, I'm sure, had detectors. So they would know what the atmosphere was. The oxygen, the methane and the carbon monoxide.

COOPER: And for the Quecreek miners, how long did it take them -- I mean, you said as a precaution a lot of them were taken to the hospital for various things. I mean, how long physically before they recovered?

SBAFFONI: Oh, most of them recovered -- in fact, quite a few of them were taken to the hospital and released quite quickly. A few others that had some distress were kept a day or two. But, you know, they were brought outside, immediately triaged and transported. There was always the concerns of hypothermia and so forth.

Where these individuals were, it might have been not that cold. It sounded like the indication we got was that they took their buckets, lunch buckets and so forth with them. So they probably had food to eat for a while. They probably were possibly rationing that somewhat.

And, boy, just another glorious moment as far as the efforts put forth by everybody involved down there in West Virginia. My hat goes off to the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the West Virginia -- I'm very personal friends with a lot of those individuals. And Doug Conaway, I'm sure, has been a key player down there in West Virginia. And my hat goes off to him. The first chance I get, I'll be on the phone with him.

COOPER: Joe, if you could stand by for us. Randi Kaye is also out there.

Randi, what are you seeing?

KAYE: Anderson, we are here with Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito. And this is her district. She has been alongside the governor since this all began and certainly waiting for the good news. I know it's certainly emotional because one family did lose somebody tonight.


KAYE: But what are you hearing and who have you talked with?

CAPITO: Well, I think just jubilation. Incredible happiness. Just unspeakable joy and gratefulness to really our creator who we all believe brought this to the way it was today. There's a lot of sorrow for the family who's lost their miner and we're all very mindful of that.

KAYE: What can you confirm for us at this hour? We're being told 12 miners alive.

CAPITO: Twelve miners alive. They are, the last I heard, had not all been taken out of the mine yet or had not -- or not out of the mine yet. But that could have changed. That's the most recent I heard. And I have no idea where they found them.

KAYE: No idea where they found them.

CAPITO: I have no idea.

KAYE: Any idea -- any confirmation on what their conditions are?

CAPITO: No. I would expect, though, that it's been fairly traumatic under the conditions they've been in. So I would expect their condition to range probably from just fine to maybe some trauma. I mean, it's just hard to explain. They did tell us that they were going to come over to this site in an hour, but I don't have that confirmed.

KAYE: Now that's something that we were all very surprised to hear.

CAPITO: Yes. Yes.

KAYE: What is the -- is there any type of process or plan that was -- an official plan that would be in place for something like this? Do they need to go to the hospital to be checked out or can they come straight here?

CAPITO: You know, I don't know. And I would assume that they need to be checked for their health, particularly with their lungs and their breathing and the respiratory and any other injuries that they may have, which I don't know that they do, but if they did. So we're just going to have to wait and see. But at this point, everyone's jubilantly happy. KAYE: What will you say to the family members here tonight?

CAPITO: I just thank them for their strength and for their prayers and for their ability to stand by their family members and all the miners.

KAYE: I've heard some people whispering around here, "where's the governor? Where's the governor?," because Governor Joe Manchin has been here since it started. Have you spoken with him?

CAPITO: I saw him just very briefly. And then I think he's probably up at the mine site to greet the miners as they come out.

KAYE: Well, certainly some good news.

CAPITO: It's wonderful.

KAYE: It's just wonderful to know that they are coming out, at least 12 of them.

CAPITO: Right.

KAYE: And we'll let you get inside. I know you want to talk to the family members here at the Baptist church.

CAPITO: All right. Thanks a lot.

KAYE: Thank you.

CAPITO: Yes, thank you.

KAYE: Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito joining us and certainly celebrating with the family members here, Anderson. It's an amazing scene here at the Sago Baptist Church.

COOPER: Yes, it certainly is that.

We've got a number of people standing by. CNN's Joe Johns is here with me. We've also got Dr. Sanjay Gupta standing by in Atlanta, as well as Joe Sbaffoni.

Sanjay, as Joe said to me when he first came here, wow. I mean what a way -- did you think this was possible just medically?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well yeah, you know, it's just an amazing thing Anderson. It was hard to say for sure, because there were so many unknowns in terms of mainly were they getting enough oxygen. Enough clean air as people have been calling it for so long now.

You know, these guys are going to come up, a couple of things that I would want to know right away. I want to know what kind of shape their in. I'd like to know their blood pressure. I'd like to give them 100 percent oxygen for some time. I'd like to give them a blanket, because I'm concerned about hypothermia. I'd like to take their temperature. I'd like to make sure their well hydrated, so they might get some IV's. See if they can take some liquids by mouth. But it sounds like things are just spectacular in terms of how they're doing over all.

You know, they get a quick checkup and they might be just fine, Anderson. You know, they ask me is it a surprise? Absolutely it is a surprise in so many ways. I think some of the indicators weren't so positive early on. But gosh, you know, just sitting here watching it's just absolutely remarkable.

COOPER: Joe Johns, you say a number of the ambulances all lined up. So they're lined up at the entrance?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It looked like the entrance. It's -- you can see it through the trees, down the road here in the dark. When we came down here, first hearing the word, we got out of our car. Saw all the ambulances staged over that direction. And heard this huge roar, which clearly sounded...

COOPER: From the mine area.

JOHNS: ... like a celebration, from the mine area. And you can speculate all you want as to what it's about. But I think it's pretty clear that there were some very happy people over there on the yard.

COOPER: About how many ambulances could -- did you see?

JOHNS: I know I saw five or six. And there's some suggestion that the authorities are going to bring those ambulances down through here. Now, I can't tell you whether they're going to the hospital or whether they're going up to the church. But the plan, at least, is to bring ambulances back down this way sooner rather than later.

The -- back over in that area there's just a lot of different people coming in from miles around, I think to sort of celebrate with their friends.

COOPER: We're getting video in just now of the staging area. It's kind of hard to see. This is tape that we are -- we're literally seeing it as you are seeing it. And there you go, that's a better shot. That -- is that sort of...

JOHNS: That's exactly what we were seeing right. And as I said, the roar was from the voices of certainly very many men. And it was fairly prolonged and very loud. And we also saw a number of the ambulances start pulling away, not long after we pulled up to that location. It was just a place to get a glimpse of perhaps what's going on through the trees in the dark.

COOPER: We have two ambulances, actually, coming by our position very soon -- right now as we speak. These are two ambulances. They are waving, certainly happy ambulance drivers. Again, probably going to that same staging area, so it seems they are bringing in some more ambulances.

Joe, you were at Quecreek, does this remind you of it?

JOHNS: Right. It certainly does. There at Quecreek, it was so long, and there were so many people who really thought there wasn't much hope at all. And the news comes out, and the first thing that happened, at least for me at both times, a chill goes up your spine.

Because you feel for the families. You feel for the people who are waiting. You worry about the people who are down in the mine. And to get a result like this, it's really uplifting. I think it's for all of West Virginia, certainly.


JOHNS: They could use this.

COOPER: I got to tell you, when I heard those church bells ringing, I got a chill. And when I heard the people shouting, and you could tell it was kind of a happy shout, but I didn't want to say one way or the other. But it's such an amazing feeling.

Joe Sbaffoni, I mean, talk about -- Joe was talking about this roar he things he heard from the -- around the entrance of the mine, probably the people who were working on this rescue. Talk a little bit about emotionally how involved the rescuers get in this operation.

JOE SBAFFONI: There's no question. I mean, their dedication is second to none. I mean that's why they're in it. I mean, you know, they put a lot of time and effort into training, contests. They've been involved in a lot -- fighting a lot of mine fires, so this is something that is very hard, dedicated work, and it does take a special breed of individual.

And a lot of times when we're involved with these kinds of situations, they don't come out so good. But in this case, here we had a pretty good ending. Again, my heart goes out to the family that lost the loved one. But those rescuers are overjoyed.

They feel that they have really contributed and participated and been part of rescuing these 12 fellow miners. And it's a feeling that you just can't describe. You have to live it to feel it.

COOPER: And we are living just a very small slice of it here on this end, and it is an extraordinary slice of that. Another ambulance has just gone by, so there are now three ambulances staged over here near the church.

And Randy -- that is the area where Randy Kaye is standing by. She has another family member.

Randy who are you talking too?

KAYE: Anderson, right now we're talking with Eddie Hamner, whose uncle was actually one of the trapped miners. And you've got the word just a short time ago. And what did you think when you first heard that 12 were alive? EDDIE HAMNER: Well, it was actually my cousin, but I was really excited that everything was going OK. I got -- heard from you guys. So...

KAYE: From CNN you heard the news?

HAMNER: From CNN, yes I heard the news from you. So...

KAYE: We're glad to hear you're watching the right channel at least. Getting your news from the right channel. Good to know and certainly a reason to celebrate tonight.

Have you heard any more about where your cousin was found or what condition he might be in? Have you talked to anybody?

HAMNER: No, I haven't heard anything from anyone. So I don't know.

KAYE: I know that's been, certainly the last 40 hours has been very tough on your family and the other families here, and at some points very frustrating for all of you. Certainly, feeling like you're not getting word fast enough or that the work wasn't being done fast enough. Can you talk about that a little bit and how you feel at this moment?

HAMNER: Well I mean, we were all just worried about what was going on. And I know we were praying and she was watching on TV and I was calling her from work getting all the latest news.

And I know we just pulled in when the church bells were ringing and I asked the man at the camera truck I said, "Why they church bells ringing?" And he said, "They found 12 for 12." So I -- me and her just hugged each other and we were happy that everything worked out OK.

KAYE: I saw you probably pretty quickly after you first found out, because we were running out of our truck heading up here and you were just running by the CNN satellite truck. And you were both -- you and your finance here, were both smiling.


KAYE: Um, what will you say to your cousin when you see him? And what do you expect he'll be saying to you and your family?

HAMNER: I'll just, you know, say, "Good to see you, man." I mean...

KAYE: That's it?

HAMNER: Well...

KAYE: You've got to be more that.

HAMNER: I don't know what else I'd say. KAYE: You're all smiles, though for sure. Have you had a chance to talk with any of the other family members here, and just sort of celebrate together and maybe morn for the one family who certainly we can't forget who has lost someone?

HAMNER: Yeah, seen my one cousin, she and I embraced. And I mean, just everybody just seems happy. But I do feel remorse for the one family. It's sorry that one guy didn't make it, but...

KAYE: How do you feel about the mining industry here? Certainly, that's a big part of life here. How long was your cousin involved and did you ever worry about him?

HAMNER: Well no, I never really gave it much thought. But a lot of people in my family has worked in coalmines, and it's just prize jobs for everyone around here. And you never really think about the hazards that come with it until something like this happens. So...

KAYE: And when you first heard, I guess it was about 9:00-9:15 tonight, that they had found one body. What did you think at that point? There was some talk that maybe that would provide some sense of relief that the buggy that the miners were riding in was found. It wasn't burned. There wasn't any equipment in it. But they did find that one body. What did you think at that point?

HAMNER: Well, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it, but I knew -- I just held hope that that everyone would be OK. But there's that, you know, feeling in the back of your mind that maybe everything wouldn't be. So it was kind of troubling.

KAYE: And everyday they kept saying that they were getting closer and closer and they were 1,000 feet in, 5,000 feet in, and even 10,000 feet in, and they hadn't found anything. Was there any point for you where you just gave up hope, certainly yesterday or in the last 40 hours?

HAMNER: No. I never gave up hope.

KAYE: Why is that?

HAMNER: I just have to have faith. Faith in God, faith in the people who've work rescuing and...

KAYE: What do you think your cousin would have wanted you to have been doing while he was trapped there?

HAMNER: I don't know. I can't...

KAYE: Keeping the faith for sure.

HAMNER: ... really say. Yeah. Sending out prayers, I'm sure.

KAYE: All right. Will we're certainly happy for you and best of luck.

And I understand, Anderson, once again that I know you've seen those ambulances go by and we're not sure what the policy is, but we understand that at some point tonight, the surviving miners will be heading here to the Sago Baptist Church where the families have been gathered.

COOPER: Let's check in with Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, I mean, is it inevitable that they should go to the hospital. I mean, is that just as precautionary measure?

GUPTA: I would think so, Anderson. It's hard to say for sure. I mean, I was hearing just like you were that they might do that press conference or at least go see their families first. I think most reasonably medical professionals would want to get these guys checked out. It's been almost 40 hours, I understand.

I think the issues of hypothermia. There's still this lingering issue, was there a carbon monoxide exposure or not. And if there was 100 percent oxygen would be necessary for a period of time.

Also, they may be dehydrated to a certain extent. You want to at least give them enough fluids either by IV or my mouth to make sure that they're well hydrated again. Just to get them checked out, temperature, blood pressure, heart rate checks, things like that.

ANDERSON: What is the 100 percent oxygen do? I mean, if you're exposed to carbon monoxide, does it stay in your system?

GUPTA: Yeah, it actually does stay in your system for a few hours. And with the 100 percent oxygen does is it tries to kick that carbon monoxide out of your blood stream.

See the carbon monoxide and the oxygen are sort of competing in your blood stream. And the reason you want to give the 100 percent oxygen is to give your body an advantage towards the oxygen. And saturate it, if you will, with oxygen so that oxygen can get out to all your organs everywhere that you need it in your body.

And that's basically, the requirement here. It might just be given prophylactically even if they weren't sure if there was a carbon monoxide exposure or not.

Also Anderson, they may want to just do some routine blood test as well to make sure that there was no other exposures.

When you have explosions for example, there is concern about carbon monoxide, but there can also be concern about things like cyanide from plastics burning, things like that.

So I imagine that they're going to get checked out. I think most medical professionals would recommend that. That would probably happen, I imagine pretty soon after they come out.

COOPER: I see two more ambulances about to come down the road where I'm standing. Physiology, Sanjay, this is a question I'm also going to ask to Joe Sbaffoni, whose involved in the Quecreek mine incident. But to Sanjay first, physiology is there testing that should be done or debriefing that should be done. I mean, it's got to be -- I know these are experienced miners, but it's a whole different thing being trapped in a mine.

GUPTA: Yeah, you know, I imagine there might be a -- at a minimum, a debrief that goes on, talking about exactly what they experienced down there, issues of claustrophobia, issues of any other injury that they might have experienced of fearing death of thinking that they might die. How they might confront that as well.

But you're right, Anderson, I'm not exactly sure what the debriefing that took place after previous mining accidents like this. But I imagine that will be part of it. But Joe Sbaffoni might know more about that.

COOPER: Yeah, let me -- Joe, what do you know? I mean, how important is it to kind of counsel the miners or to at least walk them through or talk them through, what they went through.

SBAFFONI: Well, I don't think there's any question they went through a real ordeal and probably quite a few of them figured they might not make it out. And I know at Quecreek, there were people brought in, professionals that talked to them, debriefed them, tried to, you know, address the concerns or issues that they may have.

And I think that's something that probably should be offered and to all these individuals, also the rescuers. Some of the rescuers should be debriefed and talked to also. A very traumatic experience on everybody's part, but especially for the miners, there's no question.

I know the miners at Quecreek, at one time didn't think they were going to make it. They thought they were going to drown and definitely a real physiological effect on them. And they're going to need all the help and all the support that they can get.

COOPER: Well I've talked to two of the Quecreek miners in the last two days, and I think, both of them said they have never been back in a mine since. Would it surprise you if some of these miners decided not to go back?

SBAFFONI: You know, again the trauma that they went through it very easily could be the case that some of them will never go back. Some of their families may never let them go back. I think that is the case with some of the Quecreek miners, that their families never want to go through that ordeal again, and the miners would never want to put their families through it. Every person is different and will just time will tell.

COOPER: Joe, you know, we were talking about how wrapped up rescuers and first responders get in this emotionally involved. That ambulance that you're seeing just passed me by.

There was a woman in the passenger set who was pumping her arms and smiling at me as she went by kind of dancing a little jig in her seat. Clearly, everyone in this community, everyone in the surrounding communities and the state feels very connected to what has happened here over the last 42 hours.

SBAFFONI: No question, I mean, you know, the roller coaster ride that went on down there, there's no question there's a lot of jubilation. And like I said, unless you've felt it, unless you've been part of it -- and including the media, I mean to be part of it, you know, a lot of times you have to report the bad things that end up. And a lot of times in our industry, it's the things that are -- things don't turn out so good.

But when you're involved in a situation like this, I think everybody that's involved definitely has a feeling of elation and it's hard to describe. It's definitely -- to me it was a life changing experience to be part of that. To work in an industry and to be involved in something like that.

You know, the individuals involved at Quecreek, and a lot of the people from Emshaw (ph) are involved down there in West Virginia, have made statements that, you know, they'll probably never feel like that again. Well some of them -- some of them had the opportunity to feel like that again. So pretty exciting time for those individuals.

COOPER: I should just remind our viewers, we are waiting a press conference and an important press conference it is. Well we're really awaiting two things. One a press conference to find out the latest details on exactly how the miners were found. We still don't know any of that information.

We're also waiting to see the miners. We -- the family members have been told that they may actually go to the church, the Sago Church, where so many of the families have gathered over the last two days. And so many family members are waiting for their loved ones right now.

Let's go to Randy Kaye.

Randy, what have you been hearing about what these miners might do?

KAYE: Well Anderson, we have been hearing that these miners are expected to show up here at the Sago Baptist Church. We've interviewed a few of the family members and spoken with several more behind the scenes here, who are all telling us the same thing.

They're told that they 12 surviving miners are in good condition. They don't have any more details than that, but that they will be coming here, at some point, to the Sago Baptist Church.

Right now, they're all huddled inside. We've been pushed back along with the rest of the media. All of a sudden, all of the security has asked us to push back to the end of the road here, which is the intersection. We're just about at the intersection, which is where the ambulances have been passing you by.

All of those ambulances are now heading up the face of the mine here, which is just across the street from where we are. So we've been seeing them on this end. But once again, just being told here that the family members are gathered. They're inside the church and that the surviving miners will be coming here.

Also, Anderson, we just spoke with Alton Wamsley (ph), and a couple of the other miners, who were actually in that second group that were behind the miners who suffered the blast. And they were the ones that -- they were part of that group of six that escaped without any injuries.

They didn't get any medical attention. They told us, certainly one of them told us, that from the way that blast occurred, they had a good feeling that at least some of the miners had survived.

They remember the blast. They got out as quickly as they could. And they're here and they've been supporting their fellow miners throughout this entire experience and certainly their relatives during this terrible, terrible wait. Anderson.

COOPER: So Randy, how far are you from the church? And where are you in relation to where the ambulances have been going?

KAYE: Well I can give you an idea, if we can just move around a little bit. I can just show you from where we -- our perspective here. There's the church. That's the Sago Baptist Church up there. We are on that dirt road where the media has been gathered.

And then if you look right here, you can see this gentleman right here, he's probably about to kick us out, because they're setting up the tape here. We're going to have to cross the line here probably -- is that right, sir?


KAYE: OK, we're going to have to step over here. We are on now on the other side of where we're supposed to be. Certainly don't want to cause any problems here. And then if you look down this way, this is where some of the Salvation Army trucks have been gathered for the last 40 hours or so. And then it's right across that way.

I'm not sure if you can see the stop sign or the railroad crossing sign, back in that distance. But right across the street there is where the ambulance that have been passing you make their turn. That's the mountainside or the mine -- the face of the mine where the governor had gone.

That's where they had drilled those holes to try and test the air and get a look inside where they dropped the camera. They drilled three holes over on that side. So that's exactly where those ambulances are headed, Anderson. We can only assume that they're heading there to get the surviving miners.

COOPER: And the area that you're standing in is sort of the area -- really the kind of the staging area for the last two days. And behind you -- well right now we're looking at some of the emergency vehicles. But behind you, is a van. That's the Red Cross van. Kind of tell us a little bit. There's also a mobile command center near where you are. I don't know if you're able to kind of show us a little bit of what's immediately around you.

KAYE: Sure. Let's take a look over here. If you -- first of all, this set up here -- here's a private home there in the distance. This is a home where the satellite trucks, the media have been camped out on their property. That's part of the reason why they've been moving us around so much lately.

And we want -- we also want to show you back here. This is where -- this is the Salvation Army truck. This is the Salvation Army truck. The mode here is so different. It's almost as if all the operations have stopped.

They've been serving these people. Serving hot chocolate. Serving coffee. Serving anything they can to try and make this wait a little bit easier for the families. And all of a sudden the services have stopped, because the news is wonderful. And the mood is so different here.

So here's the command center. And you can see command center right here, and if you look off to this side in the distance here, that's the group of media that was originally up at the church. And now they're all gathered here as we wait for the miners to arrive. And for the families, hopefully, to come back out of the Sago Church and speak with us some more tonight.

So once again -- oh and we are seeing, actually in the distance there, if we just come down this way. If you guys can come right over here getting some traffic and right -- if you look there in the distance, the camera can come with us.

You can see there are some more safety vehicles heading in some more lights and sirens heading up the face of the mine. And, Anderson, those trucks have probably just passed by you heading our way, since we're just down the road from you.

COOPER: Yes, that's right. And just a somber thought for a moment, just about 100 or so feet away, Randy, from where you are. There's a house with a porch on it, and that is where the family of Terry Helms spent much of the last two days waiting for word on him.

We talked to Michelle -- Randy talked to Michelle Moser just a short time ago.

Randy, talk a little bit about what Michelle told you, and she feels it is her uncle who is the one fatality. Her uncle Terry, a miner of 30 plus years, very experienced man.

She feels she is sure he is the man who perished in this mine. Why does she feel that?

KAYE: She feels that, Anderson, and I just want to say that once again, we just checked with her a few minutes ago, and she still hasn't received any final confirmation. But she believes that because, her uncle Terry is, held a position of fire boss. And that was a person who'd be let off right at the mouth of one of those tunnels there.

And so that's why when they first heard, before they even knew that any of the other miners had survived, when she first heard that the body had been found right at the mouth there about 700 feet from the area where they would have entered one of those fingers of the mine.

She knew in her gut, she told me, that she thought it would be her uncle Terry, because that's exactly where his position would have been held. And so, again, no confirmation, but somebody's going there to get some -- to get the tags. She has her uncle's truck here. And she is certainly waiting.

They told her they believe it is him. She believes it is him. And they're waiting on official confirmation.

COOPER: Well, that is just -- you know, amidst all the jubilation, it is important to remember there is a family in pain tonight, and a big family. And thankfully, they are all here together. Go ahead, Randy.

KAYE: And I just -- I give her so much credit. Because, Anderson, she's still here. She's here with the other families. And she's here celebrating with them. She's just -- she really is. I mean, we don't know her well. We've only spent about 40 hours with her. But she's an incredible woman, an incredibly strong woman for staying here with the other family members as they celebrate around her.

And she's so happy for them that it has turned out well for their families. Which is truly remarkable.

COOPER: Well, to be able to take joy in other's happiness, even when your own heart is breaking, is a truly remarkable thing.

KAYE: Yes.

COOPER: And Michelle, and all the other members of that family who you and I have both been spent time with. I mean, they're just -- they're just good people, really extraordinary people. And our hearts go out to them. And let's hope that they get some sort of peace on this tonight.

Joe Sbaffoni is standing by as well as Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Joe, let's talk a little bit -- you talked about the miners as -- the mine rescuers as kind of this special breed. And how emotionally involved they get in the operations. Are they -- is it a team that travels from mine to mine, or is it just miners who have special training who are called upon when needed?

SBAFFONI: In Pennsylvania, I can give you the Pennsylvania example and it's very similar in West Virginia. We have some of the larger coal companies like Consolidation Coal Company and Foundation Coal. We have five company and mine rescue teams. And they are very supported of those teams. They practice on a regular basis. They participate in mine rescue contests and mine emergency response drills.

Also in Pennsylvania, we have what we called the state trained. We have the state trained mine rescue program. A lot of the smaller operators, it's quite an expensive operation to have a mine rescue team.

So what we do is we provide the training and the equipment and these small operators provide us with employees and we train those teams and that way they meet the requirements from mine rescue coverage.

So it's both ways. And I'm pretty sure it's similar in the other states as well. Where you have a lot more coal companies at this stage, you have quite a few more coal company teams; West Virginia and Kentucky have quite a few company teams also.

COOPER: How does it work, too? I mean, I've spent time with a lot of special forces and they have, you know, these alpha teams, and each man in the alpha team has a different role. One's a medic; one's a communication specialist. Is it like that with these mine rescue teams? I mean do they have medical training, are there each specialist?

SBAFFONI: The mine rescue teams, a lot times when we go to contest, there's first state contest, bench contest, mine rescue contest, EMT contest. So -- but the team members are usually consist of five people that go underground. There's a captain. There's a map man. And there's usually a couple of gas -- gasmen.

And a lot of them will interchange so that they can do each other's job, if one of them wouldn't be available. So it's -- they're all purpose individuals, but usually there is a captain that leads the operation.

COOPER: I should just point out to our viewers who are just joining us. We are waiting a press conference from a mining officials and perhaps the governor. We want to know as many details as possible.

We do not yet know the condition of the miners. We do not have any confirmation on exactly where they were or how they were found. Those are the stories we want to hear. We also want to get a look at those miners.

There is all the family members are gathered up at the church. They've been told the miners will head over there. We, of course, are going to bring that to you as it happens. It's going to be a very emotional moment.

Sanjay, how important is it; Dr. Sanjay Gupta I should point out is standing by in Atlanta. How important is it, Sanjay, to get immediate medical attention? GUPTA: I think it's pretty important, Anderson, at least for a brief checkup. A couple things to keep in mind here, we're talking about small area potential if these miners were in. We're talking about an explosion and possible concussive injuries as a result of that explosion.

There was this possibility of carbon monoxide, high levels of that as well. It is unclear exactly how much exposure they had to that. There could be hypothermia. There could be dehydration. There are still lots of different issues that we have to talk about, think about, when you're talking about survival in the situation like this.

Certainly, it sounds like they're fine. I've been hearing what you've been hearing, according to some of the family members, hearing that the miners are all fine. I'm not exactly sure what that means.

I think they need to, at a minimum, have their blood pressure, heart rates checked. They may need to have some blood drawn. They may need to have an IV placed to get some hydration. Be given a blanket; be given some food, things like that. Anderson, those are just sort of the minimum things.

That will all be sort of decided after at least a cursory examine, at least initially by a medical professional, Anderson.


CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNNAvantGo Ad Info About Us Preferences
© 2007 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines