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Elation Turned to Tragedy as 12 Miners Discovered Dead, One Survives

Aired January 4, 2006 - 04:09   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You have been listening to a press conference -- Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. A lot of questions still to be answered. We have a number of people -- bringing Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who has been with us all evening long
Sanjay, your thoughts on hearing all of this.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, just remarkable, Anderson, obviously hearing a lot of, you know, tying to figure out where the information came from initially.

I just want to show this newspaper. This is the headline of "USA Today." I think it just sort of speaks for itself there: "12 miners found alive" -- as you can read it there. That is the cover of the newspaper many people will wake up with this morning.

What you can't read -- and I can point out to you in the third graph here -- actually says, "Gov. Joe Manchin was the one to tell the families the good news. After he did, the bells began ringing."

So you just hear this sort of back-and-forth about where this news came from, and a lot of people saying, you know, probably, We are not sure exactly where it is coming from. But this is what the newspaper says. People, reporters are sourcing the governor as being the one to have given that good news, so many hours ago now, Anderson. It is just sort of mind boggling to me, having just sitting here, watching this all sort of unfold.

COOPER: Miles O'Brien has also joined me to continue our coverage.

I mean, just an extraordinary evening and so many questions for me to be answered. I mean, where was the miscommunication between the rescue workers and the coordination center? And who sent the information from the coordination center down to the families?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is a combination, I think, Anderson, of an honest mistake, perhaps not precise communication, coupled with ears that were receptive for good news, or hoping against hope for good news. That coupled with one phone call outside of that command center, and I think it just turned into one of those games -- of telephone call, if you will -- where a lot of bad information got out, and a lot of people wanted to embrace that information.

COOPER: The other question, though, which I have not had an answer to, and the CEO of the company did not quite answer fully is, why, if they knew after 20 minutes that there had been some sort of a mistake, why was it a three hour delay until they came forward and said, "Well, in fact, we never confirmed that information at all, and it is not true?"

O'BRIEN: Yes, that is where the honest mistake is compounded by a decision to control information after sort of the horse has been let out of the barn here. And, truly, that is a question that needs to be posed to the mine officials. Family members extremely angry -- we've been seeing them walk by down this road. You have heard them. A lot of anger, quite frankly, expressed towards we in the media. But all of us taking information from people who are supposedly there on the scene and filtering that back to us through our sources, and that is how the story got out.

You know, it is interesting, what we are talking about here is the loss of 12 of the 13 of those miners, and under any circumstances, that would be a terrible story to tell. But this has been compounded by the way it has all kind of come out.

COOPER: And the status of the one miner is in critical condition. Last we heard from the hospital, that miner, as soon as they were stabilized to the extent possible, they were going to be transferred to a larger facility, to a -- Randal McCloy, that is the sole survivor of this horrific accident. Randal McCloy the only survivor -- he has been a miner for three years. He is, I believe, 26. He is married; he's got two young children, I am told. He is either 25 or 26. He was described as youngish by the doctor in the hospital.

Last we heard, he was still at St. Joseph's, was going to be transferred to a larger facility where he could get more intensive treatment.

O'BRIEN: Interestingly, the medical personnel who initially took a look at him said, he arrived in critical condition, really with symptoms of shock and hypothermia. But, otherwise, no other obvious symptoms of trauma.

So what is interesting here is that Randal McCloy, for whatever reason, has survived a tremendous -- an ordeal that is hard to even conjure up -- a temporary barricade that was fastened together with his so-called ventilation fabric that they used to allow air to pass into the mines. And you can only imagine what it was like for those 12 who survived the initial explosion, huddled together there for who knows how long. And, hopefully, Randal McCloy will be able to tell us how that story unfolded.

COOPER: And, no doubt, throughout the morning on "AMERICAN MORNING" we will be getting more information, hopefully from mine officials who, I guess, a couple hours from now will have another press conference.

O'BRIEN: Good job, Anderson -- long night.

COOPER: We are going to take a short break, and Miles O'Brien will continue our coverage here on CNN. Stay with us.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, I'm Miles O'Brien, reporting live from Sago, West Virginia, as we continue our coverage of the mining accident here, the loss of 12 of the 13 miners which in and of itself tells the basic facts of this story, but doesn't really tell the ordeal that the family members have gone through. As for about a three-hour period, they were under the impression that the miners might very well have been alive, or at least 11 of them might have been.

In any case, they now are coming to terms with the loss of 12 of the 13 miners. Sole survivor, Randal McCloy being treated at a hospital not far from here. And people here wanting now to know some answers as to why they were told, at one point, those miners were alive. And now, the worst has -- their worst fears have been realized.

Joining us now to talk a little bit about this is Debra Newsome (ph), Alma Withers (ph), and Anna Casto, relatives of one of the miners. They would like to leave his name out of this right now because his wife is not doing so well. She is at the Baptist Church still.

I want to begin with you, Anna. You were here as the information was parceled out. Tell me how it all unfolded in that church.

ANNA CASTO, COUSIN OF MINER: We didn't know nothing, and then they kept telling us this and telling us that. They'd say they would come and update us, and they never did.

Finally, they come. Mr. Hatfield, the CEO of the mines, he'd say he didn't know nothing. Finally, he come up and he said, they was all living. He would give us the directions of how he was bringing them in. He was going to take the emergency car, go up, and get them. He was going to bring them to the church, to the families -- not only my family, but all families.

And he was supposed to come back within an hour. He came back three hours later with news that they are gone, that there is no survivors. We want to know why and how people can get by with this. This is supposed to be a free country, people.

And I want to know: He says he has got letters from the president and everything, so why can't we, as a family -- and I'm not asking for nothing for me. I just want the immediate family to get some kind of satisfaction, some kind of answers.

O'BRIEN: And I think, we all can understand an honest miscommunication...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was not a...



CASTO: No. There was no -- it was...



O'BRIEN: Tell us what happened then.

CASTO: He strictly told us, they was alive. Three hours later, he came back and says they wasn't. There was no communique. No, no -- there was not. There was too many...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No communications.

CASTO: There was too many families up there that had heard everything.

No, there was no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no. We was told that there was one gentleman had passed away. Well, we mourned with that family. You know, our hearts went out to them. But yet, the rest of us were told, Hey, your men are coming home. You know, they're coming home.

And then -- what? Two, three hours later, then boom! "Oh, well, there's no survivors."

That is not a miscommunication. I don't feel like it is at all. I mean, just don't lie. Don't tell us one thing and then -- hey, we're up their celebrating. But, you know, we're mourning with this other family.

O'BRIEN: What are your thoughts as to how this transpired? I mean, the company officials saying they knew, say, 20 minutes after the miscommunication that that initial information was wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I just think they should have gave -- when they found out, they should have came back up and told the people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Told the story right -- you know, don't tell us one thing and let us rejoice and praise God, you know. "Hey, our guys are alive," you know. "Hey, they're going to get to come home."

And then, just like pull the rug out from underneath of us.

CASTO: It isn't fair. It isn't fair the way they done not only us but all the other families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, all of the families -- all of them.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's devastating.

O'BRIEN: Describe what the scene was like inside the Baptist Church as all this transpired.


O'BRIEN: Well, first, when they came and gave you the good news.

CASTO: Well, we was happy. But, like I said, the one we knew had lost their life. We mourned with them. But us, we thought our men was coming home. We rejoiced; we sung. We was joyful. We more less had a party because we knew our men was coming home.

But then the next thing we know -- we are all still happy, happy as a jaybird. And then -- like I said, about three hours later -- it was like we wasn't laughing no more. It's been all sad. And it's not only this family, it was all the families -- the whole entire church of people -- including the Red Cross even mourned for us. It is mourning for us right now, and the other families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And it is not just the families that are going through this. It is Upshur County, Lewis County. I mean, it is the state of West Virginia right now, I honestly believe is mourning with us. I truly believe that.

O'BRIEN: There is mourning, and there is also tremendous anger. Who are you angry with?

CASTO: The whole world right now, including you, and you've never done a thing to me. Mostly, Mr. Hatfield, the CEO of Sago Mines. The man has probably never been underground in his life Why did he not bring one of the rescue men over at 11:00 and tell us where they were at and what they were doing?

We have been told, from day one, from the time they entered the mines, to each and every step they got to -- I can't remember what they call it. They have never found a piece of debris. Now, they're finding debris. Why was we lied to?

O'BRIEN: And you blame the media as well?

CASTO: No. I mean, right now, probably; but not really. It is mostly...

O'BRIEN: How did people react? How did they express their anger inside that church?

CASTO: Well, there was some -- what do you might, what do we call it?


CASTO: There was anger in there. There was anger.

O'BRIEN: There are reports there were actually fights. Is that true? CASTO: Well, not -- no, it could have been.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It could have been.

CASTO: It could have been.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It could have been, but there was no actual fights in there.

CASTO: No, there was not.


CASTO: We was together. We are a family. We had one family member in that mine, who is still there. But there was other family members there, friends and family of other miners. We mourned together; we communicated together; we cried together like yesterday (ph) when this first happened.

But then we got our hopes filled up. And you just don't do that to people; you just don't do it. But we got it done to us.

O'BRIEN: What we know about the situation is there were these 12 were able to build a barricade.

CASTO: That's right.

O'BRIEN: And it makes you wonder how long they were able to survive. Have you thought about that?

CASTO: We were told -- no, we never had, we had no reason to think about that. We were told that the skinner (ph), the thing that they ride in on -- the dinner buckets was even go. One of the men -- I don't know who this was -- even said, "The men took their lunch to eat, and one of the -- where the good air is at."

What did it do? What happened to that food? We don't know -- as of right now, we are left in the air. We don't know...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are really left in the dark.

CASTO: They're telling us they can't find them. But they're dead. How can they say that to us -- 12 families -- how can they stand up and tell that?

O'BRIEN: You were saying, you feel like you're in the dark still?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Yes, because they come in at the last and said, Well one man, one other gentleman they had -- they had rushed him to Morgantown and possibly one other survivor. Well, what's -- and then, it's like, well OK, what about the rest of them? They're not really -- I mean, we are not really sure of anything right now.

CASTO: Only what we are being told from them. They have lied to us from day one, and we want some answers. Like I said, not me, not these girls -- we're wanting them for the immediate families of all 12 men.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is like they contradicted themselves.

O'BRIEN: Prior to this accident, did you have concerns about this mine, about the way it was operated? And did your loved one tell you about that?

CASTO: Yes, but I won't go into that because I do not know that much about our coalmine worker and how it is under the ground. I have never ever been underground, and I cannot answer that honestly. But I know it has been questioned, and I have heard that they have had quite a few things against them.


CASTO: Violations against them.

O'BRIEN: What is it, as a family member who has to go through this, as every miner's family's worst ordeal, worst nightmare is this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Absolutely, yes.

O'BRIEN: Help us understand to those of us who are not part of the fraternity or whatever of...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mining community.

O'BRIEN: ... the mining community -- what it's like to everyday to say goodbye to your loved one and have them go beneath the ground, knowing this could happen.

CASTO: If that is their life, they are used to it, and so is the family member. I mean, your husband, you know, goes out, your brother, your father, your son go out. You're used to it, just like you go out here and you have a cow farm or a horse farm or whatever. It's your everyday living. We are used to it.

But that is not where I want to go to. I want some answers. Like I said, not only for me, but for the immediate families, and I think they deserve it, more so than anything.

O'BRIEN: How is everybody holding up in your church now?

CASTO: They're not going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE). There is small children up there that probably lost their dad, maybe their grandfather. Who would -- would you or anybody else want your child to raise up without a father, without a brother, without a loved one? No, you wouldn't. No, you wouldn't.

O'BRIEN: All right. Ladies, thank you very much. Anna Casto, Alma Withers (ph), Debra Newsome (ph), we wish you and all the families well as you move forward from all of this.

We turn now to the governor of the state of West Virginia, Joe Manchin. He is joining us from the command center.

Joe, or Gov. Manchin, I should say, I don't know if you're able to hear some of that interview which we just conducted with some of these relatives. There is a lot of anger here.

GOV. JOE MANCHIN, WEST VIRGINIA: Sure, I did, Miles, and I was at the church with them. I was at the church, of course, with them for the last few days, as you know. And tonight, I was there when -- I was sitting in a different part of the church and talking to some members of the families, and I heard a big loud screaming and clapping and everything, and we didn't know what went on. And I asked my security people with me, and I said, "What is happening?" And they didn't know because we hadn't heard anything.

And then we went in the room, and we heard that, you know, that everyone was saying that they found them, and they were ecstatic. And I asked our people again, I said, "Do we have any confirmation on anything?" And they said, "No, we don't."

But then, everyone was just euphoric, if you will. And we all went out together, and I'm excited, and I said, "Well, let's go up to the portal to find out exactly what's going on. Why didn't we hear about this? How did it happen?"

And somebody got a phone call in the church, and we hadn't because, up until then, we had been hearing things pretty accurately. So we go up there, and they are euphoric. They think that they have heard or interpreted something in the command post that they had set up with all of the professionals who handle those, and then later, we hear that that's not the case. And then they continued to try to confirm really what is the status in what situation.

But I want to say this: We were hoping for 13 miracles. We knew we had long odds against this with the bad air that we know that was in there. And I think there was briefing this morning, talking about that last -- yesterday morning, I'm sorry -- about the air situation. But I keep holding out hope for that miracle, and we have one miracle. We are clinging to one miracle, when we were hoping for 13. So with that, with that we are very thankful, and we are going to do everything to support the families and do whatever we can to comfort them.

O'BRIEN: You're talking about Randal McCloy, 25-, 26-, 27-year- old young miner who has survived, is in the hospital. What a story he may ultimately tell.

Governor, this morning on the front page of "USA Today," we just showed it on our air. It says that your official actually confirmed that the 12 were alive. Can you explain that? How that happened?

MANCHIN: I don't know where that -- that did not come from our office. I don't know how that would have been done, because our people, my people were with me there, and we had not because we wanted to find out what had happened. And that's why I had gone up to the -- to the portal, if you will. And -- because we had not heard anything. So I don't know how that happens. I really don't. And I'm not going to blame people. I really am not. I can tell you, people worked so hard, and they have committed in so much. And they were willing to sacrifice in very extreme situations to do the best they could. And they've done a tremendous job.

And it's a shame that we have a situation such as this under horrific conditions. But everyone worked very hard, I can tell you that. We're very proud of that.

O'BRIEN: Well, it's an interesting mix of tragedy, a little bit of joy and horror over how it all transpired. And you, because of your personal story, can really emphasize. In 1968, you lost your uncle...

MANCHIN: Yes, my uncle.

O'BRIEN: ... in a mine accident. And can you -- can you imagine if you had been through this roller-coaster over the past three or four hours or so?

MANCHIN: Well, let me just say that from the -- from the time that we arrived and start working with the families, I wanted to make sure that any information that was received was given to them, they were updated. I think the people from the company, as their engineers were working and mining people and working and coordinating the rescue squads. They were coming and talking to the families regularly and coming and talking and giving press -- press conferences to you all, to the press, doing it on a routine basis.

Because I knew what it was like in '68 to go and hear nothing for days. And the agony that you go through. And it's just absolutely heart wrenching, after all that, to be working and working so much and for the families.

So this morning -- yesterday morning when they were told that they weren't encouraged with the news on the air, they weren't happy with that. They felt it was not good. They were told exactly what they had found out. And then how this would happen this evening, I can't explain it to you. Nor can I make -- or blame people. I won't do that.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, it's understandable that in the course of such a confusing and chaotic thing as trying to rescue a dozen men underground, there would be miscommunication. The fact that this mistake got out, when it was corrected internally 20 minutes later, is I think what galls people the most, Governor.

Is there -- there's obviously a lesson learned here. I mean, I -- on the one hand, you're right. You want to have as much information out as you can. On the other hand, it's potentially a volatile thing.

MANCHIN: What I heard is that within the time they knew they had made an error in communications, when that was done, there was no accurate information. Was there one, two, three, four? The conflicting reports kept coming in all different directions. And to have that much of a misinformation and seeing what that was causing, I understand they were trying to get accurate information.

Crews were changing, working in difficult situations, trying to get the one survivor that they did know they have out and back into a hospital as quickly as possible. Working in that survival mode. I can only imagine what they were going through.

And again, I can -- I can tell you everyone did everything they possibly could. And it's just a horrible situation. But...

O'BRIEN: Governor, you know...

MANCHIN: We still have one miracle.

O'BRIEN: And let's not forget that. That's going to be -- it's a story to follow.

The other thing which is on our mind this morning, separate from miscommunication issue, is the way they were found. They were found behind a fashioned barricade, trying to protect themselves from the gases, the carbon monoxide, as a result of the explosion. You have to wonder, and I'm sure you've wondered this morning, how long they were able to survive.

MANCHIN: Well, basically, everyone in the mining industry, everyone that understands it, families and the miners themselves know that they have the apparatus, the emergency apparatus, which is anyone from an hour to two hours. That's to give you enough time to get out next to the mine.

We know that they were not harmed during the initial blast, that they worked together and probably -- I can only speculate. I'm sure the experts will be able to give you more detail. But trying to get out of the mine, running into where the explosion had happened.

And then they retreated back and did the other thing they were trained for, to go to the face, barricade in and wait for the recovery teams.

O'BRIEN: What more do we know, Governor, about what sparked this whole thing? A lot of speculation about lightning, for example. Do we know -- do we know much more at this point? I know that the focus has obviously been on the rescue mission.

MANCHIN: I can't speak with specifics, because we don't know until a full investigation is done. We do know that it was -- that things were different in the mine when the rescue operators got completely in that area than what they had anticipated. They know that the area that was sealed off -- I think you all heard about that -- that was sealed off completely with no activity behind it. There was no electrical equipment. There was nothing. It was sealed and done, finished. And they know the explosion came from that area and blew inward towards the mine.

What could have caused it? You know, you have to have some form of ignition or a light or something striking, and yet there was nothing there. So I really can't speculate. I'm no expert in that. I can only tell you what I've heard.

And I'm sure -- I want you to know that we're going to do everything that's in our power in the state to find out what had happened, to investigate this, and to make sure -- our goal is not to have any accidents or any fatalities in West Virginia.

O'BRIEN: Well, since you lost your uncle in 1968, what is a very inherently dangerous enterprise, coal mining, has gotten a lot safer. Do you think there are going to be some important lessons learned as far as making these miners safer in the future as a result of this?

MANCHIN: Well -- well, again like you say, investigations have to be performed to find out what really caused this. We're always working to improve. One accident or one fatality is entirely too much, and we're not going to tolerate that.

Last year was the safest year that West Virginia has had, but there were still three fatalities, which was three too many. And with that, our inspectors have done their job. They wrote up violations as they see them. It might seem trivial to some people, but they're trying to improve continuously. And they're working towards that. And they will continue to do that.

O'BRIEN: You know, you -- you said time and again, and we've all talked about this, this whole nature of this family, this fraternity of miners. Help us understand, for those of us who are outside of that fraternity, how they deal with this every present danger and the fear that goes along with just going to work every day.

MANCHIN: Well, let me just speak about miners and miners' families. There's not a more hard working, dedicated, committed, family oriented group of people that I've ever met in my life. These people are proud. They work hard to support their families. They're proud of the job they do for their state.

And more importantly, they're proud of what they do for the United States of America, because they know the energy that they produce is really what's made this country. It's developed the industrial might, if you will. It continues to defend this country. And they're extremely proud people. That's all I can say. And I'm proud of each and every one of them.

And this -- this is a profession that America needs. It's a profession that America counts on. And I'm hoping it's a profession that America understands better.

O'BRIEN: Final thought here, if you could. If you could just presume for a moment you're speaking to some of those miners' families, and we can only assume they're watching right now, what words do you have to them? What words do you have for them?

MANCHIN: Well, I've already done that, and I will continue to. And I will continue to give all my support, my love for them, anything that I can do. There's -- I've never had anything more gut wrenching in my life. We're so thankful for the one miracle. I wish we would have had 13 miracles. We hope for that. Everybody worked towards that, and I think they all know in their heart that everyone did everything they possibly could. I truly believe that.

With that, we've got to go through the mourning and grieving period. And that's -- that's in all of us, and we're going to do that together as families. That's how we are. And we will continue to move on.

O'BRIEN: Governor Joe Manchin of the state of West Virginia, thank you for your time this morning. And we wish you well as you move forward from this.

MANCHIN: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Let's turn now to someone who is closely involved in this rescue operation, one of the fire chiefs involved, Chief Joe Tallman. He's right beside me here.

Chief, what an unbelievable night you've been through here with that -- that roller-coaster ride. Tell me where you were as this all transpired. And your best assessment of how this all happened.

CHIEF JOE TALLMAN, WASHINGTON DISTRICT FIRE DEPARTMENT: I was here talking to several members of the press at this location when the -- the crowd noise rose and the bells on the church started ringing, you know. And that's not a sign of anything that I've ever had any dealings with. So I proceeded back up to where our fire trucks were parked. And at that time, they said we need to go back to the mine site. We weren't told why, but you can always speculate.

So when we got into the mine property, EMS personnel had been told that there's a possibility of 12 survivors. And at that time, we started making preparations for the treatment of 12 patients. Getting 12 ambulances, 12 cots, a portable hospital on the site. The doctors and the nurses, everybody was there.

Fifteen, 20, 30 minutes later, you hear the rumor, and you're riding on Cloud Nine already, you know. It's an emotional high, because you're thinking now I've got 12 guys out of this mess alive.

O'BRIEN: And it's just hard to imagine. It's hard to face it, right?

TALLMAN: It's so unbelievable. You're thinking, man, we've been two days and here's a chance for us to -- to get 12 of them out. And dang, you know, there's only one survivor. And it's just -- it's an emotional toll on everybody involved, not only the families, the firefighters, the media and everybody else involved. It makes it rough on everybody.

And I don't know what the answer is or where the problem started. I've been told it's a miscommunication. I don't know where. I don't care. I mean, you know, it happened. It's caused hard feelings. It's caused problems. But still, we've got one guy out. Hopefully, we'll learn from this. But it's a real downer this morning after so long a time of hoping that we could find guys alive. And we get the rumor that is guys, and then dang, they're not. So it's a real -- this morning has not been a very good morning. No, sir.

O'BRIEN: You know, it's interesting. If we had talked 24 hours ago and just raised the prospect of one getting out, you would have said that would be great. Because all that you had determined at that point. So a lot of it is expectations for people.

And -- and I'm sure you've heard the anger...


O'BRIEN: ... that is here right now, which is just mixed in with terrible grief and sadness. It's difficult, isn't it?

TALLMAN: It's very difficult, because someone -- and I'm not, you know, wants to blame the families. Some wants to blame the media. Some will want to blame the mine. Some will want to blame the fire department. Or EMS. No one should shoulder the blame for something that is a miscommunication. It happens every day.

I mean, ever hear of an aspect (ph) of light. There's miscommunications and problems. You work over them. It just is the high and low of it all. I mean, it just -- it just took the heart right out of all the rescuers that were hoping against hope that these miners would be found. And it's really very emotional right now for us to talk about it.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And it's terrible irony, because the goal was to keep them as informed as possible.

TALLMAN: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: And really, the opposite effect occurred.

TALLMAN: Exactly. We -- I've been told that there's a lot of people out here upset that there's not more people talking to the press. I'm a firm believer that I need to get you the information that you can get out to the people, because not everybody can drive out this road and see what's happening. Everybody that has a radio, that knows we're dong the best we can. Get it to the media, get it on the television, get them the true and honest news. Put it out there. Let the people make their own decisions on it.

And I thought that's what we were doing. But it seems like it kind of backfired on us, and we've got, as the old saying goes, egg on our face.

O'BRIEN: Let's -- let's talk about -- a little bit more about what happened underground. We know this. They probably survived that initial explosion. That's what it looks like.

TALLMAN: The speculation that I have been told that. Yes, I have. O'BRIEN: And barricaded themselves in some way, shape or form?

TALLMAN: I have not been informed of that, sir. I've heard that.

O'BRIEN: Let me ask you this. And I understand you want to be circumspect about what you know and what you don't, given all that has transpired. The one person that survived, that really is an amazing story, isn't it?

TALLMAN: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: You know, given the conditions down there, you probably wouldn't have expected that, would you?

TALLMAN: No. Not with the conditions, explosion. They found the first body several hours ago. And you're thinking, well, what's the chances of finding one. And then you -- you come out and you lose 11 and you've got one survivor. It just -- it's mind boggling that one guy can survive a whole mess where other guys in the same area can't survive.

So it's really got to be a heart breaking to all family members. And my heart goes out to those members of those families within our community. And we will get over this. It's going to be rough, but we will try to maintain our integrity and everything else and get through this.

O'BRIEN: This is -- mining is integral to West Virginia. And unfortunately, these accidents over the years have been, as well. It's difficult to think, and from your perspective, as somebody who likes to help people -- that's what your job is all about -- such a helpless feeling, isn't it? In a way, they're very close to you, but they're so far away.

TALLMAN: They're so far away, because like we had talked earlier, when we were called out on the rescue to start out, we can't go in the mine. We'd have to set outside and wait until we get the proper men and equipment in to do an inside rescue.

And you're sitting there thinking, "Man, I'm trained in this, to cut people out of cars. I'm trained in EMS. I can't go in the mine to bring out guys that's two and a half miles underground." You know you can't do it, because you've not been trained for it. But you still have that feeling: "Man, I can help these people if I can get to them." But there's no way you can. So you have to sit and wait.

The waiting game, a lot of people see you sitting around and say, "Why ain't you doing something?" You can't. If you can't go underground, you can't do what you're trained to do. You could put more people in danger.

O'BRIEN: And that's an important point. You don't want to put more lives in jeopardy.

TALLMAN: Right. O'BRIEN: But what we do know now had -- the fact that they survived that initial explosion, had some breathing apparatus. There was probably a narrow window there.


O'BRIEN: But the window was too narrow, given the equipment that is available quickly on the surface.


O'BRIEN: What can be done about that? Is there better equipment you guys can carry on your vehicles that would get you in there faster?

TALLMAN: No. We're not allowed. We could carry all the equipment on that truck sitting behind you there, sir, that we could buy and place on it. We still can't go in a mine. We're not certified to be underground rescuers.

Mine rescue teams along the Eastern Seaboard responded to it. It takes time to mobilize those people. It takes time for their equipment to get in here. The only thing that the state of West Virginia can do is maybe to be training more mine rescue teams in the local areas and equipping them with the equipment they need so it doesn't have to come from Marion County, it doesn't have to come from Logan County, West Virginia, or Indiana or wherever it came from.

Get it closer to home where the rescue work can start faster. That would be my suggestion.

O'BRIEN: In other words, there is built-in lag time, because the specialized teams...

TALLMAN: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: ... specialized equipment...

TALLMAN: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: ... associated. You happen to know how much lag time there was between the reporting of the incident, which would have been close to, now, 48 hours ago, to the time that those teams were actually at the door step of the mine?

TALLMAN: I can't tell you that. I have no idea. Because once we were evacuated, we would go back across the river, like where the media was. And the teams themselves were on site. We were evacuated out of there 10:30, probably, Monday morning.

O'BRIEN: On a personal level, everybody is connected to everybody around here. This is just a small hollow right here.


O'BRIEN: And you're a part of this community. How difficult is it to get through an event like this and still do your job?

TALLMAN: Very hard. It's -- you stop and think, well, this will not affect me. But I must be getting either too old or spend too much time in the fire service, because this one has affected me a little harder than some of the rest of them, because there's people in the mine I know. There are people that was related to people in the mine. And it's -- the week's not over yet. You've got to go through that grieving period. And it's going to be hard. It's really going to be hard.

Like I said, the community will stand behind all of us. But it will be the family, whether it be the fire department, whether it be EMS, OES, whoever was here helping. The community will stand behind them and we'll get through this.

O'BRIEN: You lost friends.


O'BRIEN: What lies ahead this morning as far as recovery of the bodies and so forth?

TALLMAN: That I can't talk to you about, because I don't know.

O'BRIEN: OK. All right. Chief Joe Tallman with the Washington District. Thank you very much.

TALLMAN: Thank you, sir, for your time.

O'BRIEN: So the -- just to sum it up for those of you just tuning in, the basic outlines of the facts are 12 of the 13 miners who were trapped beneath the surface of the ground here some 260 feet below where I stand in Sago, West Virginia, 12 of them didn't make it. One has survived and is in the hospital.

But the way that all the information came out and the false hopes that were raised when information initially came out that 12 were, in fact, alive has left a bitter after taste of anger along with terrible grief here in a community where, as you just heard, friends, loved ones were lost here after that explosion.

Let's get more on our continuing coverage now. We go to Kelly Wallace, joining us from New York -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, you know, it's impossible to comprehend what these families are going through, that incredible joy when they learned that they believed 12 of those miners had survived, and then three hours later, the utter devastation, learning that that, in fact, was not true.

Many people probably went to bed, because it was a little before midnight. They went to bed thinking that there was sort of a miraculous event happening in West Virginia. And they're going to wake up to see a number of headlines on their newspapers. In the New York City newspapers, the "Daily News," "Alive! Miracle in West Virginia." The same headline, pretty much, in the "New York Post," "Alive! Twelve Trapped Miners Found in West Virginia Miracle."

Nationwide, "USA Today" also reporting "Twelve Miners Found Alive."

There will be so many questions throughout the day about what happened, what led to this miscommunication, who actually informed the family members, and then why there was such a delay, three hours, before the correct information was given to all those people.

We want to show you a little bit about how this all unfolded. Again, you have this incredible euphoria at the church where the family members were gathering. People were screaming. The church bells were ringing.

And then it was about 2:46 a.m. Eastern Time when a woman by the name of Lynnette Roby, and we believe she lived in the community, came up to Anderson Cooper on his show, "ANDERSON COOPER 360," and said she was in the church and just heard that things were not exactly as everyone thought they were. Take a listen.


LYNNETTE ROBY, FRIEND OF MINERS' FAMILIES: There's only one made it out alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the rest of...


ROBY: I think the name was Randal Ware (ph). The governor's in there and this big in charge CEO of the mine is apologizing and it's all -- they did nothing but -- I don't know how this information could come out that...

COOPER: Where have...

ROBY: There's one person alive, and he's en route to the hospital.

COOPER: Where have you gotten this information?

ROBY: From the CEO, who's been on the news...

COOPER: You were inside the church?

ROBY: We were inside the church and...

COOPER: And you said there's fist fighting now?


ROBY: People were screaming, you're a liar. You lied to us.

COOPER: Come over here, please. Stand over here. ROBY: It's been misinformation, and it's awful.

COOPER: And you kids were in the church, too?


COOPER: And you heard this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we tried to run away.

ROBY: We -- I took the kids -- we ran out the church as fast as we can. They're...

COOPER: I can hear yelling now over at the church.

ROBY: They're screaming and yelling. And the police are -- in a big brawl. I don't know how something like this could happen. How -- drug the kids out of bed at this time of the morning to celebrate. You know, this is -- and it's not true.

So far, there's one person. And I believe the name is Randal Ware (ph), before the big break -- but it's -- they need to know that -- for the best of my knowledge, and I think they said the other 11 couldn't be saved. I don't know if that's for sure that they're perished or not but I do know only one is...

COOPER: This is unbelievable.

ROBY: It's totally -- it's the worst thing that I've ever heard. I don't know how this information could get this far. And, and, and now -- we knew something was strange when the governor was coming in with -- just hugging -- it must be his wife, but just the look of total, total disbelief.

And what we just heard, it's -- I've never seen anything like -- I mean, how -- these people have been -- these families have been through so -- you know, for close to 45 hours now and...

COOPER: I'm completely stunned. Tell me your name again?

ROBY: Lynnette Roby.

COOPER: Lynnette Roby.

ROBY: And this is Kiki...

COOPER: Kiki and Travis, I remember. OK.

ROBY: So, you know. It's -- the nation, everyone needs to know that it's true, the -- it doesn't mean that the prayers can't be -- prayers can't still keep coming in, but there's only one. Only one so far has made it out alive.

COOPER: We've been hearing -- just been talking to the doctor who's at the hospital, and that patient is in critical condition.

ROBY: Yes.

COOPER: What exactly did you hear? What...

ROBY: He was apologizing. He said that...

COOPER: This is the governor?

ROBY: No...

COOPER: This is the CEO of the company?

ROBY: The CEO of the mine.


ROBY: Yes.

COOPER: Yes. So he -- where were you in the church?

ROBY: We were right up front, right up front. We followed the cars coming in. We saw the governor. And we were running with the cars and coming in, what we appeared was going to be -- you know, were the miners. That's why we're here; that's why everybody's here.

And he apologized for the lack of communication and he said that he took total credit for that. And then just people started screaming "hypocrites" and so it's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then they started running everywhere and then next thing you know, we see fists flying everywhere, cops and people and everything, was hitting each other.

COOPER: Inside the church?

ROBY: Yes.


ROBY: Somehow, someone needs to get the right information, you know. It's a total dishonor to -- you know, whatever mining officials are, however they work it out, it's definitely -- it's definitely not true. There's 11 that apparently did not make it, or -- there's one survivor. That's it.

COOPER: Where did you hear that they had not made it? Whose lips did you hear it from?

ROBY: The guy -- the one that owns the coal mine, the one that's been giving the press conferences the whole time.

COOPER: And do you remember precisely what he said?

ROBY: That he apologized. There has been errors, there's been miscommunication and that he took total responsibility for that. And then people started screaming, "Hypocrites." And then he get -- was trying to get everyone's attention to get that and said that there's -- and people were screaming. They said there's only one -- one known survivor, Randal Ware (ph). And I'm not sure he said the other 11 are deceased, but I'm -- that's the extent. There's only one survivor.


ROBY: So -- you know, that...

COOPER: Are you guys OK? Are you all right?

ROBY: Yes. It's the most awful -- it's unbelievable. It's just total -- it's disgraceful. It's awful. But it needs to be known. I mean, the story needs to change to not a very -- you know, it's taken a turn for...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From happy to sad.

COOPER: It went from happy to sad.

ROBY: Yes.

COOPER: Are you OK, Kiki? You seem upset.


COOPER: Yes. Let's just try to clarify what we are just hearing, if you could just stay with us. What we are hearing for the first time, and it is -- it is, frankly, stunning news, according to this woman, the mine officials have reentered the mine. We told you the governor was on site as well.

We aren't hearing the shouting that we were hearing, but she has heard the mine official telling the people there that -- that the survivor at the hospital is the only survivor.

We're trying to get confirmation on this. Frankly, we simply do not know what the situation is. What we're seeing, though, is a long line of ambulances. There were a whole -- there's a whole bunch of ambulances down, aren't there? Those are, I assume, the ambulances that were at the mine.

ROBY: And what we appear -- what we thought we were running and chasing was going to be wonderful news, because there was the governor in the first SUV and several others. Which all the time -- all the time we've been told, you know, a miracle. And that's why we're here. And there's no miracle. And it's awful. It's the most awful thing, you can bring your children out to be a part of, to remember in history. It's just awful.


WALLACE: And that was the scene a little more than two hours ago, the first reports that, despite what we were hearing earlier, only one of the 13 miners had survived.

Our Sanjay Gupta, our senior medical correspondent, had been watching all of this unfold, working throughout the night on "ANDERSON COOPER 360." He's joining us now from Atlanta.

And Sanjay, let me just first ask you, you watched this all unfold live. Just give me a sense of your perspective as you watched it all unfold.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's just the most unbelievable thing, Kelly, that we're seeing. And certainly, as a physician, I mean, you know, going to families and certainly, in critical situations like this, you have to take your words and measure your words very carefully in terms of giving them either hope or -- or desperation. Either way, you have to be very, very careful in these sorts of situations.

And it was just unbelievable. I mean, you just saw these families go back and forth with this information. And then when, you know, the thing that was sort of stunning to me was you all of a sudden got this sort of -- this swarm of euphoria, people just being so euphoric about the -- the fact that these people had survived.

But we didn't get any confirmation for some time. And as doctors, you always want to get data. You want to actually hear the voices of people who survived. Hearing that they're fine, you want to see that they're fine, as well. That obviously was taking entirely too long. And it started to become more and more suspect as time went on, Kelly. And obviously, everyone now knows the end result of all that.


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