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Interview With West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin; Letter Written By Dying Miner Found; Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Gravely Ill

Aired January 5, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
A chilling discovery from deep within the Sago Mine, a letter from a dying miner to the family he knew he was about to leave behind.


ANNOUNCER: The last words of the dying miners scrawled on pieces of paper underground. "It wasn't bad," one miner wrote. "I just went to sleep."

So many unanswered questions at Sago -- beyond what caused the explosion, why was a mine with over 200 citations even allowed to operate? Tonight, 360 gets some answers from West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin.

And getting out of a nightmare alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Especially when the heat and the smoke, I thought we was going to die.

ANNOUNCER: A second mining team at Sago barely escaped death. We will hear one miner's frightening tale.


ANNOUNCER: From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

Live from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And good evening. Thanks for joining us.

Before he breathed his last breath, one of the 12 miners trapped deep inside the Sago Mine in West Virginia wanted his family to know that he did not suffer. It is a handwritten message from Martin Toler Jr. scribbled down with the knowledge that he would never be coming home.

We don't know if his lamp was still working. We don't know if this leather -- letter was written in the mine's pitch black. It is hard to read, yes, but it says this: "Tell all I see them on the other side. I love you. It wasn't bad. Just went to sleep." It's signed "J.R." The letter was released to the Associated Press by the family of Martin Toler Jr. today. They said they received it from the coroner. We haven't been able to independently verify that.

This is a picture of Martin Toler Jr., the picture taken in 2001. The child he's holding is his first grandchild. The child's name is Cole (ph). Martin Toler was the mine foreman. He was 51 years old. His son now says he was going to tell his dad to retire.

CNN's Kimberly Osias has been working this story all day. And she is here to tell us that this may not be the only message scrawled in the dark from a miner.

Kimberly joins us from Upshur County, West Virginia.

Kimberly, what do you know?

KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can tell you, Anderson, that family members tell the Associated Press that at least four miners' families actually got a note.

Now, others did not. I actually have been speaking with the family of Jerry Groves. I have been speaking with his sister Becky Rogers (ph). She actually broke down, Anderson, in a flood of tears. Obviously, this is very, very bittersweet news.

You know, on the one hand, some of these families really have a tangible reminder, a remembrance of their loved one, something to cling on to. And others do not. But she said to me, she said, you know, Kimberly, I feel very confident that, while these people actually had enough time to scratch out and make a note, I feel confident that Jerry would have taken the time to pray.

Remember, Anderson, you have been here. You have walked these mines. You know this is a very religious community. And she feels positive that he is in a better place.

COOPER: Randy Kaye is also joining us. She has been talking to family members as well.

And I also just want to put up on the screen right now that letter again. Just take a closer look at it. We're also joined on the phone by CNN's doctor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

First of all, Randi, I mean, this letter, it is chilling to -- it is scrawled out. We don't know the conditions under which it was written.

First of all, we have here -- it's says: "Tell all I see them on the other side." And then it's signed "J.R." That is Martin Toler Jr.

Then it says over here: "It wasn't that bad." And then, over here, "I just went to sleep." And, of course, at the bottom, it says, "I love you."

Randi, what has today been like down at the mines?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it just breaks your heart. It's really not getting any easier for these families.

I spoke with the family of the -- the Cohen (ph) family. That would be Aaron (ph) and Peggy Cohen (ph). Peggy's (ph) father, Fred Ware Jr., died in that mine. And it has been so difficult for them.

Today, they were making funeral arrangements. They were meeting with the funeral director, and just trying to figure out how to go on with their lives.

But I did just speak to them a moment ago about this letter that has been found in the mine. And they were told, actually, they tell me tonight, that the medical examiner told them that there had been a few letters found in the mine, and that, unfortunately, sadly, one of them did not belong to their family.

They said that it does give them peace of mind to know that the Toler family has -- has a step -- one step, certainly, toward healing. They know that the Toler family has peace. They know that -- they hope, at least, that the miners did not suffer. Knowing that they went to sleep was certainly helpful.

Peggy (ph) says that it does bring her peace of mind, although I did ask her, Anderson, if it is frustrating to know that at least one of the miners was strong enough and in good enough condition to actually write a note, to scrawl that note. And she told me that she believes that they did the best they could in the rescue efforts. But it does raise the question of whether or not there could have been a different outcome to this. She says, though, she doesn't know at what point Martin Toler wrote that letter or how many had already died.

And one other final note, Anderson. She's hoping that, tomorrow, when she gets the lunch box back that belonged to her father, Fred Ware Jr., she's hoping and praying to find a note inside his lunch box.

COOPER: Randi, have autopsies begun on -- on the miners?

KAYE: They -- they're -- they're in the process. I'm told that they can't even make any final funeral arrangements, because all of the miners actually have to be autopsied.

But, in speaking with the Cohen (ph) family today, they did tell me that the process is under way, at least for her father.

COOPER: And, Kimberly Osias, do we know -- and, as we look at this letter, do we know if this letter was found on -- on the body of Martin Toler Jr.? Was it found back in the mine? Was it found at the time the miners were brought out? Do we know any of that information? And, again, all this information that we have is coming directly from -- from the families who have told it to the Associated Press.

OSIAS: Well, Anderson, I have not been able to confirm that letter in particular. You know, obviously, this is very, very sensitive information. What my sources and my family connections are telling me is that they -- they're dealing with that grisly process of identifying the bodies. You know, that is just so incredibly painful, so sensitive, so personal.

COOPER: OK. But I -- but I just want to be very clear.

OSIAS: And they don't want to...

COOPER: Right.

I just want to be very clear. We do not -- do we -- we do not know the circumstances under which this letter was found; is that correct?

OSIAS: No, I certainly do not, Anderson.

COOPER: OK. It's just important to point out what we -- what we do know and what we do not know.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by.

Sanjay, I just want to show you this part of the letter. And -- and I'm highlighting it for our viewers -- where it says, "It wasn't," it looks like, "that bad." And then he writes, "I just went to sleep."

What -- what do you make of that?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it actually fits very well with What we know about carbon monoxide poisoning, carbon monoxide intoxication.

Typically, people feel a little bit tired at first. They may have some nausea, some headache. But it is -- it's usually described just the way he has described it here. It's usually not painful. He writes, it's not that bad.

And, ultimately, you do just feel overwhelmingly sleepy. And that is the precursor to coma, and, then, subsequently, the precursor to death as well. That -- that is exactly what happens in carbon monoxide poisoning. And, you know, Anderson, you and I talked about this. But it's not a -- it's not a painful way to die. And, oftentimes, people look and feel as if they have just gone to sleep.

COOPER: And is there any way to know -- I mean, with carbon monoxide poisoning, what does it -- it -- it feel like? What is the time process on that? I mean, early in the morning, we had heard -- two days ago, we had heard that the levels of carbon monoxide were three times the -- the lethal dosage for someone in 15 -- to -- to let -- someone could only last 15 minutes. It was three times that amount.

GUPTA: Yes, there's a couple of considerations. The amount of carbon monoxide in the air is certainly an important one, but also how many -- how much oxygen is also in the air, meaning how many people are breathing in the available oxygen, and, then, also, how much you're exerting yourself. If you're someone who is exerting yourself a lot and, subsequently, breathing heavily, you're more likely to take in more carbon monoxide.

An important point, Anderson, as you know, they had built this barricade. I'm not sure how much physical exertion was required to do that sort of thing. But all those factors expedite, if you will, how much carbon monoxide you're taking into your system.

So, the 400 parts per million, the number that everyone keeps hearing about that -- that -- that's a very high concentration of carbon monoxide. But it's compounded by the fact that they were probably exerting themselves. It was compounded by the fact that the available oxygen was going down, just because everyone was breathing. And, so, you know, it's -- it's a little bit hard to say.

But, you know, within a couple hours, usually, of -- of significant carbon monoxide poisoning do you sort of go through these phases of -- of being tired and, subsequently, progressing to coma, and, subsequently, death.

COOPER: Well, the Associated Press is reporting that this letter was given by the coroner by Martin's brother.

And -- again, this -- this information all coming to us late in the day. But it is the first letter that we have seen, and a chilling letter, it is.

Sanjay, thanks for joining us, and Kimberly and -- and Randi as well from the mines.

We are going to more on the miners who did not survive and the one miner who did, although, at this hour, doctors are fighting to keep him alive.

For the families of the men, for everyone in the close-knit community in West Virginia, the wave of anger and grief, it continues to grow; it continues to evolve. They want answers. And, frankly, so do we.


COOPER (voice-over): Perhaps the most pressing question about the Sago Mine blast is, how did it happen? What caused the catastrophe that killed 12 miners and left another in critical condition?

Initial reports said it may have been caused by a bolt of lightning, but mine operators quickly call that speculation.

BEN HATFIELD, PRESIDENT & CEO, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: We do not know what happened. And I think it would be a disservice to the investigation to try to speculate on what may have happened. COOPER: Both the state of West Virginia and the federal government have promised to find the answer. But the questions that arose after the disaster may be even more disturbing.

Did rescue crews really have to wait almost 12 hours before entering the mine to search for the trapped men? More than 15 crews from around the country converged on the site. Mine officials cited concerns over gas levels and kept them from going in. And that left the men battling for every breath some 260 feet below the ground, which leads to yet another question.

GENE KITTS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: With respect to the drill rig, we have not made as much progress as we hoped.

COOPER: Manpower may have been delayed, but why couldn't technology take over? The same type of drill that aided in the miracle at Quecreek mine was there at Sago, but because of so-called survey problems, drilling didn't start for more than 16 hours after the explosion.

And the high-tech robot sent in to search for the men ended up uselessly stuck in the mud.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I mean, my gosh, 12 miners just lost their lives. You know, tell me, would you go in there?

COOPER: That question asked in anger by a woman whose loved one was lost in the mine may be a legitimate one.

In 2005, the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued more than 208 violations against the Sago Mine. So, why was the mine still open?

(on camera): They are ringing the bells of the church.

(voice-over): The most poignant questions, though, came to light in the last three hours of this terrible tragedy. What was the message relayed by rescuers from the mine to the command center that led officials there to believe 12 miners were found alive?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God. Oh, my God.

COOPER: Who helped spread the misinformation by making calls from the command center to the families waiting anxiously at the church? And why did it take mine operators and state officials three hours to tell the families their celebrations were for naught; their loved ones were dead?

Miscommunication just doesn't seem to be enough of an answer.


COOPER: A short time ago, I spoke with West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin. I asked him -- I started off by asking him what -- what he did exactly when the families were first misinformed. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: After I was at the church, as you know, when sitting there with the family, and I had one of my officers with me that have -- had a two-way radio.

And I hear this extreme amount of noise coming from the chapel, which was connected. I just -- and I asked Jim (ph), one of my policemen. I said, Jim (ph), have we had any news on the radio? Is there any new news? I wonder what's going on.

I thought maybe somebody came down and briefed, and we didn't know about it. And they said, no. We have nothing, Governor.

So, I said, we better find out what is going on, walked in there. And they're yelling and cheering that 12 are alive; 12 are alive. And I'm thinking, oh, my goodness, the miracle of all miracles has happened.

I looked at Jim (ph) again and I said, Jim (ph), do we have any confirmation? Has anyone called us? He said, no. And I'm thinking in my mind, we have got to get up there and find out.

And -- but I said, it might be of such enormous proportion, this news, that it didn't go through the normal channel, or it was nothing on our radios. So, I'm in -- caught up in euphoria. We are hugging. We are kissing. I have been with these people for two days, been living with them, and knew them.

And I -- I just felt part of their families. And we go outside, and I'm still -- and I'm just elated, the same as they are. And I said, come on, Jimmy (ph). Let's drive up on the hill.

I get up there. And, lo and behold, they're in ecstatic state also. So, this is -- must be what they heard or thought they heard. And they were celebrating. I'm thinking, well, my goodness, it must be true.

They asked me. They said, Governor, do you want to go down to meet the miners when they come? And I says, absolutely. So, I am going to get my mining clothes on and go down there, and greet them, and tell them that we are going to take care of them, get the health care they might need.

No one really knew what condition. Nobody knew anything. About 45 -- I'm thinking, Anderson -- I can't recount, because time just was going...



MANCHIN: I know I have heard any account from 20 minutes to 30 minutes.

But I think, as people go back and start putting -- piecing it together, it was in the 45-minute arena, in that area. Someone had said, Governor -- because I'm wondering, it's time to go down. And they said, we have some changes here. And it's -- it's just horrible. But the information is not correct that was given.

And I said, well, what is the correct? Do we have one, two, three, four? What -- how many? What is it?

We just don't know for sure, is what I was told. And I said, we have got to get -- we have got to be for sure on this. So, I said find out. Let me know.

COOPER: The mine officials are now saying that was approximately around 12:30 a.m., which is about 45 minutes or so after the families...

MANCHIN: Yes. Whenever -- yes. And I'm not, because I -- I really wasn't keeping time. I was just ready to go. And...

COOPER: And when was the -- so, what happened after that?

MANCHIN: Well, after that, what happened is, they said, hold here. They said, let's wait. We're not sure of this and that. We -- we have horrible news. It's not correct. It's not factual, boom, boom, boom. We think there might only be one alive and we might have 12 -- 12 deceased. I says, oh, my goodness. How could this happen?

Well, how would that -- well, no one -- and, you know -- and, Anderson, I'm not here to put blame on anybody. And I don't think it should, because, for two days, I watched people that sacrificed their own safety. They did everything they could and would have given their own life to save somebody else's.


MANCHIN: How that got misinterpreted or miscommunicated, I can't say.

COOPER: After that 12:30 time, where you considered going down to the church, I know the -- the president of the mine, of ICG, now has said he wished, you know, if he could do it over again, he would have gone down to the church and sort of dampened down the enthusiasm and just informed them that, you know what? We're now getting contradictory information.

Was there ever a discussion with you or -- or, that you know of, of mine officials doing that?

MANCHIN: I think it -- it would have ran across everybody's mind, absolutely. And hindsight being 20/20, anybody and everybody should have done something differently to let them know, this is -- this is different.

But, you know, you had certain people in control, certain people that were giving the information. How this was working, I just wanted to make sure -- because I had been through this in 1968 with my uncle, my family, and what we went through, and the agony. And I said, if we can just give families information, Anderson, that's all I wanted. I said, let them know what's going on the best that you can. And I will say this. The mine -- the management from the mine, they were doing that, going down. And then I was keep -- kept abreast. And I would go down afterwards. And I would spend time just, try to put more of the human touch to it.

Everyone was trying to be so actual and so factual, because this had been such an over -- and they said -- and it was like, well, we will have something. Let's -- let's -- let's make sure that we have the actual account.

And the miners are working back. They're changing shifts. They're going in there, new backpacks. They're going in now with stethoscopes and with all the different equipment to find out. This is what we're told, and we will have something.

And, pretty soon, the only thing I can tell you, the time got away, I'm sure, because they wanted to wait and be sure. Now, hindsight, sure, everybody -- I should have. We all should have. I can't blame anybody, but I can tell you, there was nothing done intentionally.


COOPER: Still a lot of questions unanswered.

We are going to have more of the miners shortly, including an inside look at a hyperbaric chamber similar to the one where the lone survivor is getting treatment.

First here, though, here's a look at some of the other stories that we're covering at this moment.

Right now, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is on life support, in stable condition, after suffering a severe stroke and hemorrhaging in the brain. Doctors are keeping him in a medically induced coma. A source with ties in the Israeli government tells CNN the view is that Sharon probably won't be able to resume his role as prime minister -- more on this shortly with Wolf Blitzer.

President Bush may be fine-tuning his strategy in Iraq, with the help of more than a dozen former secretaries of state and defense, including some Democrats who have criticized the war. They met today at the White House for a detailed briefing and discussion. The president says he appreciated the suggestions, even from those who don't support him.

The meeting comes during a heavily violent day in Iraq. A string of insurgent attacks kill more than 130 people, including five U.S. soldiers. It is the deadliest day in nearly four months.

And Virginia Governor Mark Warner has ordered the retesting of DNA evidence to determine whether a man executed in 1992 was innocent. His name was Roger Keith Coleman. He was convicted of raping his sister-in-law, but he claimed he didn't do it, even until his death. If he is found not guilty, it would be the first time in the U.S. that scientific testing clears a person after his execution.

Well, it is called a hyperbaric chamber. And it may be the best shot at saving a miner's life. Ahead on 360, we will show you exactly how the specialized oxygen treatment works by taking you inside a hyperbaric chamber, similar to the one that is going to be used to treat the lone survivor of the Sago Mine tragedy.

Plus, why you should be concerned about the health of this man. We will look at what Ariel Sharon's illness means to the U.S. and the Mideast peace process -- when 360 continues.


COOPER: Randy McCloy Jr. beat tremendous odds by surviving the catastrophe at the Sago Mine. He is not out of danger, not by a long shot, just yet. His doctors say the 26-year-old father of two has suffered brain damage. He remains in a coma and, today, was moved to a different hospital in Pittsburgh for oxygen treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.

You might -- you might be asking, what is a hyperbaric chamber, exactly? And what is it used for?

Dan Simon is standing by in California at Long Beach Memorial Hospital for that -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, we're truly privileged to be here at the Long Beach Memorial Center, which is one of the most respected facilities in the country when it comes to hyperbaric medicine.

As you can see, we have the chamber here. We also have a mannequin here on the gurney. And we are going to illustrate how this process works. And we are also going to be speaking to a doctor. And we are going to ask the doctor the very important question that, in a situation where a patient might have brain damage, does the treatment have the ability to reverse the brain damage? In other words, can it cure the patient? We will have that in just a few minutes, Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Dan, thanks very much.

Now we go to the Middle East. With so many young American men and women risking their lives there every day, the last thing that parents, families and friends want to hear is the possibility of even more instability in the region. That possibility is very real tonight.

Right now, in a Jerusalem hospital, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is in a medically induced coma, fighting for his life after a massive stroke yesterday. And there's a good chance he may never be able to return to his job.

It is stunning news that could crush ambitious peace plans for this year. CNN's Wolf Blitzer joins me now from Jerusalem with the latest on this developing story.

Wolf, in Israel, the impact of Sharon's health is -- is enormous. What are the implications for U.S. -- for -- for Americans here?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The implications are significant, given the fact that there had been some movement, Anderson, as you know, over the past several months in advancing the Israeli- Palestinian peace process.

Under Sharon, the Israelis finally pulled out of Gaza, uprooting about 8,000 or 9,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza, a very serious, a very controversial decision that Sharon managed to push forward, without too many problems.

And there was a -- there was hope among the Palestinians, among U.S. officials, European leaders and others, that the Israelis now would begin taking similar steps in parts of the West Bank.

With the Israeli election scheduled for the end of March, March 28, and with Sharon certainly, almost -- clearly, unlikely to reemerge and get back involved in politics, the political environment here in Israel is up in the air. And no one knows what is going to happen over the next few weeks, leading up to the elections.

Those elections will take place at the end of March, but it's a free-for-all right now among a lot of political factions in Israel, from left to right, with enormous implications for the people of Israel, the Palestinians, as well as everyone who watches this part of the world very closely, especially the United States.

COOPER: Well, yes. Talking about the U.S., he's one of President Bush's closest working partners in the Middle East.

How -- how is it going to affect not only the U.S.-backed peace plan for the region, but, I mean, how are the Palestinians reacting to this?

BLITZER: The leadership of the Palestinian community, the elected leadership, President Mahmoud Abbas and others, they have called the acting Israel prime minister, Ehud Olmert, to express best wishes for a recovery. They're very, very worried, because, as you know there's a lot of Palestinian militants, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, and others who certainly are -- are gleeful right now that Sharon is as gravely ill as he is.

The Palestinian community pretty much split. They have their own elections scheduled for January. And they were hoping to be able to emerge with a leader like Sharon, who -- who does have a hard-line background, but might be able to deliver some tangible concessions, as he did in Gaza.

That's pretty much up in the air right now. So, there's a lot of unanswered questions with enormous ramifications, lots of people very worried right now. COOPER: All right, Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem -- thanks, Wolf.

At another hospital in Pittsburgh, the sole survivor of the Sago Mine disaster is undergoing oxygen treatment in a hyperbaric chamber, like the one that CNN's Dan Simon found in Long Beach, California. Coming up, he will take us back us inside the device doctors are hoping will save Randy McCloy Jr.

Plus, Owen and Jesse Jones went into the Sago Mine together on Monday. But only one of the brothers walked out -- coming up, how one tried to save the other and why he couldn't.

Stay with 360.


COOPER: Well, as we said, the sole survivor of the Sago Mine disaster, Randy McCloy Jr., remains in a coma. That is him there in happier times. His doctors believe he has suffered brain damage. He has been moved to a hospital in Pittsburgh, where he will receive oxygen treatment in a hyperbaric chamber, a chamber much like the one that CNN's Dan Simon found in California at Long Beach Memorial Hospital.

Dan, how does it work?

SIMON: Well, thanks very much, Anderson.

As you can see, we have the mannequin on the gurney. We are going to go ahead and put this gurney in. And it's basically a fairly simple apparatus.

And with us to explain it all is Dr. Michael Strauss (ph), who is one of the most renowned physicians in his field when it comes to hyperbaric medicine.

Now, let's define our terms here, first of all. What is hyperbaric treatment?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a form of inhalation therapy, breathing pure oxygen.

And the oxygen is breathed at greater than one atmosphere of pressure. Now, how do we achieve greater than one atmosphere of pressure? We have to place the patient in a chamber and then pressurize the chamber.

SIMON: And, typically, a patient will be in this chamber for about 90 minutes. And you're basically flooding that patient with pure oxygen. And you're trying to get rid of all that carbon monoxide that might be in the patient's system, correct?


And this has to go through the lungs. And with each breath, 10 times as much oxygen gets into the tissue fluids and the body tissues as they would if they were breathing air on the surface.

SIMON: Now, in a situation such as Randal McCloy, we're being told that he might have some form of brain damage. When a patient has brain damage and you put him in a hyperbaric chamber, does the chamber, does the treatment have the ability to reverse that damage?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In some situation, it does.

Certainly, if there's any question that hyperbaric can be a benefit, we, and me -- and I personally, very much recommend trial of hyperbaric oxygen treatments.

SIMON: And, ideally, you want to put the patient in here as quickly as possible after the exposure. If it's been some time, the treatment might not work as well, correct?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. That is a concern.



SIMON: So, our mannequin is in here. And what type of sensations might a person experience when they're in the chamber?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the chamber is pressurized, there is the feeling of pressure on the ears, very much like descending in an airplane, as the plane is coming down. And patients have to clear their ears by swallowing or yawning.

SIMON: And -- and, typically, in most situations, a patient would be in here three times in 24 hours.

But you have seen some research, and -- and you yourself typically, in some situations, you will actually have the patient in here for an extended period of time?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. We might go on with treatments beyond the standard protocols of three treatments in 24 hours. But that is a decision collaborative with the other attending physicians such as neurologist and critical care physician. And if all agree there might be benefit in continuing treatment, we'll continue it for a week or two weeks. In one situation we went even as long as a month of treatments.

SIMON: A month's worth of treatment?


SIMON: Well, doctor, thanks very much for your time.

Anderson, some real fascinating equipment. Again, when you're in here your only breathing 100 percent pure oxygen and when you're out here in the elements, you're only breathing 20 percent. So some real life saving equipment and hopefully it will help Randal McCloy Jr.

COOPER: Let's certainly hope so. Thanks very much, Dan. Appreciate it.

The last words of one of the miners coming up. More on the handwritten letter from Martin Toler, Jr., who wanted to give his family comfort in his dying moments.

Plus, two brothers went into the Sago mine. Only one survived. Tonight, how one brother tried to get the other out. Across America and around the world, you're watching 360.


COOPER: Coming up, gripping accounts from miners whose escaped the Sago mine disaster and a miner's farewell letter leads the other stories leading we're following us at this moment.

"Tell all I'll see them on the other side. It wasn't bad, I just went to sleep." That note written by the dying hand of miner Martin Toler. It was released by his family earlier today. The miner signed off with "I love you."

U.S. military officials have acknowledged that a bomb dropped by a U.S. fighter plane missed its target and hit an Iraqi home Monday, killing six families members. The father and a daughter survived. U.S. military says the strike did have, quote, "successful effects against insurgents."

To Kashmir, now, a winter storm has brought more misery to the earthquake-stricken region. Last October's quake left 3.5 million people homeless and makeshift tents have collapsed under winter snows. The Pakistan government, which controls the area, is under criticism for poor emergency response.

Admitting he was, quote, "guilty, your honor." Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff today agreed to his second set of guilty pleas in as many days. He acknowledged falsifying documents to obtain a stake in a casino. He faces more than seven years behind bars, possibly less if he fully cooperates with investigators.

In any accident, surviving often comes down to being in the right place at the right time, a simple fluke can save a life or end one. Owen and Jesse Jones went into the Sago mine together on Monday, but only one of the brothers walked out.

CNN's Brian Todd has their story.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Owen Jones looks out over these hills and thinks about what he lost and what he could have lost. Jones was deep inside the Sago mine early Monday morning, not far behind his older brother Jesse.

OWEN JONES, MINER WHO LOST BROTHER IN ACCIDENT: There was no warning, an incredible amount of air (ph), more than you can possibly imagine, and dust. And you could not see -- I got up on the main tripper, tried to get off it, out of it somewhere, somehow, and it blew me off of it.

TODD: In the darkened chaos, Jones said he collected himself and was able to walk out of the mine with the rest of his crew. They all knew with carbon monoxide swirling around how dangerous it was inside.

JONES: They begged me to go but I said I have got a brother in here. I'm going to see -- I got to stay. I am going to see if there's anything I can do.

TODD: Jones says he and some others pushed back in slowly but the air was too poisonous to breathe and he couldn't get close enough to save Jesse.

Forgive me for a asking this. Do you feel any sense of guilt you got out and your brother didn't?

JONES: You always feel that. It's going over my mind like a tape recorder, saying, over and over, we could have tried this, I could have done that. Yes. It hurts you.

TODD: Jones says he's worked these mines for 16 years, his two older brothers even longer. He does not believe Jesse died instantly.

What do you think he was doing in his last moments?

JONES: Probably thinking of his family. His daughter, and all. He's a good dad. He loved his little girl very much.

TODD: Owen Jones does not blame the mine company for the accident and says it responded as well as it could. He doesn't know whether he'll work as a miner again but says he'll never go back to the mine where his brother died. Brian Todd, CNN, Tallmansville, West Virginia.


COOPER: We're going to have a lot more on this mine disaster coming up later. Also coming up, more questions for FEMA tonight after Hurricane Katrina. Dozens of states want to know where is the money? Is FEMA passing the buck on aid? And will all of us be paying for it. We're keeping them honest next on 360.

Plus President Bush gets feedback on the war on Iraq, reaching out to some of his critics? The question is, is he really taking their advice or is it just all about politics?

Stay with us.


COOPER: Could you still be footing the bill for many of Katrina's survivors? At some point Washington will likely be pulling the plug on certain benefits that have helped Katrina evacuees survive in 44 states. Here's CNN's Rick Sanchez keeping them honest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Call it a population shift, call it a wave but don't call it cheap. Because for the states taking in those pushed out by Katrina, it's anything but cheap.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need six, seven, eight months of funding at some level for from the federal government for housing, for job training, for resettlement.

SANCHEZ (on camera): And that's just in Atlanta. The number of people displaced by Katrina is still having an impact on an unprecedented 44 states. Four hundred thousand in the State of Texas, 55,000 new residents in Arkansas. And in the State of Georgia, 44,000 new residents as well.

DUBOSE PORTER, GEORGIA REP., (D): We're going to take care of the people because it's humanitarian, right thing to do and Georgia has the right heart to do that.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): How big does Georgia's heart have to be?

Porter says big enough to come up with $100 million for schooling and medical needs of its newest residents.

At the state legislature, some lawmakers say Georgians should not be fooled into thinking the federal government will pick up the entire tab.

PORTER: What is wrong is for them to falsely tell the public this is going to be paid for by someone else. There's simply not enough money to do that.

SANCHEZ: In Texas, the coast of housing, schooling and treating its newest residents is estimated at a whopping $550 million says Matt Fellowes with the Brookings Institute.

MATT FELLOWES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: That burden placed on Texas financially is unprecedented.

SANCHEZ: So what is FEMA's end of the bargain? FEMA says it's this, to reimburse the state up to five months of medical insurance per resident. And according to the department of education, up to a year in education costs per student. After that, the states are on their own. Which should be fine if all new residents find job, get absorbed into the communities and pay their share of taxes, but some experts say that's unlikely, because many of those displaced have long-term needs, such as those with disabilities and the elderly.

FELLOWES: There's no doubt, though, that the needs created by Katrina are severe and going forward, it's going to need there will need to be sizable federal investments for some years to come.

SANCHEZ: But the federal government reports it already spent $40 billion on Katrina and it's appropriated another 60 billion above that on everything, including levee repairs. That may sound like a lot of money. But experts say it's nothing more than a down payment. And if the federal government doesn't ante-up, the states eventually will. That means in years to come, none of us will get by on the cheap, when it comes to taking care of those affected by Katrina.


SANCHEZ: Anderson, I want to do a follow up for you right now since we're doing a little bit of math, we'll continue with the math scenarios. Remember a couple months ago I brought you a story how much we were paying to keep people in hotels evacuated from Katrina. I found a new number today. It's kind of good news. It was 85,000 hotel rooms, it's down now to 27. Let's do the math. That's 27,000 hotel rooms, that's $60 a night that you and I are paying for. That comes out to $1,620,000 a day. That we're still paying for that. Some pretty big numbers.

COOPER: Amazing so many are still in hotel rooms. Rick. Thanks very much. Appreciate it. Keeping them honest. Tonight, Erica with Headline News joins us with some of the other stories we're following right now. Hey, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNNHN ANCHOR: Hey, Anderson, we start out in New York with a not guilty from the so-called fake firefighter. Peter Brownstein is accused of setting an apartment on fire, posing as a firefighter and sexually molesting a woman more than 13 hours on Halloween night. He was on the run for six weeks before his arrest last month in Memphis, Tennessee.

In Jefferson, Georgia, today, a water tower rescue. A man painting that tower fell 30 feet inside the tank. He was airlifted to an Atlanta hospital where local TV reports say he suffered hip and leg injuries.

In New Orleans, anger spills over today. Residents fought with workers trying to clear debris from sidewalks in the devastated Ninth Ward, homeowners are now suing the city saying its plan to demolish more than 100 homes damaged by Katrina is illegal.

And Del Monte plus Andrew Jackson? That could equal big bucks. Somehow this $20 bill was stamped with a banana company's sticker. And, of course, it's going up for auction. When that happens on Friday, the 20 could actually fetch more than a thousand. I don't get it. Why lay out a grand for a 20? I could put a sticker on the bill.

COOPER: Well, I don't get it either. But there's some people who love that kind of thing.

HILL: More power to them.

COOPER: Exactly. Erica, thanks very much.

We're still following, of course, the Sago mine disaster. One miner wrote down his last thoughts, last wishes, "Tell them I'll see them on the other side," he said. We'll coming up and talk to a member of the man's family. A member of the Toler family.

And was it lightning? Is it possible that an act of nature is the actual cause of the Sago mine tragedy. We'll look at the science behind the theory that could have major implications for everyone touched by this disaster. Stay with us.


COOPER: He was nominated in October, now he's about to become a household name. Senate confirmation hearings begin Monday for Judge Samuel Alito, President Bush's choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. Initially Democrats were down on Alito. Two months later, they still are but for different reasons. CNN's Ed Henry previews the battle lines and strategies that lay ahead.


ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats think the NSA domestic spy controversy has given them new ammunition to stop the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito who has frequently pushed for a muscular executive branch.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NY: Does he believe in any checks in presidential power? Does he believe that warrantless wiretapping is constitutional and if so when?

HENRY: Democrats point to Alito's days in the Reagan Justice Department, especially a 1984 memo arguing the attorney general should be immune from prosecution for authorizing illegal wiretaps. Adding fuel to the fire is the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, who has warned Alito he will aggressively question him at the confirmation hearings about whether President Bush has the authority to, quote, "conduct domestic surveillance on international communications without first obtaining a search warrant."

SCHUMER: Judge Alito refuses to answer these questions. I believe it will be extremely difficult to vote for him. Indeed, I believe it could jeopardize his nomination.

HENRY: Alito supporters insist the Reagan memo has little relevance to the current spying flap and conservatives say the nominees' qualifications will trump the attacks, especially after the American Bar Association gave him its highest rating for competence and integrity.

WENDY WRIGHT, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: The portrait that is drawn of him by those who know him and his writings is a man of great intelligence, integrity, fairness, humility and justice.

HENRY (on camera): Judge Alito will face tough questions next week and will not necessarily be the slam-dunk the White House was hoping for. For now, it will be politically difficult for Democrats to sustain a filibuster so it appears Alito is in good shape. Ed Henry, CNN, Capitol Hill.


COOPER: As the president's Supreme Court choice prepares to be grilled, the president himself got tough questions today, questions that he encouraged. Mr. Bush held a rather unusual meeting this morning at the White House involving both friends and foes as part of an effort to reach out and build more support for an unpopular war in Iraq.

CNN's White House correspondent Dana Bash reports.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Around the president's table, more than a dozen secretaries of state and defense who advised his predecessors in times of war and peace, some you would not expect a president critics describe as isolated to hear from.

GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: Not everybody around this table agreed with my decision to go into Iraq and I fully understand that.

BASH: That was the point of the hour-long meeting, disarm critics by reaching out to them.

BUSH: We take to heart your advice and appreciate your experience.

BASH: On the guest list? Democrats fiercely critical of the administration's foreign policy like Johnson Pentagon chief Robert McNamara who directed the Vietnam debacle he openly regrets and some compare to Iraq, and Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who said she gave the president an idea to get more crucial help from Iraq's reluctant neighbors.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Creating a contact group of regional powers who might be helpful is something we did in the Balkans, it's not easy but worth doing.

BASH: Other suggestions range from battle plans against insurgents to still better communication from the president something veteran Republican Lawrence Eagleburger described in a colorful report.

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The thing I thought was most interesting, it is clear the president has decided -- and for all of you who don't appreciate smoking, you can jump in a lake -- I think the president clearly has decided that he's got to be more open.

BASH: Yet again a major Bush effort to reshape public opinion about Iraq was overshadowed by violent reality, the bloodiest day by far since elections last month. More than 130 people killed including five U.S. soldiers by a roadside bomb and some 80 Iraqis at a police recruitment center in Ramadi.

FRANK CARLUCCI, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Whether people agreed with the decision to go in or not, nobody really feels we ought to fail at this point, we need to keep pushing ahead.

BASH: The White House took heart at the fact even more critics at the high level meeting do not want the president to withdraw troops too soon.

(on camera): The president took notes on suggestions he liked and clearly didn't like. The open question from Madeleine Albright and others here is whether Mr. Bush will actually follow up on the advice he got and whether he'll ask for more. Dana Bash, CNN, the White House.


COOPER: We want to thank the international viewers watching and welcome you if you're just joining us. We're learning more about what happened in the Sago mine just after Monday's explosion. One of the miners wrote down his last thoughts, a farewell letter of love. We'll talk to a family member of that miner. That's next on 360, plus some of the men who got out and thought they were going to die. They tell a frightening story of thick smoke, intense heat. What saved them and why couldn't the others be saved.

Also, as arson comes into play in one of the wildfires in Oklahoma, a look back at another case of arson and an astonishing detective story. Who is behind the worst wildfire in Colorado's history?

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Good evening again. He beat terrible odds and came out of the Sago mine alive after more than 40 hours, but his struggle isn't over, not by a long shot.

ANNOUNCER: Sago's sole survival, Randy McCloy, Jr. in a coma, doctors fear brain damage. Can oxygen therapy make the difference?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. McCloy appears critically ill as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, 360 is live at his hospital for the latest.

What caused the explosion at Sago mine? Could lightning have started a chain reaction? 360 investigates.

And as if the wildfires weren't bad enough, the son of a former Oklahoma fire chief is charged with arson. 360 exams the anatomy of a fire.

From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Live from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: We have a lot to get to in this hour. Here are some of the stories we're covering at this moment. Fighting to save the sole survivor of the Sago mine tragedy. Randy McCloy, Jr. tonight was transferred today to a Pittsburgh hospital where he will receive treatment in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Doctors hope the oxygen will reverse the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

It has been one of the deadliest days in Iraq. Today insurgents killed at least 134 people including five U.S. soldiers. Many of the victims died in twin suicide bombings in Karbala.

Ariel Sharon remains in very grave condition. The Israeli prime minister is on life support after suffering a massive stroke Wednesday. A U.S. official told CNN it would be almost impossible for the 77-year-old Sharon to continue to serve as prime minister.

Well, from its beginning, the story of the Sago mine disaster was full of unknowns. One of the questions that has haunted the families of the dead miners, did their loved one's suffer? Now they appear to have the answer, or the beginnings of one.

Found in a letter scrawled by a dying miner, final words written as time was running out. The letter you are looking at was looking at the back of an insurance form the miner had in his pocket.

It says, quote, "Tell all I see them on the other side. It wasn't bad, I just went to sleep." The note was written by Martin Toler, Jr., who signed off with, "I love you." Joining me now by phone is his nephew, Randy Toler. Randy, thank you for joining us. I am so sorry for your loss and your family's loss. How are you holding up?

RANDY TOLER, NEPHEW OF DEAD MINER (oh phone): Pretty good, Anderson. Thank you for having me.

COOPER: This letter, how did you get -- and your family receive this letter?

TOLER: We received it when my father went to identify the body.

COOPER: And who gave it to your father?

TOLER: I'm not sure if it would have been the medical examiner or if it was just in his clothing when he got -- I'm just not sure.

COOPER: When you saw the letter, when you read it, I mean, I can't imagine what that was like.

TOLER: Well, it was the most precious thing that I believe I've ever seen.

It says "Tell all I will see them on the other side" -- He meant to say "I will see them" but he, of course, in his distress left the "will" out. But you understand what I'm saying.

COOPER: Yes. And I'm going to circle it here for our viewers. We have the letter up on the screen because we want to put the circle around it here. It says "Tell all I see them on the other side." And he signed it J.R. right there at the bottom.

TOLER: Yeah. And he meant to say "I will see them on the other side," meaning he will see us.

COOPER: He was a very religious man?

TOLER: Very much. His last scripture in church Sunday night was save your affections on things above, not on things on earth.


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