This version of the story on the West Virginia miners was published in the newspaper's final edition, when reports on the scene suggested that 12 miners had been found alive. A link to the updated version of the story is available here: 12 Found Dead in W.Va. Coal Mine
12 Found Alive in W.Va. Coal Mine
Wednesday, January 4, 2006
SAGO, W.Va., Jan. 3 -- A dozen miners trapped 12,000 feet into a mountainside since early Monday were found alive Tuesday night just hours after rescuers found the body of a 13th man, who died in an explosion in an adjacent coal mine that was sealed off in early December.
The bells at the Sago Baptist Church pealed, and joyous relatives rushed outside to celebrate their miracle: miners surfacing after being in the cold, damp Sago Mine for 41 hours. Gov. Joe Manchin III said some would need medical attention.
"Everybody ran from the church screaming, 'They're alive! They're coming!' " said Loretta Ables, whose fianc, Fred Ware, was among the missing miners. She had lost hope when she learned about the dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide in the mine, but she was elated as she waited outside the church. "I feel great, very great."
The miners had apparently done what they had been taught to do: barricaded themselves in a pocket with breathable air and awaited rescue.
On Monday morning, a cart that takes miners deep into the mine had dropped the 13th miner off at his work station. It was 11,200 feet down the air intake channel, at the intersection of the sealed-off mine, where authorities think the blast occurred. Only 700 feet farther, the miners stopped the cart and walked off to begin work. They took their lunch buckets and gear. Their cart, undamaged by the blast, was still on the track.
Earlier Tuesday night, Manchin had held out hope for the 12, saying they "did not get the force of this blast."
"Our hopes are still high," the governor said. He said miracles happen in his state.
Bennett K. Hatfield, president of International Coal Group Inc., said: "We are clearly in a situation where we need a miracle, but miracles happen."
Federal regulators have cited the mine, in north-central West Virginia, more than 270 times in the past two years for safety violations, a third of them considered "significant and substantial," according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The problems included mine roofs that collapsed without warning, faulty tunnel supports and dangerous buildups of flammable coal dust. Recent violations included inadequate ventilation to dissipate dangerous gases.
Early Tuesday, rescuers drilled a 6 1/4 -inch hole 260 feet into an area near where the miners were thought to be. They measured carbon monoxide of 1,300 parts per million -- more than three times the level a person can safely breathe for 15 minutes.
After pounding on a pipe for 10 minutes, a common method for miners to communicate, rescuers lowered a microphone into the hole and picked up no response. A camera lowered into the hole showed no signs of wide-scale destruction such as a roof collapse from the explosion, making officials optimistic that rescuers would not have to dig through much debris.
Word of the deadly levels of gas in the mine left family members distraught. Some broke down sobbing, and others grew quietly somber.