Updated: 06:12 PM EST
West Virginia Mine Blast Traps 13 Miners
Rescuers Waiting for Gas to Be Cleared Before Entering
By VICKI SMITH, AP
6:12 PM ET Update: Search-and-rescue crews have entered a West Virginia mine were 13 miners have been trapped since an early morning explosion.
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TALLMANSVILLE, W.Va. (Jan. 2) - A coal mine explosion that may have been sparked by lightning trapped 13 miners underground Monday, setting off an urgent rescue operation, authorities said.
The condition of the miners was not immediately known. Four co-workers tried to reach them but were stopped by a wall of debris, and the blast knocked out the mine's communication equipment, preventing authorities from contacting the miners.
It was not known how much air they had, how big a space they were in, or how far down they were trapped. The miners had air-purifying equipment but no oxygen tanks, a co-worker said.
"You just have to hope that the explosions weren't of the magnitude that was horrific from the beginning," Joe Manchin, governor of the nation's No. 2 coal-producing state, told CNN. He added: "There's always that hope and chance that they were able to go to part of the mine that still had safe air."
Hours after the blast, five search-and-rescue teams stood ready to go into the Sago Mine but were not allowed to enter because gases were still being vented and it was too dangerous to venture inside, authorities said.
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration sent a rescue robot to the mine, situated about 100 miles northeast of Charleston.
U.S. Mining Disasters
Explosions at a Jim Walter Resources Inc. mine in Brookwood, Ala., kill 13 people
Source: Mine Safety and
Some 200 co-workers and relatives of those trapped gathered at the Sago Baptist Church, across the road from the mine.
Anna Simpson said her husband, Randall, 27, was among those missing. She said he had worked at the mine for three years "but was looking to get out. It was too dangerous."
Coal mine explosions are typically caused by buildups of naturally occurring methane gas, and the danger increases in the winter months, when the barometric pressure can release the odorless, colorless and highly flammable gas.
Manchin spokeswoman Lara Ramsburg said the blast may have been sparked by lightning from severe thunderstorms.
But Roger Nicholson, general counsel for the mine's owner, International Coal Group, said that it was not clear what caused the blast and that there was no indication it was methane-related.
The mine has a single entrance, and the shaft winds its way for miles underground. The miners were supposed to be working about 160 feet below the surface, said the wife of one of the trapped men. But it was unclear how far into the shaft they had gone when the blast struck.
Gene Kitts, a senior vice president at ICG, said that drilling straight down to reach the miners might be possible, but that rescuers would first have to establish the workers' exact location before determining the best way to proceed.
"If the miners are barricaded, as we hope they are, they would prepare themselves for rescue by rationing," Kitts said. The miners would probably have only their lunches and water on hand.
The blast happened between 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. as the first shift of miners entered to resume production following the holiday, Ramsburg said.
"As they were heading in, the car in the back either heard or felt some type of explosion. They headed back out. The first car never made it back out," she said.
Thirteen miners were trapped, the coal company said. Four co-workers tried to reach the missing miners but "came to a wall" of debris, said Steve Milligan, deputy director of Upshur County's Office of Emergency Management.
Miners who work in the mine carry individual air purifying systems that would give them up to seven hours of clean air, said Tim McGee, who works at the mine and was among those at the church. They do not carry oxygen tanks, he said.
McGee said the miners would have been heading to a production area that is about three miles from the mine's opening.
Samantha Lewis, whose 28-year-old husband, David, was among those trapped, said he worked the mines so that he could be home every night to take care of their three daughters while she worked on a master's degree in health care administration.
"This was a good way to make a living until we could find something else," said Lewis, whose father, grandfather and stepfather also worked in the mines. "It's just a way of life. Unless you're a coal miner or you have a college degree, you don't make any money."
ICG acquired the Sago Mine (pronounced SAY-goh) last March when it bought Anker West Virginia Mining Co., which had been in bankruptcy. In 2004, the latest year for which figures are available, the Sago Mine produced about 397,000 tons of coal.
Federal inspectors cited the mine for 46 alleged violations of federal mine health and safety rules during an 11-week review that ended Dec. 22, according to records.
The more serious alleged violations, resulting in proposed penalties of at least $250 each, involved steps for safeguarding against roof falls, and the mine's plan to control methane and breathable dust. The mine received 185 citations from MSHA during 2005, up from 68 citations in 2004.
West Virginia ended 2005 with three mining deaths, the lowest since 2000.
In February 2003, three contract workers were killed by a methane explosion while drilling an air shaft at a Consol Energy coal mine near Cameron.
In September 2001, 13 coal miners were killed in a series of explosions at a mine in Broached, Ala. That was the nation's worst mining accident since 1984, when fire killed 27 coal miners near Orangeville, Utah.
In July 2002, nine coal miners were rescued after being trapped by a flood for 77 hours in a mine near Somerset, Pa.
The deadliest coal mining disaster in U.S. history was an explosion in 1907 in Monongah that killed 362 people.
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
Stephen King - Desperation
This was posted already, an arfcommers relatives.
Maybe we can find the link.........
ETA: In Team Forum....
Member has a Uncle down in the mine.
Time to call "Big John"
Seriously though.....hope things work out for them. What a fucking way to go. Will send a request to the man upstairs to watch over them.
My bad, still horrible since I remember when half my home town lost family members in a mine cave in.
How many of these mine accidents happen around Christmas/New Years. It seems like there is one about every 3-5 years.
Updated my post in the team forum.
Explosion hazards go up in the winter because of the dry air. This mine is a very wet mine though and the outside temps have been high and rainy. They think maybe lightning hit the conveyor and traveled into the mine. They don't know what fueled the explosion though.
as one whose family were pa miners my hearts go out to them,,but thats the price some pay in high risk jobs,,many out here....