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12 Of 13 Miners Dead: Massive Miscommunication


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TALLMANSVILLE, W.Va. -- Only hours after family members were told that 12 coal miners had been found alive, officials announced this morning that in fact only one had survived Monday morning's explosion.

Jubilation had broken out when word that rescuers near the mine entrance signaled that they had found a dozen men 41 hours after the deadly explosion. But three hours later, families learned that only one person, Randal McCloy Jr., had been transported alive to the hospital.

Ben Hatfield, president of the International Coal Group, told the families gathered at the Sago Baptist Church that "there had been a lack of communication, that what we were told was wrong and that only one survived," said John Groves, whose brother Jerry Groves was one of the trapped miners.

At that point, chaos broke out in the church and a fight started.

Hatfield said the erroneous information spread rapidly when people overheard cell phone calls between rescuers and the rescue command center. In reality, rescuers had confirmed finding 12 miners and were checking their vital signs, he said.

"The initial report from the rescue team to the command center indicated multiple survivors," Hatfield said during a news conference. "That information spread like wildfire, because it had come from the command center. It quickly got out of control."

Hatfield said the company waited to correct the information until it knew more about the rescue.

But that did little to comfort relatives this morning.

Earl Casto, whose cousin was one of the dead miners recalled his roller-coaster rise and fall of emotions. He was inside the church last night and heard the good news of the rescue.

"That was overwhelming," he said. He then left and went home, thinking that only one miner had died, as had been reported earlier.

"We thought 12 was alive. When we went home I turned the television on there it was," he said of learning of the deaths. "It just flattened me."

McCloy, 27, the only one to survive, was among the youngest of the group of trapped miners.

"Youth always has its advantages," Dr. Lawrence Roberts said at a televised briefing today at West Virginia University's Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown.

Roberts said McCloy appeared to have a collapsed lung and was very dehydrated but his brain showed signs of functioning.

McCloy, of Simpson, W. Va., was transferred to Ruby from another hospital after he was rescued.

Just before midnight, the roar of jubilant shouts from rescue crews near the mine entrance signaled that searchers proceeding cautiously 260 feet below ground had found all the remaining miners.

"They're alive! They're alive!" family members whooped. Ignoring a pelting rain, they dashed toward Sago Baptist Church, where families had congregated for 41 agonizing hours since the miners were trapped.

While the church bell pealed, relatives hugged and shook their heads in amazement. Lisa Ferris, a resident whose uncle was one of those originally said to be alive, raced to the church door in her bare feet. Sirens wailed as five Upshur County ambulances converged on the mine site.

Eddie Hamner, waiting grimly near the church for news about his missing cousin, Junior Hamner, bolted upright when the bell sounded. "I was just standing here when the bell started ringing and you knew something good was happening," Hamner said. "You just have to have faith in God — and in the rescue."

Today, there were few cars in the muddy parking lot outside the church, where families had gathered in frantic activity.

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My teacher in Anatomy class was telling us about this today. She said that the Coal mine had deadly amounts of Carbon Monoxide, but the miners were told by an inspector that it was ok to go inside.

A strange thing about it was the guy who survived was tested for carbon monoxide poisoning, and there was NO trace of it in his body.

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This is just a harsh harsh excuse for why we as people shouldn't get our hopes up in the face or tragedy and despair such as this because you never know what can happen in life. I feel soo sorry for all the families that got this horrible news.

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