The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Montcoal Mine Disaster

April 5, 2011

Tragedy in the Coalfields

Remembering the Upper Big Branch mine disaster one year later


Day 2 - Tuesday, April 6, 2010

1:40 a.m.: Massey confirms that 25 miners are dead and four are missing.

2:30 a.m.: Rescue workers are forced to abandon their efforts after encountering heavy smoke, methane and carbon monoxide.

- Crews plan to drill shafts to vent methane and carbon monoxide from the mine and make it safe for rescuers. Bulldozers carve a road to make a way for drilling crews.

-  Gov. Joe Manchin mentions hope, but Stricklin holds out little “based on what I’m seeing and hearing from the people underground.”

- Drilling begins on two side-by-side vent shafts.

10 a.m.: President Barack Obama urges prayers for miners and their families.

Noon: Kevin Stricklin says “It’s quite evident that something went very wrong here. All explosions are preventable. It’s just making sure you have all the things in place to keep one from occurring.”

- Massey Energy was fined more than $382,000 in the past year for repeated serious violation involving its ventilation and equipment at the mine. Blankenship says the mine was not unsafe, but federal regulators plan to review its violations.

- Stricklin says he is concerned about an initial review of the more serious violations, which indicated that “the operator was aware of some of these conditions.”

- The death toll is now the highest in a U.S. mine since 1984, when 27 people died in a fire at Emery Mining Corp.’s mine in Orangeville, Utah.

Day 3 - Wednesday, April 7, 2010

4 a.m.: The first hole is drilled through to the mine site. There is no response from possible survivors after rescue workers bang on a drill pipe.

Noon: MSHA announces a team has been formed to begin a probe into the explosion.

4 p.m.: Levels of toxic gases are still too high for rescuers to re-enter the mine. Plans are made to drill an additional hole and lower a camera near a rescue chamber to try to locate the miners.

- West Virginia University coach Bob Huggins visits the waiting families, bringing homemade pasta.

- Some families begin making funeral arrangements for their loved ones.

9 p.m.:  MSHA announces that air quality has improved and rescue workers plan to re-enter the mine.

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Montcoal Mine Disaster
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    May 19, 2011

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    Relatives of the 29 men killed in the deadliest U.S. coal accident since 1970 said Thursday the findings of an independent probe confirm what they long suspected, saying Massey Energy Co. cared more about coal than workers’ safety, threatened to fire those who complained and let dangerous conditions build in an ill-fated mine.

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