Sago mine disaster survivor Randal McCloy’s letter indicating four air packs malfunctioned inside the Upshur County demands swift action on stalled coal mine safety legislation, Rep. Nick Rahall said Thursday.

In his letter, McCloy, the lone survivor of the Jan. 2 explosion that trapped 13 workers, said he and his co-workers tried to use a sledgehammer to attract the attention of a rescue team after the air devices failed.

When death appeared inevitable, he wrote in a two-page letter to families of co-workers, the men took part in a “sinner’s prayer” and waited to die.

“His account illustrates that insufficient air is available to our miners if tragedy strikes,” Rahall said soon after learning of McCloy’s account of the men’s final hours.

“Manufacturers had given guarantees that these rescuers would provide air for escape, yet these brave men were forced to share precious oxygen because that guarantee failed them.”

Rahall said the letter proves that Congress needs to get a comprehensive mine safety bill out of committee.

Only “minimal reforms” have been implemented by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and those have come begrudgingly, the 3rd District congressman said.

“It appears that Congress has to prod them in order for the agency to implement proper protections for our miners,” he said.

In contrast, the West Virginia Legislature in a single day passed a three-pronged safety measure sought by Gov. Joe Manchin during last winter’s regular session.

“It is the Congress’ moral obligation to enact mine safety legislation,” Rahall said.

“We owe it to Randal McCloy, his co-workers, those who perished in the Aracoma mine, and all their brothers and sisters in the mines. Randal McCloy’s survival is nothing short of a miracle. His heart-wrenching account of the last hours of his co-workers’ lives should spur this Congress to act on our legislation.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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