Coal Tattoo

Conflicting numbers continue on Massey disaster

Mine Explosion

Sorry folks for the lack of new blog posts the last few hours … I’ve been busy working with other Gazette staffers on our print and online editions trying to get together our coverage of the terrible disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia.

Federal and state mine safety officials just finished a briefing a little while ago, and frankly, the numbers are still a little confused.

Kevin Stricklin, administrator of coal for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration delivered the bad news that mine rescuers had discovered five more bodies — bringing the number of dead in this explosion to 12.

Stricklin then said, though, that they were still searching for 10 miners underground, a figure that conflicts with previous estimates.  Massey had said hours ago that there were seven deaths and 19 missing miners … so the five additional deaths cited  by Stricklin should have brought the number of missing miners down to 14– not 10.

At the same time, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis put out a release that listed different numbers:

Information coming from the site continues to shift, and we want to
make sure that family members get the most complete and accurate reports first.  As of 11:30 p.m. (EDT) the best available information is that 12 miners have died in the accident, two have been hospitalized, and 17 are still unaccounted for.

On top of that, West Virginia mine safety director Ron Wooten said at the most recent briefing that one of the two miners who was hospitalized has died.

So what gives? I asked Department of Labor spokesman Carl Fillichio that question, and he told me:

The numbers … there are still some discrepancies. We’re trying to track that down. There is a lot of confusion.

Stay tuned …