Coal Tattoo

Mine disaster update: News from briefing

Mine Explosion

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, MSHA officials and Rep. Nick Rahall just finished briefing the press at the site of  the Massey Mine Disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County.

If you missed it, WSAZ-TV is Webcasting the briefings on its site. Thanks to them for doing that, so those of us who aren’t on site (several other Gazette reporters are there, but I’m working from our newsroom in Charleston) can watch.

We’ve updated our main story with a few developments from the briefing, and here’s a few other bits of news that I got out of it:

— Crews likely won’t be able to get ventilation and air monitoring boreholes drilled into the mine until sometime tomorrow evening, putting off until at least then the time when rescue teams can resume their search for the four miners who are still listed as unaccounted for.

— Gov. Manchin said that rescuers who had been inside the mine described quite a mess of wreckage from the explosion, including rail tracks that “looked like they’d been twisted like a pretzel.”

— MSHA coal administrator Kevin Stricklin said “It’s quite evident that something went very wrong here,” but that despite previous reports officials currently don’t believe the explosion began or occurred behind any sealed areas of the mine.

US Mine Explosion

— Gov. Manchin said he plans to contact longtime mine safety expert Davitt McAteer about assisting with the state’s investigation and that the state’s probe would include a public hearing like the one held on the Sago Mine disaster.

— Manchin dodged several pretty straight-forward questions about whether he believes Massey Energy has a good safety record, saying at one point, “I’m not comfortable anytime there’s an accident, no matter who it is.”

— Rep. Nick Rahall said there will absolutely be congressional hearings to investigate this disaster.

And finally, MSHA’s Stricklin had this observation:

All explosions are preventable. It’s just making sure you have things in place to keep one from occurring.