Sago Disaster Update (07/12/06)

The photo  is of sole Sago Mine disaster survivor Randal McCloy.

West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training has posted its June 19 interview with  McCloy   at its archive of documents regarding the disaster.  McCloy talked that date with state and federal investigators, accompanied by  his wife, Anna, and his attorney Stephen P.  Goodwin, whose  practice involves general civil litigation, toxic torts and mass litigation as chief of litigation for the Charleston, WV firm, Goodwin & Goodwin.

You put air into it, you moved it, but there was nothing going on with it. That’s what told me right there it was broken.

I fought with it for I don’t know how long, trying to mess with that valve, blow air through it, or anything I could do, but nothing would work.

After the blast, the airflow

 actually did kind of change…It kind of took everything, the air, into a circle, so it never did actually leave. So you know, it just stayed right there….We couldn’t escape the smoke…There was nowhere to go because it just lingered everywhere, you know, just everywhere you went…..Our options were next to none….I figured they’d bring that machine down and would have found us, would have drilled the hole in the right spot and would have taken us out of there….That’s what I expected. I expected to hear shots fire on the roof … and didn’t hear anything….We banged and banged and banged, everyone did….We had a discussion about that, about how long it was going to take….We thought that we were going to get rescued….And as time went on, it didn’t look good.

On June 29, 2006  the Charleston Gazette  published staff writer Ken Ward Jr.’s “Our Options were next to none: Sago mine e survivor knew proper SCSR procedures.”   Ward notes that McCloy’s effotes to blow into the Self-contained self rescue (SCSR) devices that were malfunctioning  is the recommended way to jump-start an SCSR that does not immediately activate.  

He adds that

During a May public hearing, MSHA district manager Kevin Stricklin said the agency’s seismic equipment was not needed because rescuers knew the general area where the miners were trapped.

John Urosek, an MSHA expert, testified it would have taken too long to transport and set up the seismic gear at Sago.

Under questioning from McAteer, Urosek said that the equipment has not contributed to a successful rescue in the last 30 years.

While it was used at the Quecreek rescue in 2002, the seismic equipment was not used to locate the miners, but to confirm that they were still alive once a rescue hole was drilled, according to MSHA’s report on that accident.

On June 30, 2006  , Ward reported on West Virginia Governor Joe Manchon’s special assisatant Davitt McAteer’s update to the public: “Sago blast cause might never be known: McAteer says he’s unsure if inquiry will result in ‘here’s how it happened’.”  The  final report originally scheduled for release on July 1 will be released instead on July 19, in order to include testimony by McCloy. 

McAteer had reported to the previous Governor Bob Wise in the Fall of 2001,  “On Mine Safety and Health in West Virginia and Recommendations to Make West Virginia Mines the Safest and Healthiest in the Nation”


On June 28, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit  decided in favor of  the plaintiffs in case No. 06-1129,  argued before the court on May 22.  In  UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR and UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA v. WOLF RUN MINING COMPANY, INCORPORATED.  the DOL and UMWA asked for injunction after Wolf Creek, a subsidiary of Wilbur Ross’s ICG, tried to block the UMWA from participating in the Sago mine investigation, refusing

 to permit the Union representatives to enter the mine, asserting that the Union did not have the right to be on the premises as a representative of the miners because it had not won the right to represent the miners for collective bargaining purposes and its representation of the two miners was an effort to bypass its unsuccessful efforts to unionize the mine. Wolf Run also objected to the designation of the UMWA by “anonymous” miners, i.e., miners whose names were not disclosed to Wolf Run.

The Court of Appeals ruled that

 even though the anonymous designation of miners’ representatives raises a serious legal question that has not been decided in the courts, the district court did not abuse its discretion in entering the preliminary injunction.
Accordingly, we affirm.



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