Thursday, April 27, 2006

Randall McCloy's Story

AP reports it obtained a letter from rescued Sago miner Randall McCloy to families of other victims, providing a heartbreaking first-hand account of the men's ordeal.

McCloy wrote that the trapped miners didn't even have as much oxygen as regs required because several devices didn't work properly.

"The first thing we did was activate our rescuers, as we had been trained. At least four of the rescuers did not function,' McCloy wrote. 'I shared my rescuer with Jerry Groves, while Junior Toler, Jesse Jones and Tom Anderson sought help from others. There were not enough rescuers to go around.'

...his letter suggests most of the trapped men had no more than 30 minutes of air, and they used it quickly as they tried to signal their location to people they believed were searching for them above, listening for sounds.

"...'The air was so bad that we had to abandon our escape attempt and return to the coal rib, where we hung a curtain to try to protect ourselves,' he wrote.

"We attempted to signal our location to the surface by beating on the mine bolts and plates. We found a sledgehammer, and for a long time, we took turns pounding away. We had to take off the rescuers in order to hammer as hard as we could. This effort caused us to breathe much harder. We never heard a responsive blast or shot from the surface."

In other words, they followed a strategy that saved the miners in the July 2002 Quecreek flood; but it failed them.

It's not known why MSHA didn't bring its well-known seismic system, which detects such underground pounding, into play at Sago as at Quecreek. The system has also located living victims in earthquakes.

A public hearing into the Sago tragedy starts Tuesday in Buckhannon, W.Va. MSHA and the state are running the hearings jointly. Davitt McAteer, former head of MSHA, is chairing the hearing. Two days have been allowed.


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