MSHA officials say explosions preventable and agency will conduct full investigation
April 6, 2010 ·
Crews were still working to dig boreholes into the mine Tuesday afternoon after an explosion in Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine killed 25 people Monday. There are still four miners unaccounted for. Officials aren’t ready to start looking into the cause of the explosion, but Gov. Joe Manchin has committed to having a public hearing.
At a mid-day press briefing at Marsh Fork Elementary School, the Governor said reports from inside the mine were “horrific.”
"For instance, rails that cars, buggies and heavy equipment, train rails look like they’ve been twisted like a pretzel. That’s horrific. That’s an explosion just beyond proportion," Manchin said.
Manchin says he’ll have a public hearing about the explosion, and Congressman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is asking for a congressional hearing as well.
Federal and state inspectors aren’t ready to start exploring the causes of the explosion, but Kevin Stricklin of MSHA says it’s clear that something went horribly wrong in the Upper Big Branch mine Monday afternoon.
"All explosions are preventable. It’s just making sure you have things in place to keep one from occurring. It’s quite evident that something went very wrong here for us to have the magnitude of this explosion. So it’s apparent that something was wrong and I would just a sk you to give us an opportunity to conduct a full investigation and we’ll leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom and tell you exactly what was not going right here when this explosion did occur," said Sticklin.
Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship told the Associated Press this afternoon that the first sign of trouble in the mine yesterday was a carbon monoxide alarm. Miners were checking on the alarm when they discovered the explosion.
Gov. Manchin dodged questions about whether he was comfortable with Massey’s safety record in the state, and downplayed the mine’s numerous violations.
"You’re never comfortable when you have this. The people that work with this everyday I think can give you a better explanation of how they work with it, how they inspect, what they look for. I can tell you this: I have said if something is to where a person’s health is jeopardized and their safety, stop it. Shut it down. They know how I feel," Manchin said.
There are still three rescue chambers that haven’t been checked in the section of the mine where the missing men are believed to be. Manchin says there’s a chance the men can still be saved.
"You know, as horrific as this explosion was, and I had explained to them that I don’t want to give anybody any false hope, but by golly if I’m on that side of the table and that’s my father or my brother or my uncle or my cousin, I’m going to have hope, and I think you’ll still see people clinging on to hope. It’s a very, very difficult situation," said Manchin.
Crews are now working to drill boreholes into the mine; officials estimated the first one won’t be done until Wednesday afternoon.