The hellish journey started last Monday and ended late Friday night without the ending that people had hoped for all week.
For the families of the miners lost in last week's explosion, Gov. Manchin's news late Friday night ended their hope of ever seeing their loved one alive. Manchin spoke to the media after he delivered the news to the families.
“They’re pulling on all the strength they have right now. The pulling as deep as they have but they’re coming together,” Manchin said. “The healing will start now as we’ve said before the journey has ended.”
But the waiting continues. Rescue teams are still working to retrieve bodies that remain in the mine, and families wait to complete funeral arrangements for their loved ones.
The bodies are located in an area of the mine with high levels of carbon monoxide. Mine safety officials are working to ventilate the region with fresh air so teams can pull the bodies out.
“The teams are working and committed and working around the clock to make sure that the miners are treated and their families know that they’ll be treated with respect and dignity,” Manchin said.
“They’ll be brought and taken to Charleston for the examiners and then returned to their loved ones.”
Rescue teams ventured into the mines three times and emerged the first time with a count of 25 miners dead. They were prevented from going back into the mine because of high levels of methane and carbon monoxide.
Hope remained alive for the four men still not found, but rescuers discovered their bodies Friday, alongside their fellow miners.
Mine Safety and Health Administrator Kevin Stricklin explained why rescuers initially did not see the four miners.
“There was so much smoke and the conditions were so dire that they apparently bypassed the three bodies on the ground prier to getting to the mantrip,” Stricklin said.
They also bypassed the fourth miner next to the long wall.
The miner’s only hope for survival would have been a refuge chamber. The shelters had enough food, water and air for 15 miners up to 96 hours.
But Stricklin announced at the last news conference that none of the miners even had a chance to use their self contained self rescuers.
Mine officials say they died instantly.
Stricklin delivered the news to families with an apology.
“I’m sorry that we didn’t have a chance to help rescue the miners,” he said.
Despite the terrible news, Sunday morning worship services in West Virginia rang out with praise.
It will go down in history as the Upper Big Branch mine disaster Monday, April fifth, an explosion in an underground coal mine killed 29 West Virginia men.