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April 6th, 2010
06:18 AM ET

25 killed in West Virginia mine blast

Montcoal, West Virginia (CNN) - The death toll from the massive explosion at a sprawling coal mine in West Virginia rose to 25 early Tuesday, making it the deadliest U.S. mining disaster in 25 years.

Crews halted their efforts to reach four miners still unaccounted for at the Upper Big Branch Mine following the blast Monday afternoon.

Concentrations of methane and carbon monoxide inside the mine made it a safety risk for crews to proceed, said Kevin Stricklin of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration at a 2 a.m. briefing to reporters.

Officials planned to drill bore holes from the surface 1,200 feet into the mines to help ventilate it and to collect samples. However, they will first have to use bulldozers to clear a path to reach the part of the mine where they can drill.

Stricklin said he did not know how long the process would take.

"I think it's a dire situation but I do think that it is a rescue operation and it will be that way until we confirm that these four additional people are not living," he said. "I mean, there are miracles that go on."

"Basically all we have left," Stricklin said, "is hope."

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Filed under: Top Stories • U.S.
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Floyd Ostruh

    The Taft Hartley Act is responsible for the death of the 25 in West Virgina!!!

    April 8, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  2. Floyd Ostruh

    All the males in my family were coal miners in South Western Penna. About the coal mining disaster in West Virginia. you can blame the Taft Hartley law responsible for the death of these miners. It broke the United Mine Workers union and took bargaining rights away and any kind of leverage against the owners. The right to work laws were passed. President Clinton tried to appeal the right to work laws. He failed . Those that think Unions are not important are doomed for this to happen again!!!

    April 8, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  3. Paul

    would either John or Kiran comment anf congratulate what a fine job Gov.Manchin of West Virginia is doing...he's amazing.

    April 8, 2010 at 9:00 am |
  4. Warren

    Regarding the suits against the Health Care Health care reform bill. I see we have five more states joining the ranks to keep America weak and unhealthy.

    April 8, 2010 at 8:25 am |
  5. jessica

    its not a terroist attack lisa. more than likely i would say it was caused from methane. thats how it happens tho; fast and very unexpected. and when someting explodes in the mines there is a very good chance that once a miner takes thier 1st breath after the explosion they will die immeadietly from inhaling the air. my boyfriend is a coal miner and was explaining it to me. we live about 20 minutes away from where this explosion was. i pray for the 4 still missing and thier families. also the injured ones; hope they make a quick recovery. sorry to anyone who lost someone in this tragedy. i think the government needs to be more focused on the safety and reinforcing the laws given for coal mines. to 'dammaged'- i agree with you that mines should be closed until any safey issues are rosolved however there will always be problems no matter what just like any job. and are you aware that if there were no coal mines then the whole state of wv would be a ghost town? practically everyone here relys on the mines. the only other way of makng money around here is stripping basically. everything is based on the mines. oh jerry; your an ass. screw you. i am very thankful that my boyfriend nor any of my many friends that work in the mines were there at the time. its a very dangerous job and everyday when my boyfriend goes to work, or if he is late- it crosses my mind he might not be coming home. i am only 20 but i am very opionated about the mines. sry for writing a book lol

    April 6, 2010 at 9:38 am |
  6. Joannie

    Don Blankenship and Massey Energy have used the miners of West Virginia to make their big profits It seems this man and his company do not care about their workers, only their profits. Blankenship has gone as far as financing the campaign of a Supreme Court judge, who was the deciding vote, to overturn a major decision against ME. This case went to the US Supreme Court because the judge did not recuse himself from the case. If you are a politician in WV and cross him, he will funnel tons of money to your opponet's campaign to unseat you. I hope this horrible tragedy will shed the light of day on this problem. These proud, hard working miners and their families are a special breed and deserve better! They are in all our thoughts and prayers on this tragic day.

    April 6, 2010 at 9:22 am |
  7. Iva F

    Everyone is asking the question this morning about how Massey Coal could get by with all the safety violations and not fix any. Well, the key to this mess is 'NON-UNION"!! I am a West Virginian and my family has been Union members all my life. People who do not directly deal with this subject have NO idea how important it is to belong to a UNION mine. In a non union mine the miners have no way to do anything to help themselves. If this had been a union mine, the miners could have had a recourse and done something about this safety issue. I hope that the good that comes out of this is that maybe some people will wake up and see that the United Mine Workers of America does have a place in the mining industry.

    April 6, 2010 at 9:21 am |
  8. Lisa Boggs

    My thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families. I pray you all find peace out of this tragic accident. Theres nothing i can say to any of you on the pain of the explosion and the deaths of your lost ones cause i've not experienced that pain, but this morning at 5AM when that alarm clock went off i knew it was time for my husband to head off to work in the coal mines. So everyday i know the pain of waiting and wondering if hes going to come home to me and our 10 month old son. Everytime hes running late my mind starts racing wondering if something happen if hes okay or if hes coming home. We are actually a 1/2 hour away from the Upper big Branch Mine. I pray that somehow the last 4 miners make it out alive. <3
    Lisa Boggs

    April 6, 2010 at 9:21 am |
  9. Daniel Hawkins

    Just got off work in the mines this morning and heard the news that 25 of the miners has perished. Since Sago to much emphasis by both governmental agencies and the coal industry has been placed on shelters and the aftermath of a disaster. Sago was the first explosion that entrapped so many miners, those explosive disasters before Sago killed everyone almost instantaneously. Focus needs to be placed on prevention of such explosions. The outcome of MSHA's investigation for the source of the explosion at Sago said that lightning was able to place a large enough magentic pulse through the ground to cause a cable in the abandoned section of the mine to make electricity and spark. If lightning created that much of a magnetic pulse it would destroy people's electronics and shut down the electric system with every strike.

    I would like to challenge Bruce Watzman's statement that companies care about miners, knowing that Massey requires mandatory overtime taking miners away from their families. If you become hurt in a mines, the company doesn't want anything to do with you and treat you as if you are a criminal for costing them time and money.

    April 6, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  10. Bill

    First, my thanks and sympathies to all who put themselves at risk and their families.

    Until there are criminal penalties that put managers at risk for prison time when mine violations occur, the financial penalties will merely be regarded as a cost of doing business. We don’t know yet if these deaths could have been prevented, but safety must be the number one consideration every day.

    April 6, 2010 at 9:13 am |

    I'll bet this could have been prevented,I bet if one of the big money makers had to stay in the mines with the workers, we'd have more safety equipment.. The big bosses don't have a heart.all for money.

    April 6, 2010 at 9:10 am |
  12. kelly

    This is for Jerry... for those of us who have family members and friends involved and no one is letting us know anything this is the only way we can find anything out. This IS news. It's unfortunate that people like you only care about things that affect you and this is affecting an entire community as well as their family and friends across the country.

    April 6, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  13. ronvan

    My thoughts & prayers for those killed and their loved ones. Already hearing about the many violations this company has, and of course it is to early to make solid judgements. However, if even parts of what I have heard are true then for me, it is, sadly, all about the money! If, in fact, there are ways to prevent these type of accidents and they have not been implemented, then the ones responsible should be charged with murder! YES, I would agree that all those mines that have safety issues be shut down, but once again, part of the blame falls on ALL OF US! Alternative energy is our future, yet we fight tooth & nail to prevent it! Like oil WE are dependent on coal!

    April 6, 2010 at 9:07 am |
  14. Diane

    This is such a tragedy and I'll be thinking about and praying for those families. From the reports about the violations, I'm wondering– accident or crime?.

    April 6, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  15. RuRus

    CNN has a huge responsibility now to tell the truth about "clean coal" and stop making money from their misleading commercials. I feel sorry for the poor men who have to give their lives to maintain the use of coal. These tragedies could easily be avoided by cutting out our use of coal for energy.

    The coal industry works on a simple explotation basis. They exploit the workers who risk their lives, they exploit the environment as well as the people who use electricity while a very few enrich themselves off the death and misery of many others.

    When I hear coal miners talk about comraderie, I can't help but wonder would they not share the same conraderie if they worked in another industry together?

    Coal is exploitative, and dirty and no amount of commercials on CNN will change these facts. I challenge CNN to do an expose on the coal and coal minning industry.

    April 6, 2010 at 8:30 am |
  16. Marc Pichard

    I was in Huntington W V two years ago for a college football game and found the people of West Virginia to be so welcoming and open. We had a wonderful time. It saddens me greatly to hear that your beautiful state has been hit by such tragedy. The families of the miners and the people of West Virginia in general are in our thoughts and prayers.

    Marc Pichard
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    April 6, 2010 at 8:02 am |
  17. Stephanie

    I pray that the rescue teams find the four alive. Dad was on the mine rescue team at Robena so I know what these teams go through and feel.
    My heart and prayers are with the families of the miners. I wish i could do more for them.
    Jerry, think about these folks and what they're going through.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:54 am |
  18. Rob McGee

    Your story on the Upper Big Branch mine disaster needs to focus on the failure of both the industry as well as the government to fully execute the communications and tracking requirement in US coal mines. This business of "best guessing" the location of those unaccounted for does not have to be.

    April 6, 2010 at 7:47 am |
  19. Jim Trites

    Hello John Roberts,

    Saw your report on the West Virginia mine explosion on CNN this morning. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada, and this reminds me of the Westray Mine disaster that occurred here in the early 1990's, I believe 1992 when 26 miners were killed, and the mine operators and government inspectors were suspected of ignoring safety proceedures. Thought it might be a good background piece if you hadn't thought of it.
    By the way John, I remember you from your days with Much Music here in Canada. Congratulations on your success over the years.

    Jim Trites
    Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

    April 6, 2010 at 7:43 am |
  20. Dan

    This is such a tragedy. Being a Christian, I pray that each and every loved one of those that perished can find hope in the almighty.
    Just another example that life is so fragile, we are all 1 heartbeat from eternity. Are you ready?

    April 6, 2010 at 7:09 am |
  21. Beryllium

    I was just reading a couple of months ago that OSHA in West Virginia was sadly underfunded. I guess accidents are the result of the laxness of safety standards.

    April 6, 2010 at 6:50 am |
  22. Lisa Timmons

    West Virginia blast- could it have been a terroist attack? Since it happened so fast and so big? Has anyone looked into this?

    April 6, 2010 at 6:41 am |
  23. Dammaged

    What a terrible tragic accident. It seems like just a short while ago I was reading about WV miners dying and everyone seems to look the other way on safety violations until a disaster happens........shut the mines down until ALL violations are resolved. But why is such an advanced country still relying on coal so much?

    April 6, 2010 at 6:40 am |