By Mark Memmott
The news no one wanted to hear came just after midnight in Montcoal, W.Va.:
"Searchers found four bodies deep in a West Virginia coal mine shattered by an explosion, raising the death toll to 29 and ending an excruciating week for families holding onto faint hopes that their missing miners had somehow survived." (Associated Press)
It's the worst U.S. mining disaster in about 40 years. Two other men were injured.
"Gov. Joe Manchin announced the grim findings at a news conference at Raleigh County's Marsh Fork Elementary School, where news media from around the world have camped out since Monday to chronicle a desperate, 100-hour rescue effort.
" 'We did not receive the miracle we prayed for,' Manchin said at about 12:30 a.m. ' So this journey has ended and now the healing will start'."
The healing will have to happen even as questions are raised about the mine's operator and whether it did enough to make the facility as safe as possible, Massey Energy. NPR's Peter Overby reports that:
"The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has released a year's worth of inspection records for the Upper Big Branch-South mine in West Virginia, where the tragedy happened.
The inspection reports throw new light on conditions at Upper Big Branch South.
The agency turned up hundreds of problems. Some were minor. But others were potentially fatal.
In January, an inspector found that airflow had been redirected away from an escape route out of the mine. He said the foreman told him it had been like that for three weeks.
Rick Melberth, with the watchdog group OMB Watch, says the Upper Big Branch mine gets written up more than some other mines that have more workers producing more coal.
"They're getting these higher number of citations because they don't seem to be changing their behavior in any way," he says.
MSHA began its latest inspection at Upper Big Branch just four days before the explosion.