Sole Survivor of Mining Accident Clings to Life

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Alex Chadwick speaks with reporter Emily Corio of West Virginia Public Broadcasting about the tragic news 12 of the 13 men trapped in West Virginia's Sago coal mine died underground, despite an earlier report they were found alive. The sole survivor is in critical condition following his rescue two days after an explosion trapped the miners hundreds of feet underground.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Coming up, voices from the mines, and the mother of one of the 12 men who died after an explosion two days ago in the Sago mine in West Virginia. That's the lead today.

The night of hope and despair for family and friends of 13 miners trapped since Monday in the mine in north central West Virginia. An explosion sealed the men thousands of feet into the mountain. Early today there was a burst of joy. Someone said 12 of the 13 had survived. Three hours later came word that the earlier report was wrong; only one man was alive. President Bush spoke about events in an appearance this morning at the Pentagon.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Today our nation mourns those who lost their lives in the mining accident in West Virginia. We send our prayers and heartfelt condolences to the loved ones whose hearts are broken.

CHADWICK: In West Virginia, the mine owners are speaking more about what happened today. Emily Corio is a reporter with West Virginia Public Radio. She's on the scene at the Sago mine.

Emily, what's going on there now?

EMILY CORIO reporting:

Well, right now I'm close to the church where the shelter was held for the last couple of days, and right now they're cleaning the church up, they're cleaning the carpets, they're boxing up leftover food to take to the families. And the media is waiting on a press conference that the company is going to be giving any time now.

CHADWICK: So what do we know about the sole survivor, the man who was brought out alive?

CORIO: Well, we know that he was one of the youngest of the coal miners and I also know that he has two young children. As far as his condition is concerned, wire reports say that he has one collapsed lung and he's dehydrated. But there are no signs of brain damage or carbon monoxide poisoning.

CHADWICK: And this young man's name?

CORIO: I'm not sure of the young man's name.

CHADWICK: OK. Do we know yet how the men died?

CORIO: No, we're not sure. That's a question that we want to find out at the press conference. But we do know that they were found huddled together behind a curtain. It's a type of--kind of a rescue piece of equipment that they would use to barricade themselves from any noxious fumes.

CHADWICK: What about this miscommunication that happened overnight with a report coming out that 12 of the 13 had survived, and then, for three hours, there was that assumption, and then came word that, indeed, that was unfortunately not the case. How did the miscommunication come about?

CORIO: Well, again, that is something that we're waiting to find out at this press conference. I'd say that's probably the biggest question on people's minds right now is how did that go wrong? Because, obviously, that was a huge upset for the families.

CHADWICK: We'll wait for more from you. Reporter Emily Corio of West Virginia Public Radio.

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