Sago Mine Reopens 10 Weeks After Blast
FILE - An undated file photo shows a picture of 15-year-old Sierra LaMar at Burnett Elementary School in Morgan Hill, Calif. Authorities have arrested Antolin Garcia-Torres in the kidnapping and death of the Northern California teenager whose disappearance more than two months ago has prompted hundreds of volunteers to turn out for organized searches. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File) / Ben Margot
Mine safety officials provided approval last week to resume mining operations at the mine, but the company delayed resuming production until it had notified families and friends of those killed in the mine, according to the International Coal Group.
The explosion had caught the first crews returning to work after the New Year's holiday Jan. 2. When searchers reached the miners two days later, only one man was still alive.
Although it cannot fully explain what happened, ICG officials said Tuesday they believe electricity from above — likely a lightning strike — found some conduit into the earth and sparked methane gas that had accumulated in a sealed-off chamber.
It was "unpredictable and highly unusual" and ordinarily hard to prove, said CEO Ben Hatfield.
ICG's investigation of the blast found what Hatfield believes is compelling evidence from three different clocks in three different locations.
At 6:26 a.m., professional weather watchers confirmed an unusually large lightning strike near the mine, he said. Some 70 miles away in Morgantown, a U.S. Geological Survey station confirmed a seismic event at Sago. And deep inside the mine, atmospheric alarms sounded, signaling the carbon monoxide that comes with fires and explosions.
But a spokesperson for West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin said the findings
were premature, and that state investigators were conducting public
hearings and will submit a final report, CBS News affiliate KDKA reports.
The explosion killed one miner immediately and trapped the crew some 260 feet underground for more than 41 hours. By the time rescue teams reached them, all but one had perished in the poisoned air.
The lone survivor, Randal L. McCloy Jr., was in a coma for weeks and is still recovering from brain damage, but he was well enough Tuesday to leave his Morgantown rehabilitation hospital for a short trip home to Simpson. He has movement in most of his body and is learning to speak again, though doctors say it may be three to six months before he is able to carry on a normal conversation.
Hatfield said ICG's investigation is not the final word on the explosion but he is confident a joint federal-state investigation will reach a similar conclusion.
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