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Gov. Schweiker: Mine probe to seek answers

Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker
Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker  

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- After earning plaudits for his role as the point man in the Quecreek mine rescue effort, Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker has returned to the state capital, where he announced plans Monday for a probe into how the accident happened.

The Republican governor spoke Monday with CNN's Paula Zahn.

ZAHN: Congratulations, governor, on your stunning rescue effort.

SCHWEIKER: Thank you, Paula. It was a great stretch.

ZAHN: A great stretch indeed. Let's talk now about some of the challenges you had to confront. We witnessed your steely determination, your fierce protectiveness of the miners, but the fact remains that your team had to make some informed guesses as to exactly where these men were and, I'm told, they could have been anywhere in a one-square-mile area.

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SCHWEIKER: Well, that is very true, especially so with putting down that first 6-inch air pipe that they were able to use and tap to tell us that they were alive. I mean, it was a long shot, but it happened to be right there, so we nailed one.

ZAHN: You are now saying in retrospect that despite the fact that the drill snapped, that it was providential intervention, because if the shaft had broken through earlier, all your rescuers would have found would be water.

SCHWEIKER: Well, that's right. We had an 18-hour delay because of losing that drill bit and damaging the drill head. But as we look back now, it allowed us to succeed at pumping out the water, because had we gone in and gone through the ceiling of that chamber, we would have pulled up water and just disturbed the exterior of that area, that cavern where they were.

ZAHN: One of the men that helped lead up your technology team said this was like a one-in-a-million chance, that you were successful at bringing these men out alive.

SCHWEIKER: It's nine for nine. It is an incredible turn and just magnificent, and I'll never forget when I had the privilege and the opportunity to visit with the families just seconds after we had gotten the confirmation and heard from them through that telephone hookup that all nine were alive, and just a spectacular, never-to-be-forgotten moment.

ZAHN: What should America know about these men?

SCHWEIKER: Well, these are tough miners. But you know, at that point, as dire as it looked, they were thoughtful -- thoughtful enough to pen a short farewell note to their families. We know the outcome; they have managed to come on up, and they are with their families today. But yes, tough but thoughtful at that point.

ZAHN: Governor, since opening in January of 2001, the Black Wolf mine has been cited for 26 safety violations. How will that factor into your investigation?

SCHWEIKER: Well, we are going to start actively that investigation today, and we are going to explore that. The company owes answers. The company owes answers to the mining families. The company owes answers to me, the company owes answers to Pennsylvania. And one direction of our investigation will be the conduct of the company and the direction given that had been provided to the nine miners.

The outcome we are after, Paula, is that Pennsylvania mining families know that when their loved ones go into this tough, dangerous business that at least the maps are dependable.

Now, to some extent, these old maps -- remember, the maps, the references that they used, were coined in the '50s. So, there is going to be some lack of dependability there, but we need to explore that and how we can offer the appropriate cautions to these companies and make sure that they abide by them.

ZAHN: And governor, you said that among the things you are going to ask the Black Wolf are the directions given to the miners, and I know that David Hess, who is the secretary of your Department of Environmental Protection, has confirmed with CNN the investigation will now center on what was wrong with the maps. Is there any early indication of what was wrong?

SCHWEIKER: We will delve into that beginning today. ... We do need to step it up and provide insights, maybe not complete answers, that may prove elusive, but insights as to what happened and then make sure that miners can avoid this kind of ordeal again. I mean, think about it. You know, an abandoned mine full of water almost killed 18 people. ... We cannot have that prospect again.




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