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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Sole Surviving Miner In Critical Condition; High-Tech Communications May Have Lead To Leak Of "Miscommunication" From Rescue Command Center; Red Cross Volunteer Bonded With Families, Recounts Euphoria, Profound Sadness
Aired January 4, 2006 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That obviously was taking entire too long and it started to become more and more suspect as time went on, Kelly. And then, obviously, everyone now knows the end result of all that.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: And Sanjay, let's talk about the one survivor, Randal L. McCloy, Jr. We believe he's 27 years old, as you were reporting over night. We saw that he was taken in to a hospital. He is reported to be in critical condition, that he was unconscious and put on a ventilator.
What can you make of that? Again, we know you have not seen this patient, but what do you take about what you've heard about how he's doing and how he's likely to fair?
GUPTA: A couple of things really struck me, Kelly. One is that they said they did the carbon monoxide testing on this gentlemen and it was negative, meaning he did not have any carbon monoxide poisoning. An important point, because you heard shortly thereafter, the CEO of the mining company come out and say that he was under the impression that the other 11 had died because of carbon monoxide poisoning.
A lot of information going around, it is hard to sort it out, I'm sure, exactly what happened. I talked to the doctor, Doctor Long, Susan Long, who is Mr. McCloy's doctor, and she said that he was essentially unconscious, but did not appear to have any significant head injury. It is unclear if he actually injured himself in the initial blast or if he injured himself because of dehydration and hypothermia, or what exactly has happened.
We do know that he's in critical condition. That obviously is always a serious thing. We know he's been transferred level one trauma center. The hospital in this small town is not a level one trauma center. It is not equipped to take care of patients as sick as Mr. McCloy appears to be. So, the one thing I would say is that we don't have enough information yet.
We don't have, for example, any imaging of his brain to know if he's had a significant brain injury. They just haven't gotten all those tests back yet. So it is just too early to say exactly how he's going to do from all of this.
WALLACE: OK, Sanjay, if you could standby, because we want to continue to talk to you, even though I know you've worked throughout the night here.
But we want to continue our coverage here on AMERICAN MORNING. It is just a few minutes after the top of the hour, at 5 a.m. Eastern Time. And we want to continue with Miles O'Brien in Sago, West Virginia -- Miles.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Hello, again, Kelly. Good morning to you all. Thanks for joining us. I'm Miles O'Brien, a special expanded edition of AMERICAN MORNING, as we continue our coverage of this mining accident in Sago, West Virginia.
As we have been telling you, 12 of the 13 miners has died. One has survived and is hospitalized as Sanjay Gupta just reported. Unclear what are his injuries at this point. Some indication it may not have been carbon monoxide poisoning, perhaps, shock, hypothermia and dehydration. We're tracking that, but that the sole bit of joy in what has turned out to be a story filled with angry people who were -- for a time -- lead to believe that a dozen miners had survived, against all odds.
It is a story of anguish, and grief, and a tremendous amount of anger, and a little bit of joy for Randal McCloy, 27 years old. The soul survivor of the accident, now 47 hours ago.
Joining us also, from New York, Soledad O'Brien. Good morning, Soledad.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Good morning to you, Miles.
And of course, many questions raised in all of this. I mean, imagine the heartbreak for the families, at 11:48, approximately, p.m., last night, they get this joyous word that in fact 12 of the minors had been found alive. And then imagine, just three hours later, when in fact the word comes down that, no, that was a miscommunication, as it is being called. Those miners were in fact dead. One cannot even imagine for these family members how brutal that news and that information was.
So, the question is, of course, what happened. Why did it take the mine officials three hours to correct something that they knew to be in accurate, within -- by their own admission, apparently, in their press conference -- about 20 minutes? Why did they not stop the reports? Why did they not stop the euphoria and say, we don't know what you're reporting, what you're hearing is not necessarily correct.
And also the questions remain today, Miles, what did happen inside that mine? The miners were able to get off the truck that took them in some 12,000 feet into the mine. What exactly did happen when they barricaded themselves in? Did they just run out of air? Was it the hypothermia? Why was there one survivor when 12 others could not survive? So many questions, as investigations, obviously will get underway today.
And we begin our special extended coverage, as well, of AMERICAN MORNING -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Yes, Soledad, behind me, along the road here, in Sago, it is a sad procession out as people realize there is no more that can be done for the 13 miners. One is in the hospital being attended to, the rest, their bodies will be taken care of shortly. There is a temporary morgue that has been set up here.
And there is just a tremendous pall of sadness here in this community. Many of the families still inside the Sago Baptist Church, being consoled, consoling each other. Doing the best to shore each other up, support each other. As we say, it is a tight-knit group, it is a dangerous business, and only they can understand all of the risks and the danger that is associated with it. And quite frankly, the fear, and how their worst fears have been realized -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Absolutely. In fact, worse fear, if it could be made even worse by the miscommunication. Let's get right to Adaora Udoji, Miles. She is not very far from where you are this morning. She's at the command center.
And it seems as if, Adaora, it is the command center where this original miscommunication may have originated from. Can you explain what we know about how this happened.
ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is just so striking, Soledad, as you and Miles have been talking about, of just how quickly all of this unfolded, the families going from so much joy to so much terrible grief.
And essentially, the CEO of International Coal Group, the owner of the Sago Mine here in West Virginia, says essentially, there was a tragic miscommunication. What happened was, he says at this point, and obviously these are just initial sort answers to lots of questions that are going to be followed.
But he said that rescue workers who were down in the mine, were having conversations on the communications lines and there was some sort of speaker phone in the command center and it was the people and the command center's understanding that 12 of the trapped miners had survived, when indeed that was not the case. And he said it was just terribly devastating when he had to go speak to the families clearly they are going to be asking themselves many questions. Taking a very hard look at exactly what happened. And here are some of the other observations he had.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN HATFIELD, CEO, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: What happened is that through stray cell phone conversations it appears that this miscommunication from the rescue team underground to the command center was picked up by various people who simply overheard conversation, it was relayed through cell phone communications, without our ever having made a release. International Coal Group never made any release about all 12 of the miners being alive and well. We simply couldn't confirm that at that point. But that information spread like wildfire, because it had come from the command center, but it was bad information. UDOJI: But, Soledad, as you mentioned a few moments ago, there was also an immense delay from the point of time in which the company realized that the families thought that 12 of the 13 trapped miners had survived, and when the executives went and spoke the family and told them that in fact 12 of the 13 miners had died in the mine -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: I think, Adaora, it is going to raise many questions about -- I mean, we heard in that press conference the CEO saying that they didn't have the full information and they didn't want to come forward with any information until they really knew all the facts.
But one has to ask, did they have a moral obligation to stop the euphoria, to stop the celebrating that went on for three hours, while people believed that their loved ones had been pulled out of the mine after 40 -- 30, plus hours? Didn't they have, even without the complete picture being painted, some kind of obligation -- if they knew it was wrong -- to say something?
UDOJI: Yes, absolutely, I think that there is a tremendous amount of confusion. Clearly, those questions are going to be asked. And I think another point, earlier -- Miles was alluding to in a "USA Today" article, which indicated that the governor's office had actually confirmed the fact that 12 of the 13 miners had survived.
Now, the governor was just on CNN a few moments ago and he's denied that they ever confirmed that, that indeed, he having heard from family members that 12 or 13 miners had survived, had himself been trying to find some confirmation of that, but hadn't, of course. And then found out that it wasn't true -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: It certainly seems strange, Adaora, that with all this good news coming out that the company wasn't coming forward to make a public statement, reveling in the good news as well.
And obviously, we know now, in retrospect, that that is because they were back at the mine and they had information.
And I guess, we should also talk about the next step in the investigation. Has the company talked about what they know happened to these 13 men? We now know that the truck that they were on made it a little bit further than originally thought. We thought 10,000 feet in, it looks like a little -- just about 12,000 feet in. And they got off. What do we know about what happened to these men in the mine?
UDOJI: I mean, this is part of so much of the emotional roller coaster of the last 12 hours. I mean, just yesterday evening, when they were reporting that there was terrible concern about noxious gases, about carbon monoxide levels. They found one minor, down about 3,200 feet down who had died. But then about 700 feet further, down into the mine shaft, they found the man bus, the vehicle that transports the miners from the entrance down to wherever they're working. And it was in prime condition. It hadn't been, there was no harm to it whatsoever.
So that gave them some hope. But then after that, they had to go through, because there is a labyrinth of various canals that run, or tunnels I should say, that run from that very point where the vehicle -- where they found the vehicle. So there was some hope that perhaps that these miners had been able to barricade themselves in an area, a safer area away, further away from the explosion.
And the details are sketchy, but what the company has said is that what they found is the miners were able to get off of that vehicle. They were able to move further into the tunnel. They barricaded themselves in some way, shape or form. And they also had air breathing equipment. Beyond that, they just don't have any idea at this point. Or at least they are not publicly telling us exactly what they think happened.
S. O'BRIEN: It certainly is hard to know at this stage. Adaora Udoji, at the command center this morning. Thanks for the update, we're obviously going to continue to check in as this investigation, on many fronts now, gets underway.
Let's get right back to Miles, who is reporting live for us there this morning on AMERICAN MORNING.
M. O'BRIEN: Soledad, you know, it was about 41 hours from the moment of the explosion to that point in time when that false information came out, that 12 of the 13 had actually survived.
And then there was that three hour period afterward. So, taking that whole period of time together, that 44 hours or so, many of the family members and loved ones of those miners who were beneath the surface, in this Sago Mine, gathered at the Sago Baptist Church, trying shore each other up. It's very close to where I'm standing right now. Among the people in there trying to help them out was Jana Zehner. She is with the American Red Cross. She joins me now.
Jana, actually, you say you left to check some messages, as the false good news came. And you came back right away. Tell me what happened as you came back to the church?
JANA ZEHNER, SPOKESWOMAN, AMERICAN RED CROSS: I did. I left for a few minutes. And I was actually contacted by a media outlet. And they let me know and I, you know, I certainly wanted to be a part of seeing this wonderful celebration and rushed back. And walked into the church, and when I walked in, the minister was leading the congregation in "I'll Fly Away", which, you know, in this part of the country, and that song, it was just very, very moving, seeing the joy on people's faces.
M. O'BRIEN: And I assume you shared in that euphoria at that moment, having endured all that you had endured with them?
ZEHNER: Well, absolutely. And not only this, but this fall, Katrina and Rita, and everything that we've responded to, to finally get to see some joy was so remarkable and so exciting.
M. O'BRIEN: So, the next couple of hours that continued, the hymns and the happiness, and the hugs. Some sadness for the one person who they knew at that time, had passed away. Then what happened?
ZEHNER: Well, then -- you know, as the euphoria went on for a little while they began to settle down and I think it is part of the culture here. That people began to be very aware of the family that had lost a loved one and they were being very respectful of that. Then the news came in about what had happened. And it was just -- it was just anguish. Just absolute anguish.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, explain how that happened. The CEO of the company came in, is that how it unfolded?
ZEHNER: As -- from what I saw, officials came in, I know the governor was there and I assume that they were officials from the mine that were with him. I was very far back in the church and we were having a little bit of difficulty hearing the details.
M. O'BRIEN: But then, after that, we've talked to some family members who were there, who said it was -- wasn't quite a fight, but it was tremendous anger at that point.
ZEHNER: Anger, frustration -- just utter sadness. So it was just a large number of emotions running through everybody, very quickly.
M. O'BRIEN: We can all understand that anger, especially now that we know that there was knowledge inside the command center much sooner and it wasn't shared. What are your thoughts on that?
ZEHNER: You know, I'm really -- I'm not sure what to think. I spoke briefly with the governor's press secretary and understood her thoughts on them wanting to make sure that information was absolutely correct this time. But I understand the delay and how much pain that caused families, so very conflicted about it -- as everyone is about how this happened.
M. O'BRIEN: It is such a sad story any way you would parcel out the information. But it seems that much sadder to see all these -- hold up all these newspapers, and have those, you know, Dewey Defeats Truman type headlines -- They're Alive! on them. Doesn't that make it worse?
ZEHNER: You know, I didn't even think about that aspect of it, until I saw it briefly on your monitor. And that never occurred to me. I thought, oh what a difficult way to have to look at the story.
M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the families now. We've been watching them slowly but surely, some of them crying -- most of them crying. Many of them expressing tremendous anger as they come out, as they've left that church. What is next for them? What will the Red Cross do to help them out?
ZEHNER: Well, you know, our mental health counselors, along with community health counselors, and pastoral services, have been up there with them for the past 40 hours. And most of those volunteers are from this local community and they knew people, they were affected by this. They knew people that we in the mine.
So this has been very, very hard for our volunteers as well. They got their act together very quickly up there. And through some grief, were able to provide some comforting words, some hugs, and just try those initials stages of making people feel a little bit better.
M. O'BRIEN: Yes, and I guess, of course, compounded -- I mean, you've been in these situations before, where people have to deal with this. This one seems ever so much more poignant.
ZEHNER: It really does and I think this is going to be a long- term recovery, because I think right now what people are feeling is just being stunned by the whole situation. And it's going to take them a few hours and a few days to start to really feel the impact of the grief. And that's when our Red Cross volunteers will be available to help them talk through some of their needs.
M. O'BRIEN: And just on a personal level, the whole thing is kind of stunning, isn't it?
ZEHNER: This is really -- it was heartbreaking. I -- I've not had to deal with this type of situation before. And it has made me just unbelievably sad to see this happen.
M. O'BRIEN: It's a dangerous business. Have you ever been involved in grief counseling, helping families in the wake of something like this, in a coal mine?
ZEHNER: Not in the coal mine. The only responsibility I had close to this was 9/11 and sort of seeing the aftermath of that. But this is one of my first trips up to West Virginia and driving up here today, it was so beautiful. And the families were so welcoming when I got here. And it is just such a wonderful sense of community, it made very tough to see the outcome.
M. O'BRIEN: Lot's of questions still this morning, aren't there?
ZEHNER: You bet (ph).
M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, Jana Zehner, who is with the American Red Cross.
ZEHNER: Thank you.
M. O'BRIEN: Based in North Carolina, so not a part of this community, but really quickly, you have in many ways become a part of it, haven't you?
ZEHNER: Well, and that is how it is with Red Cross workers. Our volunteers go everywhere and try to become as quickly as they can, engaged in the response from the community.
M. O'BRIEN: All right. Well, best to you and everybody helping out those families.
ZEHNER: Thank you.
M. O'BRIEN: Back to you, Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Miles, thanks.
The sole survivor is 27-year-old Randal McCloy. You'll remember we spoke to his young wife, yesterday morning. She was the woman who was clutching the teddy bear and obviously distraught as she talked about his concerns for being in the mine. They have two young children.
Lisa Turner is the director of public relations at St. Joseph's Hospital and that is the hospital where Randal McCloy was transported. Let's talk to her; she joins us by phone.
Lisa, thanks for talking with us.
LISA TURNER, DIR. PUBLIC RELATIONS, ST. JOSEPH'S HOSPITAL: Oh, sure.
S. O'BRIEN: Can you hear me, Lisa?
TURNER: Yes, I can.
S. O'BRIEN: It's Soledad O'Brien, at CNN. I wanted to ask you, can you tell me exactly when Randal McCloy was brought, was transported into your hospital?
TURNER: He was transported here to the hospital, I'm not sure exactly what time, I want to say around 1 o'clock or so. He was transported here and he was treated in our emergency room, he was here for probably about 40 (AUDIO GAP). When he arrived here, he was in critical condition and he was unconscious.
S. O'BRIEN: Give me a more details about how he was, his condition? Did he suffer and burns? Physically, what did you notice about him?
TURNER: Well, in speaking with the doctor who treated him, who was one of our general surgeons, Doctor Susan Long, she says that there were no visible burns, there were no visible broken bones. He was unconscious and she did have to insert a tube into his lungs to help him breathe.
So he is on a ventilator. And that is the main reason we transported him to a trauma center in Morgantown, because while we have patients here on ventilators, we are not equipped to keep people on ventilators for an extended period of time.
S. O'BRIEN: I've heard reports that he arrived dehydrated, in shock? Are those reports accurate?
TURNER: I would say so. I mean, you have to think of the conditions and how long he was down in the mine. Hypothermia and dehydration were certainly something that the doctors were expecting here. S. O'BRIEN: He's a young man, healthy by all accounts, now with a ventilator. What's his prognosis? What have the doctors been able to tell you about how they think he's going to recover?
TURNER: They really haven't made that statement yet. I know Doctor Long spoke with someone -- or someone spoke with someone at WBU recently, and they said they were still assessing his condition.
S. O'BRIEN: We had heard reports that when he arrived at your hospital, his breathing apparatus was still running -- was on and still running. And this is a breathing apparatus that, by my understanding, only is supposed to work for somewhere between and hour and two hours or so. Can you confirm that?
TURNER: I don't know if it was actually on when he reached the hospital, but I can confirm, I was told that when he was found in the mine, he did have the breathing apparatus on, and he did still have that other part of it attached to his waist and it was still running. It was still operating.
S. O'BRIEN: Are the doctors there, then telling you that that what they believe accounts for his survival when his 12 colleagues did not survive?
TURNER: They didn't say that specifically, because they really don't know how the other 12, you know, were found. But that certainly was definitely a benefit that that was still operating when he was found.
S. O'BRIEN: What incredible luck. Lisa Turner, the director of public relations. Lisa, thank you for the update, we certainly appreciate it. And as you mentioned he stayed at St. Joseph's Hospital for about 40 minutes and then was transferred to trauma center not far away.
Let's check in with Sanjay Gupta, who has been covering the story, really all through the night.
Sanjay, what sticks out to you in this case? I remember yesterday, as we were reporting the story, many concerns about the elevated levels of carbon monoxide. It seems that wasn't the problem, in this particular case.
GUPTA: Yeah, I mean, I asked Doctor Long that exact question. She said on two separate occasions his carbon monoxide levels were normal. So he did not suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning. A bit surprising given how high the carbon monoxide concentrations were in several places around the mine.
You got to remember lots of things were happening in the mine, Soledad. You are talking about a possibly relatively confined space and an explosion, which can cause significant concussive injuries as well. And the fact that there was no obvious trauma visible, broken bones or anything like that, doesn't tell you that there wasn't a brain injury underneath all of that, that you just couldn't see from the outside. At this small hospital, they did not do a CAT scan of the brain, so they don't know what his brain actually looks like now after all that he's been through.
S. O'BRIEN: Do you have a question for Lisa Turner from the hospital. I think we still have her.
Lisa, are you still there?
GUPTA: I don't hear her. Do you?
S. O'BRIEN: No, don't hear her. Sorry, Sanjay. I thought maybe Lisa was -- Lisa. Let me check in with her again. Lisa, are you still there, I have Sanjay Gupta here.
TURNER: Yes, I am.
S. O'BRIEN: Oh, terrific. Thanks. Sanjay Gupta, has a quick question for you, Lisa.
GUPTA: Lisa, did -- was there any knowledge of what his neurological status was? What his -- did he have a brain injury or anything more significant? It just sounded like he had shock, which doesn't sound a severe to me. It doesn't explain why he might be transferred to a level one trauma center.
TURNER: Well, I am not a medical doctor, but from what Doctor Long told me, they transferred him to the trauma center in Morgantown to do further tests. You know, we don't have a neurosurgeon on call around the clock and they do. You know, different specialties that they have that we simply don't have here.
GUPTA: Is there some belief that because he was the youngest miner down there that that may have been what saved him? I mean, some of the guys are in their 50s and 60s. Was he just younger and more likely to survive because of that? Is that what the thinking is?
TURNER: I don't know. I can't really, you know, confirm that that is a fact. I would guess that could play a part in his recovery.
S. O'BRIEN: Hey, Lisa, has he regained consciousness? Had he, by the time he was transported to the trauma center?
TURNER: He was moving and he was groaning a little bit. But he was still basically unconscious.
S. O'BRIEN: All right. Lisa, thanks very much. Sanjay, I think the questions you raised are incredibly interesting because at first, of course, with the elevated levels of carbon monoxide, everyone thought, wow, the risk of poisoning.
S. O'BRIEN: Huge. Very high. I think it was triple the levels that you could possibly survive -- in certain parts of the mine, triple the levels where you could possibly survive, the upper most limit, for 15 minutes. So to hear no CO in the blood -- strange.
And then as you point out, the concussive injuries, we know there was an explosion of some kind. Again, you might have predicted in a patient who is brought out, burns. You might have predicted broken bones. Some kind of visible trauma. Although, as Lisa seems to point out, that they have obviously more tests to do. And that is why he's been transported to that trauma center in Morgantown.
Joe Johns, I should mention, is at that hospital. We're going to hear from him in just a little bit. Maybe get a better update on the condition of Randal McCloy.
S. O'BRIEN: Sanjay, obviously, you're not this guy's doctor, but when you hear what shape he's in, groaning, on a ventilator now. Do you feel that his prognosis is OK? He's in critical condition, as a lay person, I don't know if that means it is good news or bad news.
GUPTA: Well, the fact that he's moving at all and groaning. And I actually heard that he was moving so much that he required sedation, actually sedative medications. That is actually a good sign to me. If he's moving and actually verbalizing in some way, even if it is through groaning. That is good news to me.
He absolutely needs to get a CAT scan of his brain, which is probably why they transferred him to this other hospital. We don't know -- you can have absolutely no signs of external trauma, and have a devastating brain injury from this concussive force of the explosion.
And you may not have broken a single bone in your body, yet caused significant damage to the brain. So that actually has to be, you know, the name of the game for him for the next couple of hours. He is on the breathing machine. He's got a breathing tube in; he's got sedative medications. He is getting rehydrated. His temperature is probably being raised. These are all the important things to stabilize him. Now you have to find out why he's acting in the sort of semiconscious state.
S. O'BRIEN: And figure out exactly happened, he is the only survivor to a story that people have not really been able to quite piece together. And why did he survive? And why was his breathing apparatus running? I mean, if as we're told you only have between and hour an two hours of oxygen. Does that mean that he was rescued just minutes before it was going to run out. And maybe others were missed, just minutes after they expired? Many questions, obviously, to come out of all of this, with this discovery of Randal McCloy, Jr.
Again, we talked to his wife, his absolutely devastated wife, yesterday -- very young -- about his fears and his concerns about working in the mines in the first place.
GUPTA: Sure. S. O'BRIEN: Sanjay, thanks. Let's turn to Kelly Wallace now, because of course what has made this story more horrific, if at all possible, is that for a long time -- for about three hours -- we all believed, in fact, that it was good news that was coming out of this mine. And in fact, it was exactly the opposite. Kelly Wallace talks about how this story really, truly changed 180 degrees, over night.
WALLACE: It sure did, Soledad. And as you were saying earlier, it is impossible to comprehend what this was like for the families, because you had this incredible euphoria, the joy.
They were hearing that 12 of the 13 miners had survived and then it was some three hours later where, you know, their biggest joys are turned into their biggest fears and a big -- a huge nightmare.
The other thing that is happening is many people probably went to bed, because it was a little before midnight, when word broke out that the reports were that 12 of the 13 minors had survived. Many people probably went to sleep thinking this story had an incredibly happy ending. And will be waking up this morning to find that things have turned so much for the worse.
Many headlines, now, people will be waking up with, to take a look at. And we want to show you, if we can, a couple of those headlines. We have a couple of the New York City newspapers to show you. The "New York Post", the headline, "Alive! 12 trapped miners found in a West Virginia miracle". The same headline in the "Daily News", "Miracle in West Virginia: Alive!" And also, nationwide, national newspaper, "USA Today", the headline many people around the country will be seeing, "12 miners found alive".
So, Soledad, there will be some huge questions throughout the day one exactly what happened. How was this initial communication, or miscommunication, what happened? Who actually communicated to the family members and the loved ones, so they had this incredible joy, and then why, again, it was three hours before the company executives, the governor, and others, came to the family members and told them that all was not exactly right.
And you know, Soledad and Miles -- I think, Miles, you mentioned this earlier. Family members now, of these miners, will be waking up and looking at these headlines. So they will have these headlines as another reminder of their utter, utter ordeal.
S. O'BRIEN: One of those headlines, of course, is the "USA Today" and Miles, I want to ask you a question, because you spoke to Governor Joe Manchin, he's quoted, it is attributed to him that he notified the families. What did he say when you asked him about that earlier today?
M. O'BRIEN: Well, he denies it. He says, essentially, he was acting on sort of the same information, which was -- you know, in the room, which had spread like wildfire. And was sharing in that celebration, not so much confirming -- a little bit of a difference there, I guess. You know it is interesting in this case, the good information was brought out prematurely. The bad information, the bad news, came way too late. So -- and couple that with all this transpiring that period of time when the euphoria was there. When all the big newspapers were putting their editions to bed.
It is just such a terrible recipe for these families who already have to deal with the tremendous grief of losing a loved ones, but to see those headlines, stare them in the face and to know that they had that sense of euphoria to be at the absolutely depths thereafter.
I suppose in the final analysis, in the long run, it doesn't change much. They still lost their loved one, and that is the reality they'll have to deal with for years and years to come. But what an awful way to learn of such a loss. And to go from the absolutely heights of euphoria, who could imagine, a more uplifting story than to know that a dozen had survived and then to hear this is very difficult.
S. O'BRIEN: I think one big question that is going to come out, of course, is why not inform the families? Twenty minutes after you know, that the information is incorrect in some way, shape or form. Maybe they don't have all the answers but they know what is being widely reported and also what's being personally disseminated to these grieving family members who are holding out hope, you know, grasping at straws.
Why not say, within that 20 minutes? We don't know. Stop reporting it. We don't know, we're not confirming it. Stop celebrating it until we can give you some actual information. I think that is a question that is really going to be asked over and over and over, of these mine officials. Who, by their own admission sat on this information for nearly three hours, because they were afraid of -- and I'm paraphrasing now, the mentioned this in their early morning press conference -- of the upsetting the family members.
M. O'BRIEN: Yeah.
S. O'BRIEN: Upsetting them in what way? Upsetting people who are about to hear the worst news ever? I am not sure that is an information -- that that is an excuse that is going to hold water. And certainly, talk about final analysis, we're going to hear a lot about that today.
M. O'BRIEN: Well, it is interesting -- and I'm also paraphrasing, but Ben Hatfield, the CEO of the company, the holding company that owns this mine, said they wanted to make sure they got their facts straight. Well, that probably should have been the case on the initial report. The initial report of what they thought was such great news.
Lots of questions, we don't have a lot of answers, not the least of which, a lot of questions we have this morning about the dozen who were able to barricade themselves, who survived that initial explosion. We know that one person died immediately in the aftermath of that explosion.
All these questions on our mind as we continue our coverage here from this tiny little hamlet of Sago, West Virginia. And this community comes to terms, really grapples with now, approaching 48 hours since the initial explosion, grapples with really their worst fears, with one exception, Randal McCloy, as we said, 27 years old, father of two young children, for whatever reason was able to survive this ordeal; in the hospital, his condition, uncertain where he stands right now.
A young man who went into mining for the money, quite frankly, did it with some concern about his safety. And always, as he said good-bye to his wife, said, just remember, God is with us as we go down there. Well, apparently, God was with Randal McCloy and the rest of the families have lost loved ones are hoping for some answers this morning.
CNN's Adaora Udoji is about a half a mile from where I stand, right at the mine, where all of this has transpired, probably, while you were sleeping overnight.
What a wild ride it has been, Adaora.
ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What a dramatic and terrible swing from so much joy to such terrible, terrible devastation. And essentially, the CEO of the International Coal Group, they are the ones who own the Sago Mine, here in West Virginia, says it all boiled down to a tragic miscommunication.
He told the media, earlier -- I should say late -- well, no -- earlier today, actually, that what happened was rescue workers who were in the mine, using some sort of communication equipment, were talking to people in the command center. It was over some kind of speaker phone. So, there were a number of people in the command center who understood the rescue workers to say that 12 of the 13 trapped miners had indeed survived, that they found them alive.
That there was this miscommunication, that the company officials were aware of this. At the same time, family members were celebrating with just incredible joy, bursting with just incredible happiness after so much grief and waiting, and anxiety in the last almost 48 hours. And essentially, it was a miscommunication and this is how the CEO, Ben Hatfield, this is how he described it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN HATFIELD, CEO, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: There was an error in the previous communication. We have 12 individuals, but they are not all alive. It appears that one is alive, 11 are deceased. That was the nature of the corrected communication.
The honest answer is, we were devastated. We didn't really -- it is a sorrow beyond belief.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UDOJI: Now, Miles, the company he said, never made any official announcement that 12 of those trapped 13 miners had survived. That somehow it did leak out to the families and again, he said it was just an absolutely devastating moment when he had to go back into that church and tell these family members who were expecting and hoping to see their loved ones, who had been trapped for so many hours in the mine. Instead, they learned that their family members had died -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: All right. Adaora, clear something up for me. He said they never made an official announcement, but I was under the impression that representatives of the company, I thought it was Mr. Hatfield, actually went over to the church at one point, and told them what they thought to be true at that time, that 12 had survived. Did that not actually happen?
UDOJI: Well, his statement seemed to suggest it didn't happen. To be frank with you, I'm not sure about that specifically, whether it was he who went into that church and told family members. But essentially, what you can glean from what he said, its that the company did not ever say officially that there was confirmation that 12 of those 13 miners had indeed survived.
So, obviously, another point of clarification, and so many points, and so many questions that are going to be asked over the next couple of days and weeks, and probably months, as we try to understand exactly how this all unfolded -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: And you know, what unfolded underground? We have so many questions about that. And we hope that Randal McCloy is on his way to a speedy recovery and can share with us what has to be an amazing story.
But what we've been able to glean, Adaora, is that these guys did everything they could, everything they should, everything they are trained to do, to survive something like this. And I guess the question is, how long could they have lasted there? It is an open question but a question that would be worth getting an answer to, at some point soon.
Adaora Udoji, who is just about a half mile down the road, there at the Sago Mine, watching things for us there, as this all unfolds today. We do expect a little later in the morning, we are told by Ben Hatfield, the CEO of the company that owns the mine, that they will have a statement. We'll of course keep you posted on that as more information comes out -- Soledad?
S. O'BRIEN: All right. Miles, thanks.
Let's get to Charles Green. He is the father-in-law of the only person known to have survived this mine accident. He is Randal McCloy's father-in-law.
Thank you for talking with us, Mr. Green. I appreciate it your time.
CHARLES GREEN, RANDAL MCCLOY'S FATHER IN LAW: All right. No problem, whatsoever.
S. O'BRIEN: Yeah, a tough day, because your news is really the only good news in a sea of very, very bad news today. Have you had an update on Randal's condition? What have they told you from the trauma center about how he's doing.
GREEN: Well, my wife just called and my daughter just called me and said that he's doing pretty good. He's sort of semi-conscious. He has been (INAUDIBLE), he's got what's called a ventilator tube in him. And he's doing as well as can be expected. They say he's a critical, but there is no carbon dioxide in his lungs, whatsoever, there is no carbon dioxide in his blood. And very soon they were going to take my daughter in or bring him down and let my daughter go in and see him.
S. O'BRIEN: Oh, gosh, some good news. Have they given you any word on a prognosis? Do they think he is going to be able to recover fully -- or nearly fully?
GREEN: Well, I don't know. From what I understand they are going to do a brain scan, because he didn't have any sign of -- and no burns -- and no sign of any head injury. But you know, in a concussion like that, a blast or something, we don't know, we don't know the circumstances yet.
We've been told all kinds of stuff up and down the line, till we don't know what to believe. I'm just going to wait until they -- they do their thing on him and their tests and stuff. Which my daughter should be home, I don't know what time -- she won't leave there until she gets to talk to him, I do know that.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes.
GREEN: My wife is down there with him. And my other daughter, and my other son-in-law, they're down there. He also works at the mine up there.
S. O'BRIEN: Were you in the church when they came in just before midnight to tell everybody the, I'm using this word in quotes, "good news" that the miners were alive? News that we now know was completely inaccurate?
GREEN: It was inaccurate. We were praising God, we were singing songs, I mean we were clapping, we were hugging one another. We really rejoiced. And I swear to God, I feel sorry for those people. I do. I mean, I thank God that my son-in-law is alive, and I hope he makes it. But I do still feel devastated for the other families. So I mean, we're deeply sorry, you know, that they didn't survive. And that for that untruth to come out like that, I don't know who is responsible, but I think they ought to be punished.
S. O'BRIEN: You do think. You are looking for someone to blame. Was there a person? I mean, who came out? Was there an official announcement at the church? Did someone come out and come to the podium and say, "Hey, we've got this news." Is that how it came out?
GREEN: Well, we were in the front of the church. And the news come from somewhere -- well, we were up at the pulpit, which would be back of it, because the front of the church is where you enter. And that is where the news came from, from where you enter the church. And somebody up there hollered, you know? And then they started ringing the bell, and I mean, everybody was jumping on me. Everybody believes it.
And they come in, and they told us that 11 miners had survived. And they were going to bring them down. They were in good enough shape they were going to bring them down and let them get something to eat. And they were going to bring them down to the middle of the church, to the pulpit.
And they asked us to stay aside until they all got in there. They were going to bring them in and let them get something to eat and come on up through there. We sat there waiting three hours for them to come in and they come in with just devastating news.
S. O'BRIEN: As the time passed, was there a moment when you started thinking, this is not accurate. There is something wrong here. It's not -- you know, they told us to wait at the church because they're going to bring them in. Move to the side because they're going to bring them in. And we're here and we're standing here. And there is no one coming?
GREEN: No, I mean, even Governor Manchin was there. I mean, he was just as surprised as we were. I mean, he couldn't figure out what was going on. Because he talked to some of the family members, you know? And then this news comes in that everybody was alive, you know? I mean, he was just as devastated as we are. I mean, I am not blaming Governor Manchin, whatsoever.
I mean, he didn't have anything to do with it. I mean, he was in the church at the time that the news come in. So, I mean, he can't be blamed, you know? There is ain't no way or form. And I'm not even blaming the mine people. I don't know what kind of problem it was but somebody goofed up somewhere bad.
S. O'BRIEN: It seems one thing that stuck out to me, as seemed a little strange was that it looks now as if the mine company knew about 20 minutes after that first euphoria and that first announcement just before midnight. That in fact, the information was inaccurate. Not maybe necessarily sure exactly how it was wrong, but that it was wrong.
Do you think that they -- that they said now, didn't want to come forth until they had the complete picture, because they didn't want to upset family members like yourself. What do you make of that explanation?
GREEN: Well, you know, I mean, if they knew anything, like when they said one person dead, and they did come out and tell us they did have that one body. But I mean, they didn't say who it was. And I found out later that it was supposed to have been -- well, a girl was interviewed with my daughter. And you know, she said it was her dad. She told my daughter that, you know? And of course nobody ever verified that. And they come in and said they didn't know who it was.
I'm not saying they're lying, I don't know. But somebody, somebody somewhere screwed up bad. I'm not blaming the company, don't get me wrong, but somebody here -- I mean, somebody got their communication mixed up somewhere.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes, they surely did. It must be tough for you, I would imagine, because as much as you're the only family with good news, you're in a circumstance where everybody else has only bad news. It -- how -- it has to be hard to celebrate when there is so much not to celebrate around you.
GREEN: I celebrate for my two grandkids and for my daughter. And but I also feel pain for the other families. I deeply feel the pain for those other families. I really do. And I want them to know that our heart goes out for them. And my whole family's heart goes out for them.
S. O'BRIEN: I'm sure they appreciate that.
GREEN: I called my employer, you know, and told them there were survivors. And they broadcast it on -- at my store, where I work. And then find out later, it come across the news that you know, just thank god they went ahead and told them. But I done made a fool out of myself by telling everybody that we had 11 survivors.
S. O'BRIEN: I don't think anybody made a fool of any family members who were rejoicing as you waited for 40 hours to hear any news, sir. I don't think that is making a fool of yourself at all.
Thank you for talking with us. I know it is a tough time for your family. And we certainly appreciate you taking a minute to fill us in. And good luck to you.
We'll of course follow Randal's condition and hope for a speedy recovery for your family. And also, because he is the only one who knows exactly what happened inside that mine, a lot of questions there. That was Charles Green, the father-in-law of Randal McCloy, the only survivor in this mine accident, joining us by phone.
Let's get right back to Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Soledad.
For just about three hours, probably while you were sleeping last night this scene where I stand right now, right near the Sago Baptist Church, was a scene of hymns and a scene of happiness. People here who had gathered, hundreds of them, in this church. Family members, friends, this tight-knit community, had the impression, as you just heard, that their loved ones were going to be walking in the door any minute. And they were giving thanks to God and they were at the absolute peak of euphoria.
And then, through all of this, as Anderson Cooper continued his reporting, suddenly in the midst of it, he got the word from one resident of this area, Lynette Roby, watch how it transpired.
LYNETTE ROBY, LOCAL RESIDENT: There is only one made it out alive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And there are some people fighting.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Where --
ROBY: I think the name was Randal Ware. The governor is in there and this big in-charge CEO of the mine is apologizing. And its all -- they did nothing -- but I don't know how this information could come out that this -- they were alive.
COOPER: Where have --
ROBY: There is one person alive and he is en route to the hospital.
COOPER: Where have you gotten this information?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The church.
ROBY: Uh, from -- from the CEO who has been on the news.
COOPER: You were inside the church?
ROBY: Yes, we were inside the church and --
COOPER: And you said there is fist-fighting now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
ROBY: People are screaming, You're a liar. You lied to us.
COOPER: Wait come over here, please. Stand over here.
ROBY: It's been misinformation, and it's awful.
COOPER: And you kids were in the church, too?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah.
COOPER: And you heard this?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, we tried to run away.
ROBY: I took the kids and we ran out of the church as fast as we can.
COOPER: I can hear yelling now, over at the church.
ROBY: Yeah, they're screaming and yelling and the police are in there, and it's a big brawl. I don't know how something like this could happen. How -- drag the kids out of bet at this time of the morning to celebrate. And you know this is -- and it's not true. So far there is one person, and I believe the person is Randal Ware, before the big break. But it's -- they need to know that -- to the best of my knowledge and I think they said the other eleven couldn't be saved. I don't know if that's for sure that they're perished or not, but I do know only one is --
COOPER: This is unbelievable.
ROBY: It's totally -- it's the worst thing that I've ever heard. I don't know how this information could get this far and now -- we knew something was strange when the governor was coming in and just hugging -- it must be his wife. But just the look of total, total disbelief -- and what we just heard, I've never seen anything like it. How these people have been -- these families have been through so much -- you know, close to 45 hours now. And --
COOPER: I'm completely stunned.
COOPER: You went into the church -- I mean -- tell me your name, again. We talked earlier.
ROBY: Lynette Roby.
COOPER: Lynette Roby.
ROBY: We were coming and chasing -- This is Kiki.
COOPER: And Kiki and Travis.
ROBY: And Travis.
COOPER: I remember, OK.
ROBY: So, you know -- the nation, every one needs to know that it is not true. The celebration -- it doesn't mean that the prayers can't be -- prayers can still keep coming in, but -- there is only one. Only one so far has made it.
COOPER: We've been hearing. We've just been talking to the doctor who at the hospital. That patient is in critical condition.
COOPER: What exactly did you hear?
ROBY: He was apologizing. He said that --
COOPER: This was the governor?
ROBY: No, no.
COOPER: Or the CEO of the company.
ROBY: No, the CEO of the mine.
COOPER: So he -- you were -- where you in the church?
ROBY: We were right up front. We were right up front. We followed the cars coming in. We saw the governor and we were running with the cars and coming in, what we appeared was going to be, you know -- were the miners. That's why we're here. That's why everybody is here.
And the apologized for the lack of communication and he said that he took total credit for that and then just people started screaming hypocrites -- so it's --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then they started running every where. And then the next thing you know we see fist flying everywhere, cops and people and everything was hitting each other.
COOPER: Inside the church?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
ROBY: Yeah. So somehow, some one needs to get the right information. You know, it is a total dishonor to, you know, whatever mining officials -- or however the word got out, its definitely -- it's definitely not true. There are eleven that apparently did not make it -- or -- there's one survivor. That's it.
COOPER: Where did you hear that they had not made it? Whose lips did you hear it from?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coal mine dude.
ROBY: The ones that own the coal mine. The one that has been giving the press conferences the whole time.
COOPER: And you remember precisely what he said?
ROBY: That he apologized, there has been errors. There has been miscommunication and he took total responsibility for that. And then people started screaming hypocrites and then he gets -- he was trying to get everyone's attention to get past that and he said there is only -- and people were screaming -- and he said, there is only one known survivor, Randal Ware. And I'm not sure if he said the other 11 are deceased. But that's the extent. That's the extent. There is only one survivor.
ROBY: So, that --
COOPER: Are you guys OK? Are you all right?
ROBY: Yeah, it's the most awful -- it's unbelievable. It's just total. It's disgraceful. It's awful. It needs to be known. I mean the story needs to change to -- not a very, you know, it is taken a turn for -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It went from happy to sad, to --
COOPER: It went from happy to sad. Are you OK, Kiki? You seem upset.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm OK.
COOPER: All right?
Let's try to clarify what we are just hearing. If you could just stay with us.
What we are hearing for the first time -- and it is -- it is, frankly, stunning news. According to this woman, the mine officials have reentered the mine, we told you the governor was on site as well. We aren't hearing the shouting that we were hearing, but she has heard the mine official telling the people there that the survivor at the hospital is the only survivor.
We're trying to get confirmation on this. Frankly, we simply do not know what the situation is.
What we're seeing, though, is a long line of ambulances. There were a whole -- there is a whole bunch of ambulances down there, aren't they?
ROBY: Yes, sir.
COOPER: Those are, I assume, the ambulances that were at the mine.
ROBY: And what we appeared to, we thought, we were running and chasing what was going to be wonderful news, because there was the governor in the first SUV and several others, which all the time -- all this time we've been told of a miracle. And that's why we're here. And there is no miracle. It is awful. It's the most awful thing you could bring you children out to be a part of, to remember in history. It's just -- it's awful.
M. O'BRIEN: That was Lynette Roby and her two daughters (sic), who were just appeared just as Anderson Cooper was telling the story of what thought was the euphoria of learning that 12 of those miners had survived.
She, breaking the news to him, and to the rest of you, that officials from the mining company, which ones the Sago Mine No. 1, had actually come in and said, no. Not true, 12 of them dead. Only one survivor. And thus, in just that five minute interview a complete turn of events, from the absolute peaks of a high, to the depths of a low for the people in this area.
Let's just orient you where I'm standing right now. I'm in a little community called Sago. Sago is unincorporated, it is not a city by any stretch, doesn't have its own mayor; has 418 people in this -- really a hollow, right near the mine. As you zoom in on West Virginia, which of course, is coal mining country. Not far from here is the town, which is an incorporated town of Tallmansville. We're about 100 miles north of Charleston, West Virginia, the capital.
And we're not too far away from Morgantown, which is where the survivor, Randal McCloy, 27 years old, is being treated right now. Unclear what the extent of his injuries are.
Interestingly, the 12 that were discovered, barricaded in there, McCloy being the only survivor, were found not very far from where that boring was conducted yesterday. We told you about that, about 24 hours ago, if you were watching. They drilled down with a six and a quarter-inch drill bit. Interestingly, it was the same drill bit, precisely the same drill bit used in 2002 to help out those miners in Somerset, Pennsylvania, who ultimately survived.
Any case, they drilled down very close to where those 12 were found. About 12,000 feet straight into the side of this mountain; about 260 feet in depth below the surface of the earth at that particular point. And what was interesting about it was at that time, and that was the first indication that we had that there was not a lot of optimism. The levels of carbon monoxide were extremely high. About three or four times a lethal dose over a 15 minute period for a human being. So, at that point, there was not -- there was just at thin, thin thread of hope that was hanging on.
And in the end, when that story came out overnight, that 12 had survived, people harkened back to that moment, when there wasn't so much hope. So, what a tremendous emotional roller coaster it has been. With the family members getting information, and in some cases, very wrong information. And now, many of them, are demanding some answers, because amid their grief there is this tremendous anger.
I spoke to three women, just a little while ago, who are just trying to grapple with what they've been through over the past five hours or so. Let's listen.
M. O'BRIEN (on camera): Joining us now to talk a little bit about this is Debra Newsome (ph) and Alma Withers (ph) and Anna Casto; relatives of one of the miners. They'd like to leave his name out of this right now, because his wife is not doing so well. She's at the Baptist Church, still.
I want to begin with you, Anna. You were here as the information was parceled out. Tell me how it all unfolded in that church?
ANNA CASTO, COUSIN OF MINER: We didn't know nothing. Then they kept telling us this, telling us that. They said they would come update us, and they never did. Finally, they come. Mr. Hatfield, the CEO of the mines, he would say he didn't know nothing.
Finally, he come up and said they was all living. He even give us the directions of how he was bringing them in, he was going to take the emergency car, and go up, get them. He was going to bring them to the church -- to the families, not only my family, but all families.
And he was supposed to come back within an hour. He come back three hours later with news that they're gone. That there is no survivors. We want to know why and how people can get by with this! This is supposed to be a free country, people!
And I want to know. He says he has got letters from the president and everything, so why can't we, as a family -- I'm not asking for nothing for me, I just want the immediate family to get some kind of satisfaction, some kind of answers.
M. O'BRIEN: And I think we all can understand an honest miscommunication.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no, no!
CASTO: No. There was no -- there was--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
M. O'BRIEN: Tell us what happened.
CASTO: He strictly told us they were alive. Three hours later he come back and said there was no communicate -- no, no, no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no miscommunications.
CASTO: There was too many families up there that had heard everything. No. There was -- no.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, no. We was told that there was one gentleman had passed away. Well, we mourned with that family. You know? Our hearts went out to them, but yet, the rest of us were told, hey, your men are coming -- they're coming home.
And then, what, two or three hours later, then, boom. Oh, well, there's no survivors. That is not a miscommunication. I don't feel like that is at all. I mean, you know, just don't lie. Don't tell us one thing and then -- hey, we're up there celebrating but, yet, we're mourning with this other family.
M. O'BRIEN: What are your thoughts as to how this transpired? I mean, the company officials saying they knew, say, 20 minutes after the miscommunication that that initial information was wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. I just think they should of gave -- once they found out, they should of come back up and told the people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And told the story right. You know? Don't -- don't tell us one thing and then let -- let us rejoice and praise God, you know? Hey! Our guys are alive, you know? Hey, they're going to get to come home. And then just like pull the rug out from underneath of us.
M. O'BRIEN: That's the way many people feel here in Sago, West Virginia. We're going to take a break. When we return we'll check in at the hospital where the sole survivor of this mine accident is clinging to life this morning. We'll get a report on his condition after a short break. Stay with us for more AMERICAN MORNING.
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