Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Horrible Tragedy Compounded

No one knows how it happened, but as of 2 a.m., when I finally went to bed, the word was that 12 of the 13 miners had been found alive. This morning, when I got up at 6 a.m., the news was tragic. It was that only one was alive and in critical condition while the other 11 had perished.

The families had been joyous. They were singing "How Great Thou Art" to praise the Lord that the miners were alive. Three hours later, shock and disbelief as they are notified that the news had been false and that their loved ones had died in the mine. Apparently it took that long to correct the notification because they wanted to make sure they knew definitively about all 12 of the miners.

One young man, 27-year-old Randal McCloy, is in critical condition. He is fighting for his life while his fellow miners are being brought to the surface. It is believed that the 11 died from carbon monoxide poisoning, but that has not been confirmed. The canister re-breathers had been used, but it was not enough for the men to survive. It was found they had tried to barricade themselves in a small space, but even that was not enough to hold off death while they waited for rescuers to find them.

Speculation is that a mine worker overheard a conversation between a rescue worker and the command center. At that point, they had pulled Randal McCloy out and they were trying to get him to the hospital. It is because they had pulled one out alive that this mine worker believed that they must all be alive. That false hope spread like wildfire. Jubilation was turned to shock and despair as word came through that just the one man survived.

My heart goes out to all of these families and this close-knit community. Now comes the inevitable finger-pointing and the investigation into the 208 violations sited against this mine in 2005 and how this tragedy may have been avoided.

UPDATE: 1/4/06 8:15 a.m.-Randal McCloy in critical, but stable condition. He has a partial collapse of a lung, dehydration, and hypothermia. There is no evidence of broken bones nor of carbon monoxide poisoning at this point.
8:36 a.m.-Doctor's report. He does not have hypothermia. He is dehydrated. He is moving and responding to stimuli, though he is again sedated to keep him comfortable while he is still attached to the ventilator. Despite the ventilator, he is breathing spontaneously. He is also suffering from prolonged immobility and some carbon monoxide in his blood. He is still listed as critical.

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