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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
One Man Found Dead in West Virginia Mine; Search Continues For Remaining 12 Miners
Aired January 3, 2006 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again from close to the mouth of the Sago Mine. Whatever happens next here tonight will be tempered by what we learned just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, 40 hours after the West Virginia coal mine explosion, rescuers find one body and race to find the other 12 miners trapped deep underground -- one constant worry, deadly gases filling the tunnels. 360's Dr. Sanjay Gupta on carbon monoxide dangers, including surprising risks in your own home.
Plus, the terrible uncertainty for families -- these miners are husbands and fathers, brothers and sons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're just afraid. Like, I'm scared to death.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, how one family copes, waiting for any news at all, a story of hope and prayers.
And how a robot may provide the answers -- the view from where no one can safely go.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, live from Upshur County, West Virginia, here's Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: And good evening again.
We begin tonight with a strange mix of sadness and hope, and there is so much of both. Having gone as far down the mine as their equipment allows at this moment, crews have found the body of one miner, but no trace of 12 more, either dead or alive -- hope mixed with sadness. Twelve miners apparently walked away from whatever happened down there.
Where are they now? That is the question. And what is their condition? There is no sign, not yet, of what happened next -- so, not a good way to end the day out here, but not the worst way, either, sadness and hope.
COOPER (voice-over): Day two of the mission to rescue the 13 men trapped in the Sago Mine began with grim news. An air monitor dropped into a drilled hole measured carbon monoxide levels that were dangerously high, a lethal dose.
And a camera lowered into that hole showed no sign of the missing miners.
BEN HATFIELD, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP: There is hope that they could be in another location or they could be barricaded somewhere, protected from that level of carbon monoxide. But, certainly, if they were in this particular location, that's not an environment that would sustain life.
COOPER: Ever mindful that this is a life-and-death race against time, rescue teams dug deeper, faster into the mine, starting a second hole, then a third, searching desperately for any sign of life.
Distraught family and friends of the men trapped 260 feet below ground gathered in a nearby church, waiting for any word on the fate of their loved ones, hanging on to any hope that they may be alive.
Nick Helms' father has worked the mine for nearly 35 years.
NICK HELMS, SON OF TRAPPED MINER: For him to be in the coal mines for 34 years, and all the experience that he has, I -- I'm sure that he -- you know, if he was able to do anything in that mines to save anyone else, he would be thinking of them before his self.
COOPER: It seemed everyone in the town of Tallmansville, West Virginia, was waiting and praying. President Bush promised federal help and offered words of support for the trapped men and their loved ones.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And may God bless those who are -- are trapped below the Earth. And may God bless those who are concerned about those trapped below the Earth.
COOPER: There is still no word on what caused the explosion that stranded the miners.
By late afternoon, rescue crews had made their way 11,000 feet into the mine. But day two was slowed by fears of the potentially deadly carbon monoxide. Officials say word on the fate of the 13 men could come at any time now. But, as time passes, hope dims.
HATFIELD: We are clearly in a situation where we need a miracle. But miracles happen.
COOPER: And, at a late hour, the terrible news: There were no miracles in West Virginia tonight.
HATFIELD: Mine rescue crews have also located the body of a miner near the belt drive at the entrance to the second left section, which is roughly 11,250 feet from the mine portal.
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Now, the key point in that press conference that we learned just a short time is that the man bus, the -- the vehicle which actually brings the miners down, was not damaged. And that, they say, is good news.
Perhaps it indicates that the miners were able to exit that vehicle safely and find some place to -- to hide. The body that was found, found some 700 feet away, was not part -- not working with those miners. That person was working on a mining belt.
I just want to give you a sense of where we are. There's a lot of activity behind us. All throughout this next two hours of 360, you are going to see cars going by. Those are, more than likely, mining families, who have been coming and going all day long.
Behind me here, about 100 or 200 yards down, there's a police checkpoint. That is very close to where the church is located. You can see, in the yellow slickers, those are police officers checking the identity of all the vehicles. You either have to be part of the media or -- or -- or family members.
You see a small fire. And, then, up, you will also see, actually, probably in the distance -- it's probably too dark to see the church where, we're told, several hundred family members have gathered, family members of these 13 miners, all waiting for word.
And -- and imagine how difficult it is. I mean, they know that one of the miners has been found dead. But they don't know the identity of that miner. It -- it is a very difficult time for -- for everyone here, the rescue workers, as well as the families.
Some perspective now on what these crews and we hope what these miners are still going through.
Bruce Dial, a mining consultant, he's with us in Charlotte, North Carolina, tonight.
Bruce, thanks for being with us.
What exactly is -- is a man bus, and what does it tell you that the car the miners were in, this man bus, was not damaged?
BRUCE DIAL, COAL MINING SAFETY EXPERT: A man trip or a man bus is a vehicle that travels on the track that would carry the miners into the mine, so they don't have to walk.
They're relatively low-profile vehicles. Some mines that aren't high enough, they actually have to lay down in them, so they won't get -- they won't come in contact with the roof.
The good news is that they found this bus and it was still on the track. It wasn't burnt or damaged. So, it wasn't involved in the initial explosion, which means the men riding it would have been alive. And they would have been able to -- once they got off the bus, as far as it could go, then they would be able to walk on over to one of the other headings, where there might be oxygen and proper ventilation for them to survive.
COOPER: The -- the CEO of this mining company, ICG, Hatfield, said that the permanent ventilation seals had been breached by a substantial explosion from inside the sealed area. What -- what are the seals that he is talking about?
The seals are basically walls that go between the coal pillars to -- and they're -- so that they can direct the air down certain headings and across headings, so they can control what -- which way the air is traveling. And, so, whenever they -- some of these walls were blown out.
It's just like, in -- in your home, sometimes, you will see you open or close a door and a door somewhere else in the house will open or close. It's the volume of air and the pressure. So, whenever these walls blew out, it is possible that it short-circuited the air to some parts of mine, but still allowed the air to go to another part of the mine.
COOPER: Bruce, we keep talking about -- about these miners, that the hope is that they barricaded them -- themselves in somewhere. What does that mean, literally? I mean, are they literally trying to barricade themselves against carbon monoxide poison?
DIAL: Yes. They're trying to -- one of the reasons for barricading is also in case there's another explosion, that they will be in a safe room.
Basically, they're backing up to an opening that has three sides, like three walls. And then they're taking material and building the fourth wall. And they're staying inside of that.
They would still have to have oxygen being provided by the ventilation and ventilation that would sweep away the carbon monoxide and methane and things like that.
COOPER: So, you would have to have some sort of outside oxygen flow and -- and something taking away the bad air. It's -- it's not enough to just find a -- a little pocket of -- of oxygen?
DIAL: That's correct. Yes. Once they use their air supply up on their self-rescuers, and they barricade their self, they would still have to have some ventilation and oxygen to survive.
COOPER: What -- does it -- does it mean anything that the -- the person, the miner who was found, the body that was found was some 700 feet away from this man bus? We don't know the condition of this body. Mine officials wouldn't say. They said they didn't know.
But, apparently, the -- the body was found somewhere along the belt, not in the actual sort of left turn of -- of this mine.
DIAL: Yes. This person could have been working in a different area than what the people in the man bus were in. And he could have died from the initial blast. Or he could have died from a high volume of carbon monoxide from the blast, and it just overcame him quicker than it would have the other people.
COOPER: Bruce, you cleared up a lot of -- a lot of questions I had. I appreciate you joining us. Thank you.
DIAL: You are welcome.
COOPER: While there's still the hope that the remaining 12 miners will be found alive, there's also the grim reality of the conditions in the mine.
Air tests reveal lethal levels of -- lethal levels of carbon monoxide, a silent killer, one the claims 500 American lives every year, not miners, people in homes.
Senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, joins us from Atlanta for more on the dangers of carbon monoxide.
Sanjay, first of all, what exactly is carbon monoxide poisoning? What makes it so dangerous?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
I mean, it is a poisonous gas, as you mentioned, Anderson. It's odorless. It's colorless. You can't taste it. It doesn't irritate the skin. And that is what makes it so dangerous. Oftentimes, you just don't know that it is there. As you mentioned, 500 people a year die from this.
What happens, in a nutshell, is that this carbon monoxide sort of knocks the oxygen off the red blood cells, doesn't let the oxygen actually bind. And what happens is, your body essentially becomes starved for oxygen. You just can't get oxygen to the rest of your body.
Some of the symptoms which you might develop, at low levels of carbon monoxide, you might just have some dizziness. You might have some nausea, some vomiting, things like that. More medium levels of intoxication, dizziness, drowsiness. You could start to develop some mental impairment.
Severe, obviously, is what everyone is concerned about, some nervous system damage, coma, and then death as well. And that is usually in extreme levels of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The numbers, since people are talking about those tonight, 400 parts per million, that is considered extreme, for sure, in terms of possibly causing some of the most severe symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
COOPER: So, would it be possible to actually tell if -- if the body that was found, if that person died from -- from carbon monoxide poisoning?
GUPTA: Yes. You -- you can tell that after the person has died.
In fact, you -- you actually just take some blood, either from the -- from the arm or from the heart itself, and measure how much carbon monoxide is attached to those red blood cells. And if there's too much, then you basically know that carbon monoxide was likely the culprit.
COOPER: Those -- the remaining miners -- and we hope they're still found alive -- if -- if they have been exposed to carbon monoxide, what kind of medical treatment do they get, or should they get?
GUPTA: Well, you know, some of the early treatment is obvious.
You just want to get them out of the exposure of the carbon monoxide. But, after that, it's all about trying to get the oxygen to replace that carbon monoxide. So, actually giving someone 100 percent oxygen for a period of time can take care of some of the lower levels of carbon monoxide poisoning.
After that, what often has to be done is actually hyperbaric oxygen. What you're doing is putting someone into an oxygen chamber and essentially forcing the oxygen into their bloodstream. That oftentimes kicks that carbon monoxide out of the body and can be quite effective. But that has to be done pretty early, though, Anderson, usually within several hours after the significant poisoning, for it to be effective at all.
COOPER: And people in their own homes can get carbon monoxide poisoning. What -- what's the most common way?
I mean, any kind of fuel source can actually cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Most -- most common are usually people who have these portable generator heaters in their homes. We heard about a lot of these after Katrina in New Orleans. These -- these portable generated heaters can oftentimes release this carbon monoxide into a confined space.
And that's why carbon monoxide detectors, a lot of people don't think about that. They think about smoke detectors. Carbon monoxide detectors, very important as well in the home.
COOPER: Is it a bad way to die? I mean, do you just go to sleep?
GUPTA: You know, that's -- that's a good question. It's a tough question.
Yes, you do. It's often not a very painful way at all to die. Someone becomes quite drowsy. Someone eventually becomes lethargic. They go into coma. Oftentimes, there -- there is no pain involved at all in carbon monoxide poisoning. COOPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks for your expertise. Appreciate it.
COOPER: We are closely following rescue efforts here in West Virginia.
Coming up, what it's like being a miner. We are going to take you inside a shaft, where the tough and strong do a dangerous job every day.
Across America and around the world, you are watching 360.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Earlier today, I spoke to Governor Manchin of West Virginia. I told him that Americans all across our country are praying for the miners who are trapped in the mine there in West Virginia.
I told him that I appreciated the great outpouring of compassion from the West Virginia citizens toward those worried family members. I also assured him that the federal government will help the folks in West Virginia any way we can to bring those miners out of that mine and, hopefully, in good condition.
And may God bless those who are -- are trapped below the earth. And may God bless those who are concerned about those trapped below the earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And that the scene, some of the many people just waiting, waiting out here in the cold and the rain and -- in Sago, West Virginia, waiting for word of the miners trapped below the earth, some 260 feet.
We now know one miner has died. We are still awaiting word of the others. The families of the miners are gathered at Sago Baptist Church, just a few hundred feet from that fire is burning just a few hundred yards behind me in that direction.
Just a little more than an hour ago, they were told in that church by mine company officials that one miner's body has been found, but not identified. The search, as I said, continues for the 12 other miners.
Joining me now is Rachel Day, the daughter of the pastor of Sago Baptist Church.
Rachel, appreciate you joining us again.
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: Thanks for being with us.
COOPER: How are the families doing? I mean, it is the question of the night.
RACHEL DAY, DAUGHTER OF SAGO BAPTIST CHURCH PASTOR: They're still holding on, because they know, even though there's one, very unfortunately, dead, they still know that there's still that thread of hope for the last 12.
COOPER: It's also got to be hard knowing that -- that one person has died, but not knowing who it is.
COOPER: I mean, it's this horrible sort of lottery.
I wouldn't tell them, you know, I know what you're going through, because they're not my family, you know, and I wouldn't know what they're going through.
COOPER: None of us...
DAY: But the best that we can do is just offer, you know, the compassion, say, I'm here for you if you need to talk.
COOPER: Have you been surprised by what you have seen from these families? I mean, it is a tight-knit community. They are -- so many of them are here just around the clock. I mean, 40-plus hours now -- at 10:00, it was 40 hours since this incident occurred. And there are some families who have been here this whole time.
DAY: Now, see, that's the great thing about Buckhannon and any little town in the states, because, it's like this quite a bit. If anything happens, you know, an emergency, great or small, it's like this. And, like, it would be harder to get in a big metropolitan that you may have, you know, like New York or Chicago or something like that.
COOPER: Your dad's the pastor of this church. I mean, has he ever seen anything like this?
DAY: I honestly have no idea. He's older than me, so I'm sure he's seen a lot of things.
DAY: But, as far as I know, the history... COOPER: What is he telling the congregation? I mean, what is he telling...
DAY: There's still hope.
DAY: You know, that you can't let go. God still has a hand in it, until it's all said and done. And whatever happens, there's a purpose for everything that does happen.
COOPER: There -- there has been anger, and especially in these last couple hours, toward mining officials. I'm sure -- I'm sure you have heard some of that. I mean, what -- what are you hearing? People are getting frustrated.
DAY: I honestly have no idea. I have just been kind of walking around.
And, you know, it would be frustrating for them as a family member just to know, you know, I don't know what happened to my loved one. So, you know, that's pretty much a personal thing for them to try to sort out.
COOPER: Well, Rachel, I appreciate you joining us. And I know it's a busy night for you. And -- and give our best, of course, as always, to the families. Thank you so much.
COOPER: Rachel Day, the father -- the -- the daughter of the -- the pastor of the Sago Baptist Church, a little small church here that the families have -- have really been -- been rallying around, and sleeping in, in many cases. The church was packed, Rachel was saying, just a couple hours ago. It's likely it's going to be packed as well again tonight. That is where the mining officials go to give these families the latest information.
Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with some of the other stories we are following right now.
Good evening, Erica.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Anderson.
We begin, actually, on the other side of the world, where rescue crews at another accident site are still searching for four people there. In Bad Reichenhall, German, a woman and her three children are trapped under the rubble of an ice skating rink. This happened after the roof of that rink collapsed on Monday due to heavy snow. At least 11 people were killed, including seven children. Thirty-four others were rescued.
In Rhode Island, medical marijuana legalized by state legislators. That overrides a veto by the governor. Rhode Island is now the first state to take the step since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that patients who use the drug can be prosecuted under federal laws.
In Columbus, Ohio, a former Ohio State football star is now out of jail, after posting $50,000 bond. Maurice Clarett faced a judge today, after he was charged with robbing two people at gunpoint early Sunday morning. Clarett did not enter a plea. He helped win -- the Buckeyes win the national championship in 2002.
And, in Atlanta, baby Noor discharged from the hospital, after a series of medical evaluations for spinal surgery. That surgery is now tentatively scheduled for Monday. The 3-month-old Iraqi girl captured the hearts of the Georgia National Guardsmen who found her during a search of the family's Baghdad home last month. The soldiers contacted their senator, who got a children's hospital to perform the potentially life-saving operation for free -- so, a bright spot in some of the headlines for you there tonight, Anderson.
COOPER: And we certainly need that here in -- in Sago, Erica. Thanks very much.
Quite often, you know, we don't think about how dangerous mining is, until we have a crisis like the one here in West Virginia.
Ahead on 360, we are going to give you a firsthand look at the perilous job. I mean, it is such a dangerous and difficult job. We are going to take you inside a mine and show you what it's like.
Plus, the pain of those left behind. Meet some family members who have been waiting and hoping that their loved one will come out of the mine alive. And they are still holding on to hope at this late, dark hour -- that story when 360 continues.
COOPER: This just in to CNN: We have just gotten word that the governor of West Virginia, Joe Manchin, is going to be making a statement in approximately 10 minutes.
We don't know what he is going to be saying, but he has made a number of statements today. He has been optimistic over the last 40 hours or so, since this began, saying that, in West Virginia, we do believe in -- in miracles.
But there has been a significant change in the tone and the presentation of -- of some officials, some mining officials, in their public statements over the last several hours. And, of course, we now know that one miner has been found dead.
We will bring, of course, the governor's statement to you live, as it happens. It is going to happen just, actually, a little bit over there, we believe, near the church where the family members have gathered.
Earlier today, this advice: "There's not much we can do right now, except pray" -- those words today from Mark Popernack, a man who knows what it's like to be in a crisis such as the one we have here in West Virginia. See, he was one of the nine survivors of the Quecreek mining accident back in Pennsylvania in 2002.
And, as that drama unfolded three-and-a-half years ago, CNN's Jeff Flock went inside a mine to give us a firsthand look at what miners see and experience every day.
See for yourself.
JEFF FLOCK, CNN CHICAGO BUREAU CHIEF: Tonight, trying to give you some sense of what it was like for those nine miners. To do it, we've come to an abandoned coal mine, about 500 feet down, in Pennsylvania, Patton, Pennsylvania.
You know, you talked about the -- the one group of miners reaching the others by phone. This is a mine phone, just like the one they used to -- to -- to warn the other group of miners.
I want to take you back now inside an area that sort of roughly approximates what it was like for those nine men. This is an area about -- I don't know. I'm going to ask the men we've got back here just exactly what the dimension is, but it's just about the same dimensions, Jake, as those guys were dealing with, correct?
JAKE MILLER, RETIRED MINER: Yes. This is about 15 feet wide, and you've got four feet of height in here. This is about the same type of conditions them guys down there in Somerset were trapped in.
FLOCK: Right. Now, what do you do, when you've got water coming at you from behind you?
And I don't know, John (ph), if you're able to get past me to see what it looks like back there.
What do you do when you got water coming at you in a confined space like this? How do you get out?
WALTER PROZIALECK, RETIRED MINER: Well, you move as fast as you possibly can and head for the higher ground. You're aware of the higher ground, because you're exposed to so much danger at all times that it...
FLOCK: You're prepared for it.
MILLER: You get there automatically. And when you get there, well, then, you next plan movement.
FLOCK: I got you.
Last question I want to ask -- this is this is a mine not unlike the Saxman mine, an abandoned mine. Part of this is flooded, too. If someone were to break into this with a new mine, you would have the same problem here, correct? GLENN KERR, COAL MINER: If they broke in over on the other side of the hill, yes. Right here, we're too high for that water to move any further in this direction, but somebody would be in a world of hurt over there.
FLOCK: And go ahead and give me a -- Glenn, one rap on the wall there. That's pretty soft coal up there, isn't it?
KERRY: Yes. This has been exposed to the atmosphere for a while. Normally, it would be a lot harder than this. This is weathered a little bit.
But, you see, this is a real high-quality coal right here. It has a real high BTU rating. And this would be the same seam the boys in Somerset were working, so they were in good coal.
FLOCK: Gentlemen, I appreciate it.
It really gives us some sense for the confined space, Wolf, that those guys were in. I don't know how they managed to get out as rapidly as they did and to survive. I guess we're still figuring that one out.
That is the latest here now from 500 feet beneath the Pennsylvania surface at what's now called the "Seldom Seen Mine." And I'm told you can come here and take a tour here, if you would like. They will show you around, what it's like under the ground in a coal mine -- back to you.
COOPER: Well, we are just outside the -- the Sago mine in the Buckhannon County -- Buckhannon County Seat.
The agonizing wait continues for the families of -- of the miners. We are anticipating a statement by the governor of West Virginia very shortly now, within the next several minutes. We, of course, will bring that to you live.
Also coming up tonight, including the family of -- of Terry Helms, a longtime miner, and also a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle -- his entire family says they are not giving up hope and they are staying here, until they get word of their family member. We are going to hear from them ahead.
Also, a search robot sent underground to help find the miners gets stuck in the mud -- why humans beat the machines in this race against time -- next on 360.
COOPER: We are in Sago, West Virginia, covering the mine rescue mission that is going on at this moment. Let's recap where we stand and look at the other stories that are making headlines at this moment. Here at Sago Mine, about 90 minutes ago, officials announced the discovery of one body, 12 miners remain. Hope remains because there is now evidence that the miners left their transport vehicle on their own power. Any moment now, we may get a statement from the governor of West Virginia. We'll bring that to you live.
In the southwest, the latest on the wildfires. New Mexico, it's become part of the mix. Oklahoma may have seen the worst for now. All major blazes there are under control, that is great news. Texas, different story. An inferno with a 50-mile perimeter is challenging firefighters in West Texas. All told, since November 1st fires have killed four people, charred an area almost the size of Rhode Island.
Washington, President Bush, flanked by 19 federal prosecutors, began a campaign to win a permanent renewal of the Patriot Act. A temporary extension of the act expires February 3rd, Mr. Bush says congressional Democrats are putting politics ahead of national security. Democratic leaders say the law as written fails to strike the right balance between national security and civil liberties.
Here in West Virginia, more than a day-and-a-half since the explosion. More than 40 hours since the explosion. There is little left but hope tonight and even that comes and goes on the faces here. It is a strange scene to be sure. Especially at this dark hour. There are scores of people all around us right now working as quickly and as carefully as they can and it is careful, precise work they must do. Others, especially the families, moving around in a kind of sad, slow motion. Everybody knowing just how long it's been since the miners have been heard from. Joining me now with the latest on the rescue mission, CNN's Brian Todd.
Brian, what do we know is going on right now?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, what we know now is that they are continuing, they still say they're in rescue mode. A very important distinction to make here. They're in rescue mode continuing their search for the 12 remaining miners that are missing. They have not given the identity of the deceased miner, nor have they identified what kind of condition his body is in. They also -- given that, are not telling us whether they believe that the man tried to use the emergency equipment that he was issued and that was near his body.
A couple of other things to take from this, Anderson. The body was found at about 11,200 feet into the mine which was about the point where rescue teams were at 5:00 when they briefed us. We got this news, of course, at about 9:15. So we asked them, if you were at 11,200 feet at 5:00, why didn't you identify a body then? Why didn't you find the body then? They said at that depth, there could be and are actually several different tunnels. They could have been looking in one tunnel, taking some time there and didn't find him, you know, until later in the tunnel nearby.
Again, the identity of the man not confirmed at this point. And as you mentioned a moment ago, Anderson, they're encouraged by the fact that this body, while it was discovered 700 feet from the man (ph) bus, the mode of transportation taking the miners into the mine, the other miners appeared to have left that man bus under their own power. They got to somewhere else. They don't know where they are yet. And that's where we are.
COOPER: Well, Brian, let's talk a little bit about the conditions that these rescuers are working in. I mean, it is tough and difficult. The high levels of carbon monoxide in the air, we know about that. They are actually having to regroup right now, bring up sort of their heavy duty breathing apparatus to kind of replenish the oxygen supplies. Talk a little bit about the conditions that they are seeing around them.
TODD: The conditions are extremely treacherous. Even though another distinction to make, they are not finding a lot of debris. They did find some damage because in the last briefing, they told us that the ventilation seals in the mine were breached by what they called a substantial explosive force. There is damage. But they're not finding a lot of debris. Debris and roof collapse are not the issue here. They're not finding evidence of any of that.
It's the gases. Everywhere they turn, there could be carbon monoxide or other noxious gases that could have triggered this explosion in the first place. They're proceeding with extreme caution. We are getting the impression now that rescue teams can only going a few feet at a time and they have to regroup. After a short shift in there, they have to bring in one rescue team out, bring another one in. So it's shuttling of teams in and out.
We were told a long time ago in this rescue mission THAT they have got 14 five-man teams at the ready all shuttling in and out. So that gives you a sense of the scope of this, Anderson, and of the kind of slow, methodical nature of this work.
COOPER: Well, the fact that there isn't debris to me seems actually kind of ominous because if there wasn't debris blocking the way for these miners, why couldn't they on their own two feet get out of the mines? It is a question that cannot be answered at this point. Brian, we appreciate you joining us. But I mean, if they had those breathing devices and they had an hour of usable air through their own breathing devices, why weren't they able to get out after this explosion if in fact there wasn't debris blocking their way? It's unanswerable question until these 12 other miners are found.
Each of the 13 men who went into that Sago Mine yesterday early in the morning, the explosion happened around 6:30 a.m., and those who didn't come out, they all have families waiting above here, right here, wives and children, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, nieces and nephews all trying to hold on to hope even in the face of one confirmed death. Many have lived through terrible scares before. This is, after all, the place where mining is in the blood, here in the heart of coal country. That doesn't make it any easier, however.
Just listen to the family of Terry Helms.
COOPER (voice-over): For miners' families, few things worse than waiting. NICK HELMS, SON OF MINER TERRY HELMS: Everybody's telling me, everything's fine and everything is looking good, but you know, it is not going to look good until I see him walk out of there and I'm not going to leave here until I see him, you know, and get to hug him and tell him I love him.
COOPER: For 40 hours now, Nick Helms has waited with his family for word of his father, miner Terry Helms.
MICHELLE MOUSER, NIECE OF MINER TERRY HELMS: If I know Terry, he is OK and helping everybody else get through it.
COOPER: We first learned about Terry late last night when we spoke with his niece, Michelle Mouser.
MOUSER: I'm trying to be strong for my uncle that's in the mines.
COOPER: After appearing on 360, Michelle stayed up all night with Nick, who drove more than 10 hours from South Carolina just to be here.
HELMS: I'll wait here as long as it takes. I won't be leaving.
COOPER: Nick doesn't work in the mine because his dad told him not to. Terry wanted a better life for his son. Nick wants his father to know he's here, waiting for him.
HELMS: It wasn't anything on my mind except for getting to my dad. I'm worried about him. I want to make sure he's all right.
COOPER: Nights are cold here. The sky, pitch black. Terry's family huddled together under blankets, trying to stay warm, trying to keep each other in good spirits.
This morning, we found them tired, but still here, waiting.
HELM: It's cold. It was all right. We just cried. We, you know, comforted each other. Just got through.
COOPER: All day, there were reporters and rain, dampened spirits, still no word about Terry Helms.
(on camera): Sitting still is the hardest part?
MOUSER: Right. I'm waiting for the two hours to go by that they're going to come and update you.
COOPER (voice-over): Every two hours Michelle went to hear from mine officials, plenty of news, none of it good.
(on camera): Do you look forward to these meetings or do you dread them?
MOUSER: Yes, in a way, I do. But then in a way I don't because, you know, you don't want to keep hearing bad news each time they come out, but, you know, you have got to expect the worst.
HELMS: Until you hear say, they're all safe, we've got them, everybody's safe, you're just afraid. Like I'm scared to death.
COOPER (voice-over): Scared to death of what news may come, scared to death of what another night might mean. But Terry's family isn't leaving until they know one way or the other.
HELMS: Until he comes walking across there -- until they bring him across there, whatever, and I can tell him I love him, good news or bad, until I know something.
COOPER: Well, let's hope Nick is able to tell his dad face to face that he loves him. Let's get more perspective on the rescue mission. Joining me now on the phone, and I should just quickly point out we are awaiting statements by the governor of West Virginia, Joe Manchin, any moment now. They were supposed to occur about five minutes ago. So we will bring those to you live. We have camera crews ready and stationed, ready to bring it to you live. Joining me now on the phone is Greg Phillips, he is a former miner. He has been on job for 24 years, a former mine rescuer. He knows these rescues operations well.
Greg, what do you make of the fact that the man bus was empty and they don't know where the other 12 miners are?
GREG PHILLIPS, FORMER MINER & MINE RESCUER: Well, I feel that's a good sign, because it shows that the bus evidently stopped. Maybe the power kicked off or something and they got out on their own. It wasn't, you know, blown off the track. The explosion wasn't right at the area where the miners were so it's a good possibility it was somewhere else, which is good.
COOPER: Greg, I understand the governor is coming very soon. So I may have to interrupt you on this next question. But what do you make of the fact that if there is not debris, why couldn't the miners have gotten out?
PHILLIPS: Well, they could have been ahead of the explosion. And they could have realized that -- when they heard the explosion, they could have realized it was behind them and it could have blew out stoppings and circumvented the air to where the bad air would be behind them, and that's why they went towards the face (ph) area to...
COOPER: All right. Greg, the governor is about to make a statement. Let's listen in. We'll come back to you, Greg.
GOV. JOE MANCHIN, WEST VIRGINIA: Let me just tell you what we know and there's not a whole lot that's changed from 10:00. The really unusual thing is how things changed from what was expected or what they thought might have happened to what actually did happen. And the crews are out -- they're changing over crews and they're keeping fresh crews in there. They're doing everything humanly possible. We are still fully in a rescue mode. And we know that there's 12 miners in there that the blast did not affect. And we know that they are together somewhere and we're trying to find those 12 miners, and it's still -- it's an uphill battle. I want everyone to know that with the air levels that we have to deal with, it's still an uphill battle and that still the odds are against us.
From that being said, again, we are in a different total mode than what we thought we'd be in at this time. So our hopes are still high and we still -- as I said, we believe in miracles in West Virginia and we are still hoping for that miracle.
QUESTION: Governor, can you describe the mood of the families?
MANCHIN: We know from the rescue teams and the reports that we were receiving that the buggy, the car, the tram, if you will, that they ride back in to go to work, the one gentleman was dropped off where he should have been. The 12 turned what we call two left and they were up into the section where they would have worked.
As you know, the one body that's been recovered was the one person was left right there where the force of the blast came. And the 12, the tram was in perfect condition. It was on the tracks. There's no disturbance. There's no buckets. There's no anything. They would have gotten off and walked and taken everything with them.
QUESTION: Do you believe they may have barricaded themselves in...
MANCHIN: Well, that's what we're hoping for. These are trained people. These are the best, and if there's any way that it can be done then this is the group that could do it. So...
QUESTION: Can you say anything more about the body that was found?
MANCHIN: Well, the families are still very hopeful. They understand that we have long odds against us because of the air quality. And we know that and they have known that since early this morning. You all have been briefed on that.
The things that have just totally flabbergasted us is we never thought that the old mine that was sealed off on the 1st of December, that that is where all of this happened, and we don't know why. We really can't tell you. We know that there had to be methane gas or build-up of fuel if you will back there and there had to be something that sparked it.
And no one can speculate on that what could have happened. But there was no equipment, no machinery, no nothing back there to make that happen.
QUESTION: How much area is left to search, Governor?
MANCHIN: Oh, the area is quite extensive. And you can -- it's just -- you know, it's difficult conditions to see if you will and they're in an area to where they're still wearing the respirators where they're working. And then they were dropping back to the area that we call free area without respirators. And they're leapfrogging, rotating, and they're working as hard as possible.
We have an awful lot of hope and we're going to find those 12 men and we're just praying that the good lord, that they're safe and sound.
QUESTION: Can you say anything more about the man whose body was found?
QUESTION: ... how far in was...
MANCHIN: It was exactly where he could have been dropped off to work, which is about 11,000 to 12,000 feet before you make the break. So right at that point.
MANCHIN: Right where -- that's exactly where he would have been working. That was his station I'm told.
MANCHIN: The tram then goes -- it turns left and goes up to what we call two left section. They would have been going up in that section, about another 1,000, 1,500 feet. And that's where the tram -- that's where the track stopped. That's where the tram was supposed to be. That's where it was. And so whenever this happened, they didn't get the force of the blast.
QUESTION: How close far are they now to identifying the body?
MANCHIN: You know, there's a proper way and respect for the family and respect for the body and the proper identification so there's no incorrect names given. So they should be -- that should be done within the half hour so.
QUESTION: Are the rescuers trying to call out to these men when they don't have the respirators on?
MANCHIN: They're trained to do everything humanly possible and the people that are in there are trained to respond. So there will be communications if there is. As you know, we haven't had any sounds whatsoever. And those are the odds that are against us, the air and things of that sort, but who would have ever believed we would be in this position right now?
QUESTION: Governor, how much more ground is there to cover?
MANCHIN: There is quite a bit. I mean, they're working this whole two left section and it's just step by step, you know?
QUESTION: How many hours?
MANCHIN: Well, you know, I would like to tell you it would be quicker than what you would think. But it's going to be longer than what we anticipate.
MANCHIN: It is a two-section mine and there's a typical -- you have, you know, one-section, two-section mine. There's quite a bit of area. There truly is, because knowing that they were mobile, after the blast, and they know that we had at least an hour or more depending on how they would have conserved, being experienced people they would have done what they could to conserve their air supply. That gives them quite a bit of maneuverability. So we really don't -- I mean, there's an awful lot of space to be covered. We just really don't know.
QUESTION: If they're still alive wouldn't they be making noise?
MANCHIN: We would like to think all that but they also would be conserving all the energy they could. There's so many things. There's just so much speculation. Let me just say this as I finish, that the miracle is still alive and we have hope for that miracle in West Virginia. And the hope is still there. The people's and the families' faith is strong as ever. We're resilient. They're holding together as family. They're building off of each others' strength. And that's unbelievable news that they will receive when they know that 12 men walked off together somewhere, and they know they had at least an hour or so of supply.
With that being said, believe in miracles and give us a good prayer. Thank you.
MANCHIN: You just can't. You can't say enough good things about them. They're coming from all over. The team from Illinois just flew in. So we're having support from all over this great country and the prayers, all over the world. What more can you ask for? And this is a good little state and it's a tough state so we're going to be OK. Thank you all.
COOPER: That was Governor Joe Manchin and that is the most optimistic we have seen him probably in the last several hours. He's again now saying that the miracles do happen here in West Virginia. Saying that the miners clearly got off that man bus and the hope is still that they barricaded themselves in. I'm -- joining us on the phone, mine expert and a man who has been involved in mine rescues, Greg Phillips joins us.
Greg, obviously, the governor sounds pretty optimistic compared to the way he has sounded and the way other officials have sounded off camera over the last several hours. Explain how that is possible that they could have gotten off whereas someone 700 feet away was killed by this explosion or by the gases from it.
PHILLIPS: Well, first thing is let me say this. The governor of the state of West Virginia has been there since yesterday evening, and he is really a caring person and I just want to personally thank him for what he's done. I know he knows what the people are dealing with. He lost an uncle in a mine disaster. Now...
COOPER: I know. His uncle -- in 1968, his uncle died, and a bunch of his friends from high school who he played football were killed, as well. He knows this. And as so many of the families -- I'm glad you said that, Greg, because so many of the families are thankful that this man came here personally and has been here on the scene since the get-go. But go on, Greg.
PHILLIPS: Yes. He is a wonderful person. And he loves this state and loves the people that's in this state. And this state is sort of a family, especially in the coal industry. We've all worked together and we try to do, you know, what's right and I just think the world of him.
But back to your question. It's a great possibility, Anderson, that the explosion, when it occurred, it is like -- you know, it is like anything else. The blunt of the explosion could have went one way, in one direction that the men were not in, and perhaps in the direction that the individual at the belt (ph) head was located. It's almost like a pop shot when you have an ignition. Almost a good example if you're lighting a grill and the gas runs a little bit longer than it should and you are kind of close to it, when you put the igniter, it kind of just blows up instantly right around that grill. You know, it doesn't shoot out in spurts.
But what that does is it sort of a locating thing. Now, it has an impact of knocking out those stoppings that hold that fresh air and ventilation in the right direction so it can go clear to the face and across face and then back down to return. So that's a good possibility and it's a -- why he is so excited about the man car was not wrecked. I'm sure that a lot of experts thought that that was the reason that they had the ignition because of a man car that they were riding in, the portal bus has a track of course, and then has also a harp (ph) and arcing harp.
PHILLIPS: That can cause an explosion. So when the bus was found like it was, then it's a good -- you know, an instance of the men could have got out of that bus, taken their dinner buckets, their mine rescue, the self-contained breathing apparatuses, and headed towards fresh air where they knew it would be clear and barricaded themselves in and now they're just waiting for the rescue team.
COOPER: Well, let's hope that is happening. Let's hope that is happening because we understand these rescue teams are very close at the very least. Some 11,000 feet into this mine. They're replenishing their air supplies because the air is thick with carbon monoxide, but they're close. Although the governor said this is going to take longer than we had previously anticipated.
So conflicting messages there but physically in terms of the actual location they seem to be relatively close to where they believe these miners are. We're on the scene here in this anguished town where every living soul has been touched deeply, touched by what's happening far beneath the homes and church in which the people wait. More on that and we will take you -- a behind the scenes look in my "Reporter's Notebook" when 360 continues.
COOPER: Well, no doubt the news tonight that a miner's body has been found is bringing sadness to people across the country and dampening some hope that the others will be found alive. But here in (INAUDIBLE) County, West Virginia, there is still hope, the news that at least one person did not survive is particularly devastating.
Here the crisis has taken over everyday life as people have pulled together, hoping and praying for the safety of the miners.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thirteen miners remain trapped 260 feet underground and about two miles back.
COOPER: Turn on the radio in West Virginia and it is all you hear people talking about miners.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the deal is here with this mine (INAUDIBLE).
COOPER: Miners calling and offering advice. People here are desperate for news. This part of West Virginia is coal country, it is mountainous, it is wet, it is rainy. Mining goes back generations in a lot of the families around here. So when an event like this happens, when an accident happens, the entire community pulls together.
In Buchanan, near the mine, they posted signs asking for prayers, there's really little else anyone can do.
Hey, how are you? With CNN, (INAUDIBLE) truck?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead.
COOPER: Thank you. The state police have cordoned off the entire area around the Sago Mine. The only people they are letting through are media if you have a press pass, and also immediate family members of the 13 miners.
When you get close to the mine, you first notice a long line of cars left by miners' relatives. They're meeting in a nearby church. Outside, there's a mobile command center, the Red Cross is here as well. They've brought food and water, shelter from the rain.
What are you handing out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ponchos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, just in case it rains.
COOPER: The rain comes and goes. The dirt turns to mud. Terrible to think of men trapped hundreds of feet beneath. As the day drags on, you just can't stop thinking about the miners and what they must be going through if they're still alive. Thirteen men trapped 260 or so feet below the surface of the ground. It's got to be just so difficult, the conditions. I mean, it's cold, it's wet, it's pitch black, it's claustrophobic. Everyone is just kind of trading rumors and speculation about how they're doing, if they're still alive and what might have caused the explosion.
You find yourself checking your watch every few minutes, counting precious seconds ticking by. It's a hard story to cover because so much of it is just waiting and you're waiting for what you hope is going to be good news but with each minute that passes and each hour that passes, that hope diminishes a little by little. And you don't know whether to go up to family members and that you can to them or not, to say some words of comfort to them, some of them clearly want to be left alone. And we respect that. Others seem to want to talk to reporters and let you know about their loved one, let you know about what they're going through.
Jack Hanson (ph) is a reporter with The Charleston Gazette.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a kind of pall that's hanging over the whole place here. It's not -- I haven't seen too many -- too much hope and I was -- you know, I'm really hoping to see some more hope that's -- but there's not been much good news.
COOPER: Most of the media is camped out further up the road. Information is limited. You hear the same thing over and over again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They haven't found the miners.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some kind of hope that they're alive.
COOPER: On the surface, it all seems so mundane, the drama is happening deep underneath. Men trapped in a mine. Nothing to do but wait.
COOPER: Nothing to do but wait. We want to thank our international viewers for watching tonight. The mine involved in the explosion that trapped 13 miners killed at least one of them, it has a history of safety violations, this mine did. Did that have anything to do with the accident? We're going to look at that the next hour of 360.
Also, a perilous professional looks at coal mining and the other jobs that make up the most dangerous occupations in the nation.
And a little later, hell on Earth in the southern plains. The latest on the wildfires raging out of control.
Across America and around the world, you are watching 360. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: One miner found dead, the search is on for the 12 others. Where are they? Are they alive? 360 continues.
ANNOUNCER: Breaking news, a body found in a West Virginia mine, as the rescuers race to reach the other coal miners trapped deep underground. This amid new questions, just how safe is the Sago Mine?
A way of life in a company town, from generation to generation. What happens when one of the most dangerous jobs on Earth is also one of the best opportunities in a small town? With the 360 manual of the nation's deadliest professions, we'll tell you which jobs made the list.
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