NIGHTMARE in Tallmansville

For three hours family members celebrated the survival of 12 out of 13 coal miners who were trapped after an explosion earlier this week at the Sago Mine. That jubilation turned into an unbelievable nightmare when news came that 12 had been found DEAD, not alive.

  • Sole survivor in critical condition
  • Initial reports said 12 miners found alive
  • Celebrations ended after three hours of false hope
  • “Miscommunication” blamed for early reports
  • Official: Miners built barricade before dying
  • White House Promises Mine Probe
  • Coal official: Miners fate known after 20 minutes

12 of 13 W. Va. Miners Confirmed Dead

In a stunning and heartbreaking reversal, family members were told early Wednesday that 12 of 13 trapped coal miners found were dead _ three hours after they began celebrating news that they were alive.

The devastating new information shocked and angered family members, who had rejoiced with Gov. Joe Manchin hours earlier when a rumor began to spread that 12 miners were alive. Rescue crews found the first victim earlier Tuesday evening.

How could three hours pass before the real story was revealed? How could authorities let this happen? What a tragedy.

International Coal Group Chief Executive Officer Ben Hatfield blamed the wrong information on a “miscommunication.” The news spread after people overheard cell phone calls, he said. In reality, rescuers had only confirmed finding 12 miners and were checking their vital signs. At least two family members in the church said they received cell phone calls from a mine foreman.

“That information spread like wildfire, because it had come from the command center,” he said.

Three hours later, Hatfield told the families that “there had been a lack of communication, that what we were told was wrong and that only one survived,” said John Groves, whose brother Jerry Groves was one of the trapped miners.

“There was no apology. There was no nothing. It was immediately out the door,” said Nick Helms, son of miner Terry Helms.

Chaos broke out in the church and a fight started. About a dozen state troopers and a SWAT team were positioned along the road near the church because police were concerned about violence. Witnesses said one man had to be wrestled to the ground when he lunged for mining officials.

Company officials waited to correct the information until they knew more about the rescue, Hatfield said.

“Let’s put this in perspective. Who do I tell not to celebrate? I didn’t know if there were 12 or one (who were alive),” Hatfield said.

The New York Daily News published the earlier report before correcting their morning edition. Many newspapers didn’t have time to fix the report, and went to press with headlines that shouting the headline that the miners had survived. 


In one of the most disturbing and disgraceful media performances of this type in recent years, television and newspapers carried the tragically wrong news late Tuesday and early Wednesday that 12 of 13 trapped coal miners in West Virginia had been found alive and safe. Hours later they had to reverse course, often blaming the mix-up on “miscommunication.”


CNN Video: A Witness Inside the Church | The Announcement | Communication Breakdown | Anger and Outrage | Survivor in critical condition |

CBS Video: Confusion Over Sole Survivor | Report from Bob Orr |

Related: Miracle turns to grief | Miscommunication Causes Emotional Outcry at Mining Site |

Others: Editor and Publisher | Reuters | Indianapolis Star | Bloomberg | BBC Photo Gallery | The Age | New York Times | AP | The Political Teen |


  1. This is incredibly macabre news. There seems to have been quite a few underlying problems, with this mine and the industry as a whole that caused this incident.

    The greater tragedy is that we still rely on an incredibly dirty fossil fuel to power our lives, when nuclear is both safer and renewable if used properly.

    You can find all my reasons for preferring nuclear, as well as commentary about the Chinese coal situation (6500 deaths per year) at Earth Sentinel where you will also find peak oil, renewable energy, and climate change news.

  2. John Anderson says:

    I can understand news outlets going with the “alive” story when all they had was “checking vital signs”. And sticking with it because they were not told anything different – and surely if there was different info known, someone would have been told!

    Apparently not. It seems to have taken about twenty minutes to check the bodies and found no life – but noone told the families (or the MSM) for about two and a half hours.

  3. Doria Groves Coy says:

    Jerry groves was my uncle we wont to know why

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