May 8, 2006
Last week, families of the 12 miners killed in the Sago mine disaster in early January testified at public hearings. They raised hard-hitting questions for the government mine safety agency, MSHA.
The hearing may have begun with relatives in tears, but their tears soon turned to anger as they stepped up to the mike. Parents, spouses, and children questioned safety regulations and lack of enforcement; what caused the explosion; why it took so long for rescuers to begin their search; why they were first told all miners were still alive; why everything took hours and hours before they got any information from the International Coal Group, parent company of Sago. They challenged officials’ explanation that lightning caused the explosion. And they confronted MSHA officials who insisted that all air canisters used to provide oxygen in emergencies had been tested and found functional.
The relatives referred to the letter written by Randal McCloy Jr., the sole survivor who said that at least four of the canisters never worked. And they questioned the reliability of safety equipment for men going into the mines today. Repeatedly they pressed officials for the truth.
The son of one dead miner said, “We’re not going to let this rest. We know this can be corrected and needs to be done now.”