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Sole Survivor of Deadly US Mining Disaster Reported Stable


The sole survivor in a coal mining disaster in the U.S. state of West Virginia was the youngest of the 13 miners who were trapped 80 meters underground, following an explosion Monday morning.

Randal McCloy, 27, may be the most famous man in West Virginia right now. He is the only survivor of a blast two days ago at the Sago Mine.

Mr. McCloy is now being treated at West Virginia University Hospital, where Dr. Larry Roberts told reporters the surviving miner's vital functions are generally stable.

"He couldn't talk because he has a breathing tube in, but squeezing hands and facial expressions when he was talking to his wife," he said.

Initial reports had said 12 of the 13 trapped miners were found alive. The scene became chaotic when celebrating family and friends learned the true situation, that 12 of the miners had actually died.

The mine's owner, International Coal Group, took three hours to correct the error. Chief Executive Officer Ben Hatfield defended the company's actions.

"We made what we believed to be the best decisions, based on the information available, while working under extreme stress or physical exhaustion," he said. "We sincerely regret the manner in which the events unfolded earlier this morning. The occurrences at the Sago Mine over the past couple of days are truly a great tragedy. It is unfortunate and we are saddened that the communication problems we experienced last night only added to the terrible tragedy."

The delay also proved embarrassing for several leading U.S. newspapers, which did not get the corrected information before early editions went to print. As a result, some papers headlined the false report.

From Washington, President Bush expressed his sympathy to the victims of the incident and their families.

"We send our prayers and heartfelt condolences to the loved ones whose hearts are broken," he said. "We ask that the good lord comfort them in their time of need."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan added that the Bush administration has proposed a four-fold increase in fines for violations of Mine Safety and Health Administration regulations.

The International Coal Group's Mr. Hatfield says all of the bodies of the deceased have been identified and removed from the mine. He added that authorities are starting an investigation into the incident.

This is the worst U.S. mining disaster since 2001, when an explosion in Alabama killed 13 people.

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