Accessibility links

Breaking News

Obama Honors Victims of US Coal Mine Disaster

The 29 victims of America's worst coal mine disaster in four decades were mourned by the nation on Sunday. Those who attended the memorial service in the small West Virginia town of Beckley, included the President of the United States.

The families of the dead came carring the symbols of their lives - the lighted hardhats used to pierce the darkness of the Upper Big Branch mine.

Gently, they placed each one on a cross.

Their grief was shared by their Representative, Nick Rahall. "Our loss is heaven's gain," he said.

Their governor, Joe Manchin said, "Amid the pain, I see courage."

And President Barack Obama said, "We have been mourning with you throughout these difficult days. Our hearts have been aching with you."

The president sought to console the families, and assure the nation that action will be taken to make America's coal mines safer. "We cannot bring back the 29 men we lost. They are with the Lord now. Our task, here on Earth, is to save lives from being lost in another such tragedy."

The mine explosion occurred on April 5th. Investigators say there were high levels of potentially explosive gases in the mine prior to the blast. But they say the ignition source is still unknown.

President Obama says the loss of the miners has touched a chord with the American people. "In the days that followed the disaster, e-mails and letters poured into the White House," he said. "Postmarked from different places, they often begin the same way: 'I am proud to be from a family of miners,' "I am the son of a coal miner,' 'I am proud to be a coal miner's daughter.'"

The president has placed most of the blame for the tragedy on the company that owns the mine - Massey Energy. The company says it operated the mine in accordance with safety regulations.

On Tuesday, the investigation moves to Capitol Hill as Congress opens its own inquiry into the disaster.