The Sago Mine Disaster was a coal mine explosion that occurred on 2 January, 2006, in Sago, West Virginia, USA. The blast trapped 13 miners for almost two days; only one, named Randal McCloy Jr., survived.
At 5:50 am on 2 January 2006, a mine fireboss cleared the mine for use, as it had been closed for the New Year’s holiday weekend. Two carts of miners made their way into the mine; the first entered the shaft about eight minutes before the second.
The explosion occurred at about 6:30 am in the Sage Mine in Sago, Upshur County, West Virginia, USA. The cause of the explosion is not known, though one theory holds that a lightning strike near the mine’s entrance may have ignited methane gas within the shaft.
The fourteen men on the second cart escaped the initial explosion. The thirteen men on the first cart had passed the point were the explosion had occurred, and were trapped. The foreman on the second cart, the mine superintendent, and three other miners entered the mine to attempt a rescue. They reached a depth of 9,000 ft (2,743 m) before air quality detectors indicated dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide.
Rescue crews were called in at 8:04 am. Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration Officials were called at about 8:30 am and arrived at the site at about 10:30 am. Rescue crews began to arrive at about 10:40 am.
High levels of carbon monoxide and methane gas in the mine atmosphere meant that rescue workers had to wait about twelve hours before they could reach the miners. Tests showed that the air near where the miners were last known to be stationed contained 1300 parts per million of carbon monoxide, where more than 200 parts per million is considered unsafe.
Rescue teams proceeded through the mine at about 1000 ft (305 m) an hour. The 13 miners were trapped about 2 miles (3.2 km) inside the mine, at a depth below the surface of about 280 ft (85 m), and a distance from the shaft entrance of 11,000 to 13,000 feet. By 12:40 pm on 3 January, rescue teams had reached a depth of 10,200 ft (3.1 km) into the mine.
Only One Survivor
Just after midnight on 4 January, 2006, 12 of the miners were found dead. Only one, Randal L. McCloy Jr., was found alive, in critical condition. The others were found about 2.4 miles (4 km) from the mine entrance, in the same area where high carbon monoxide levels were reported. Ben Hatfield, CEO of International Coal Group, the company who owned the mine, said that carbon monoxide poison was most likely the cause of death.
The West Virginia Government, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate conducted separate investigations into the possible causes of the Sago Mine Disaster. These investigations resulted in federal legislations H.R. 4695 and S. 2231, and West Virginia legislation SB 247, which improved mining safety regulations.