Four missing miners from the West Virginia coal mine disaster were found dead early Saturday morning. The disaster has been labeled the industry’s worst in almost four decades.
The four bodies were found in a part of the Upper Big Branch mine that had been previously searched on Monday. In a meeting with reporters, Kevin Stricklin with the US Mine Safety and Health Administration said heavy smoke caused rescue workers to overlook the miners at that time.
According to Reuters, earlier efforts to locate the miners by drilling boreholes and dropping remote cameras into them had been hampered by thick smoke, fire and a deadly build-up of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane.
It has defended its position and states that Officials and rescuers had hoped the four missing miners made it to a refuge chamber in the mine stocked with water, food and oxygen.
“We did not get the miracle we prayed for,” said West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin in an emotional news briefing.
The death toll in the West Virginia disaster now stands at 29, making it the deadliest US mining accident since 1972, when 125 deaths occurred at Buffalo Mining Company in Saunders, West Virginia.
Massey Energy, owner of the mine, has come under heavy criticism this week, with many questioning its safety record at the mine, calling those criticisms as “completely unfounded.”
Federal records show the mine has been cited for more than 100 safety violations this year alone.
President Obama has ordered a meeting scheduled for next week with mine safety officials to report on the disaster, the mine’s safety record, and government intervention for prevention of future disasters.