Skip to main content


Return to Transcripts main page


Investigating the Sago Mine Tragedy; Mideast Without Ariel Sharon?

Aired January 6, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
Piecing together the puzzle of the Sago Mine tragedy -- tonight, chilling audiotapes of the failed rescue to save the trapped miners, never before-seen-photos, and the first doctor on the scene raises a disturbing question: Could all the miners have been alive when rescuers first reached them?


ANNOUNCER: Just released 911 tapes shed new light on the Sago Mine explosion.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am. We need an ambulance at the Sago Mine.


ANNOUNCER: Hear for yourself the frantic calls and the confusion among emergency responders.

And a 360 exclusive: for the first time ever, pictures inside the church when mine officials finally came to tell the families their loved ones had died.

Shocking revelations from the first doctor allowed into the Sago Mine. Rescue workers, not doctors, pronounced the 11 miners dead. And that could be a fatal mistake.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They could have looked dead, but maybe not actually been dead.


ANNOUNCER: And Ariel Sharon, key ally to America's war on terror, remains in critical condition -- tonight, Wolf Blitzer on what the future in the Mideast could be like without him.


ANNOUNCER: From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Live from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And good evening again. Thanks for joining us.

This will be a weekend of tears for West Virginia. Funerals for at least six of the 12 men who died in the Sago Mine will be held on Sunday -- more to follow in the coming days, dark, difficult days ahead, the pain of loss made all the worse because for a few short hours this week, the families not only hoped the men were alive; they believed it. We all did. And I reported it.

It wasn't true, of course. We know that now. A massive breakdown in communication the night of the attempted rescue led to a terrible misunderstanding. Investigators will study the recordings made by rescuers. They will listen to the voices to learn what happened and why, but, tonight, we think it is important that you hear the recordings for yourself, so you can get the facts.

Here's CNN's Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The news was traveling along an underground network of radios and telephones and rescue teams that anyone who has ever played the childhood game telephone could tell you almost guaranteed to distort the details.

At the time of the rescue, 11:45 Tuesday night, the communication system stretched more than two miles deep into the mine shaft. At the far end, a rescue team had found them, 11 miners dead, one struggling for life. The information was sent quickly by two-way radio to a second team halfway back. And that rescue team, again by two-way radio, relayed the information farther up the shaft to the fresh air base.

It was the fresh air base, connected by telephone line, that sent word back to the command center.

O'Dell says, somehow, along that string of radios and telephones, the simple and very important message, all bodies, one alive, got twisted.

DENNIS O'DELL, CHIEF SAFETY OFFICER, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA: I can tell you that I talked to the team members, some of the team members, that found the bodies. And I can tell you that what they said was that they found the bodies, and one was alive.

I can tell you, I talked to some of the members who were at the fresh air base. And what they said was, the information they heard was, we found all the bodies. All are alive. So, somewhere, that message got lost.

GRIFFIN (on camera): What should have happened, says O'Dell, is, the good news should have stayed inside that command center until it could be checked out, until, he says, the actual rescue team walked out of the mine with the surviving miners.

Instead, he and others now believe someone inside the command center couldn't resist and made a phone call to the church just up this road, the phone call that spread the good news that was so wrong.

(voice-over): Near the mine entrance, emergency medical workers, also working from mistaken information, sent good news back to their ambulance dispatcher.

At 11:48:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I need 10 medic units. I need you to HealthNet. Get me any available aircraft that can fly.


GRIFFIN: At 11:54:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And -- and what am I telling him?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are 12 and they're bringing them out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they are all alive?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as they know so far.





GRIFFIN: At the fresh air base inside the mine O'Dell says the decision was made not to wait for the rescue team to come out. The fresh air base went silent, as rescuers abandoned the phone and raced to help carry out the miners.

O'DELL: When they got there, you can imagine the sickness they had in their stomachs to see that they weren't alive. One was. The rest of them were dead.

GRIFFIN: The delay, from the time they had mistakenly heard the miners were alive, to the time they were back at the phone line with the accurate and tragic information, was 20 minutes.

O'DELL: Now, we're on the surface, everybody, grown men, same thing, same reaction, high-fiving, hugging, celebrating, because we thought everybody, you know, had been rescued, with the exception of the one gentleman we had found dead earlier. And when that second answer came out, it -- it was just going from the very highest level that anybody could be on to just a -- a gut-wrenching sickness in your stomach. GRIFFIN: O'Dell says the bad news should have been passed to the families at least as fast as the false information had leaked out.

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration would not comment on the communication from inside the mine, saying it is part of an investigation.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Sago, West Virginia.


GRIFFIN: Very slowly, day by day, we are getting the pieces of the puzzles fitted together to find out exactly what went wrong, not to -- to point blame, not to blame individuals, but just to make sure something like this never happens again.

We're going to have more of the 911 tapes later on in the hour. The tapes remind us just how chaotic that night was. And what you are about to hear, however, is that it was more chaotic than any of us had previously known.

Dr. Robert Blake was the first doctor at the mine. He examined Randy McCloy when rescuers first brought him out. And, as you are about to hear, he started asking rescuers that night about the other miners. He wanted to know where they were, how they were, who had examined them. And what he says he heard shocked us. And we think it's going to shock you.

Dr. Blake sat down with CNN senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in this exclusive interview.


DR. ROBERT BLAKE, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: I was standing probably 10 yards from the entrance to the church when someone ran up, a young -- a couple young men ran up, looked, appeared to be family members, and ran up and ran into the church, and started saying that people were alive.

And you heard a huge cheer. And then the church bells started ringing. And that's when we decided to get aboard the ambulance that was actually -- they were exchanging ambulances at that time for the night shift. And that's when we jumped up on that ambulance and then went in.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, when you went down into the mine, what did you already know? What was going on down there? What -- what had you heard?

BLAKE: Basically, what everyone else heard, that -- that there -- there were 12 survivors. I did not know their condition. I asked for their condition. Just before I went in, I heard that that was serious. But they couldn't tell me who -- if it was one serious or 12 serious injured. I didn't know if they could walk. So, I just played it as if everyone would be serious. And we took a number of extrication equipment, like backboards, and -- and enough oxygen for everybody.

GUPTA: You examined Mr. McCloy in the mine.

BLAKE: A quick exam, yes, sir..

GUPTA: What did you see?

BLAKE: He was having difficulty breathing. He was not awake. He had no movement and working to breathe. They -- he also had a pulse.

At that time, I was understanding that there were 11 others still down there alive. And there was five of us. I made a quick decision that we should rush this gentleman out, so we cleared the way. And that -- that bus went on out. And we continued on in.

And one of the rescue workers who was right behind me asked, where are the other guys? And he said, who? And he said, the survivors. And he goes, there are none, except the one we just sent out. And he said, what do you mean? The rest have perished.

And that's when we become -- we had the realization that -- that he was the only one.

GUPTA: You didn't see these 11 miners yourself?


GUPTA: The only people that had actually seen them were rescue workers, nonmedical people.

I mean, if -- if it's cold, if the conditions are extreme, could they have been alive, but actually just looked dead? How did they know that they were dead for sure?

BLAKE: We just -- we took the word of the -- or the care workers that were in there, the rescuers. You can't be 100 percent sure unless you -- unless you have a physician, ideally, looking at them and -- and know.

But one thing I didn't say earlier is, when we were at -- at that second -- the last bus coming out, he said that the director said, everybody out of the mine now. So, I couldn't have proceeded any further to check them, anyway.

GUPTA: I mean, in scenarios like this, that you had a young guy, Randy McCloy, who was near death, but survived. You had 11 other guys down there who were not as young as Randy, but were probably near death as well.

BLAKE: Yes. GUPTA: And a physician, a medical person, a nurse, no one ever actually saw them down in the mine. And under the situations of hypothermia and all that, they could have looked dead, but maybe not actually been dead.

BLAKE: Potentially, yes.

GUPTA: That's a frightening thought.

BLAKE: It -- it is. However, we got one out. And he's alive. And -- and I consider it a victory, because people don't survive these things. They just don't.


COOPER: So, Sanjay, how would you normally declare someone dead, and who would normally do that? It takes a doctor to do that.


Normally, it's a physician that does that. You're -- you're feeling for a pulse. You're checking for respirations as well.

Ideally, if you could, you want to get an EKG as well to prove that the heart has flatlined. I think the point that Dr. Blake was making and a lot of people have made is that, if the body becomes quite cold, hypothermic, the heart may slow down considerably. The respirations may slow down considerably. And it becomes very difficult to tell if someone is actually dead or alive.

And this -- you know, this is a difficult topic to talk about, maybe irrelevant, some would say as well. But a physician, a nurse, a medical professional, did not actually declare these folks dead in the mine itself, Anderson.

COOPER: So, and company officials, according to that doctor, ordered everyone out of the mine, including himself.


And, you know, he is not really sure exactly why that was, either. I mean, he -- here's a guy who is just basically doing his job. He probably saved Randy McCloy's life, because he told me, look, Randy McCloy wasn't sick when he saw him about a mile into the mine. He was near death.

And the fact that this doctor put high-flow oxygen on Randy at that point probably saved his life. Then he wanted to go check out the 11 miners, and just got his word, everyone, out of the mine now. He's not entirely sure why that was, but he was -- he followed the orders.

COOPER: The question is, in the future, should -- should a doctor either be with these teams or at least in that -- that fresh air hut, waiting to go in, in the final hours? He was down at the church and just kind of jumped on -- on an ambulance. It seems very low-tech. It seems very disorganized. Those questions, of course, are going to be asked in the coming days.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, fascinating interview. Thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: We may never know if all the miners could have been saved, but we know one man was. And, tonight, doctors are fighting to save his life.

Randal McCloy Jr., 26 years old, he remains in an induced coma. He's being given oxygen. He has suffered brain damage and has one collapsed lung. His wife has faith he is going to make it. Earlier today, she spoke of a conversation she had with her 4-year-old son.


ANNA MCCLOY, WIFE OF RANDAL MCCLOY: My -- my little boy, you know, he asked me what -- I told him that his daddy had worked very long hours and that he was tired, so, he had to rest. He was sick. And my little boy says, well, that's OK, because my daddy's going to get better for me.


COOPER: "My daddy's going to get better for me."

Our thoughts go out tonight to the McCloys and to all those families preparing to say goodbye to their loved ones. Funerals begin this Sunday.

For the family of Martin Toler Jr., it is a dark, difficult time. This is Martin Toler in happier times. He's holding one of his four grandkids -- the grandkid's name, Cole (ph).

Last night, on 360, if you were watching, his nephew told me that Martin and Cole (ph) were soul mates from the moment they first laid eyes on one another. Martin Toler knew he was going to die. And, in those moments, those last moments, he wanted to say farewell. He scribbled this note on the back of an insurance form. It was a message to the family: "Tell all I see them on the other side," he wrote. "It wasn't bad. Just went to sleep. I love you."

Today, CNN's Randi Kaye spent time with the Toler family.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This note scribbled some time before Martin Toler Jr.'s final breath, may be a clue to his state of his mind in the Sago Mine.

RANDY TOLER, NEPHEW OF MARTIN TOLER: The first part of the note is written at an earlier time, I believe, based on the legibility of it. And I think the first part is -- is kind of a testimony and a witness to -- to others of what he believed. The last part was written to comfort the family. And I feel that it was -- it was done just moments before unconsciousness. KAYE: The note reads, "Tell all I see them on the other side." It's signed "J.R.," as in junior. Below that, "I love you." Then, on the side, "It wasn't that bad. Just went to sleep."

(on camera): Did it appear to you at any point that the writing was stressed or different than his typical writing, which might indicate his condition?

R. TOLER: "Tell all I see them on the other side." I'm sure he meant to say "I'll" or "I will." The "will" was left out, or the apostrophe-L-L was left out. And then the legibility of it was -- was getting -- was getting worse as the note progressed.

KAYE: And are you comforted by his words?

R. TOLER: It was gut-wrenching at first. But it is a priceless relic for -- for the family now.

KAYE (voice-over): The Toler family has been mining for more than a century. Martin mined for 33 years before he died.

TOM TOLER, BROTHER OF MARTIN TOLER: That's my favorite picture of all of us. And it's -- it's over 100 years of mining experience right on that one picture.

KAYE (on camera): When you worked alongside him in the mine, what was that like for -- for all of you as -- as brothers?

T. TOLER: Oh, that was that -- no, that was the happiest time of our life.

KAYE (voice-over): Tom Toler got his brother's note from the coroner. He knew, if rescuers couldn't get inside in time, his brother would not go silently.

(on camera): Where did the piece of paper come from?

T. TOLER: He -- it was folded up in his pocket. It was a new insurance form. I got his belongings today, his personal things that he had on him. And, of course, he had his notebook pad in there. So, we was kind of puzzled, you know, why he didn't use -- why he didn't use his notebook pad. But...

KAYE: How do you feel, knowing that your uncle had time to write a note and may have stayed alive even longer than anyone thought it was possible?

R. TOLER: It is hard to think of him waiting on death to come. The rescue teams did a fabulous job. And I don't think there was any way that they could have gotten to them in time before serious neurological damage had -- had taken place.

KAYE: When you held the original in your hand, knowing that that was probably one of the last few things that Martin touched...

R. TOLER: It just kind of feels like touching someone from beyond the grave. That's -- that's the only way I know to describe it. It just feels like you are connecting with someone that has already passed.

KAYE: What are you going to miss about him?

T. TOLER: Companionship, you know?

KAYE: He was a good brother, huh?

T. TOLER: The best. The best.

KAYE (voice-over): The night before Martin died, he read this scripture at church.

R. TOLER: "1st Corinthians, Verse 2. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the Earth."

KAYE (on camera): And what would you say the meaning of that is?

R. TOLER: Well, it's maybe ironic or maybe prophetic. I tend to think prophetic.

KAYE (voice-over): Randi Kaye, CNN, Summersville, West Virginia.


COOPER: Martin Toler Jr. Let's just show that picture again of him and his grandson, Cole (ph). That's probably the way he would like to be remembered in these terrible days ahead.

We have a lot more ahead on the Sago Mine story, including exclusive pictures taken inside the church when company officials broke the news that the miners were lost.

First, though, a look at the other stories we are covering at this moment.

Israeli Prime Minister Sharon remains in critical but stable condition tonight. He was rushed back into the operating room today. It's his third surgery in two days to stop bleeding in his brain. Mr. Sharon suffered a severe stroke on Wednesday. Doctors say his prognosis is grim. We will have more with Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem later tonight in the program.

In a new videotape, Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al- Zawahri, calls on President Bush to admit defeat in Iraq. Al-Jazeera aired the tape. It was made recently, because Zawahri refers to a November 30 speech made by President Bush and also offers condolences to Pakistan for the earthquake in October.

Martha Stewart's conviction for lying about a stock sale was upheld today by a federal appeals court. As everyone on the planet knows by now, Stewart was convicted in 2004, served five months in prison, almost six months of house arrest. Stewart has claimed the verdict was tainted for a couple reasons, including prosecutorial and juror misconduct. Today, the court said it wasn't. And, in New Orleans, Mardi Gras is going to happen. The decision to go ahead with Carnival season has angered some in the battered city. Critics say it's inappropriate to throw a big party, when most of New Orleans residents haven't even been able to return home yet. But the parties will go on.

A lot more ahead tonight on 360.

We are trying to piece together the puzzle of exactly what happened in the Sago Mine and outside the mine the night the miners were found. In a moment, an 360 exclusive, never-before-seen photos from inside the Baptist church, taken at the moment mine officials announced the miners were dead. We will show you the pictures and talk to the woman there who took them.

Also ahead, the 911 calls made the morning of the explosion and calls made by rescuers on the scene that terrible night the miners were found.

From America and around the world, you're watching 360.


RON GRALL, ESCAPED MINING ACCIDENT: All of a sudden, I felt this big, loud thump. It wasn't a real loud noise. It was just like a change in air pressure. And then, all of a sudden, we was getting pelted with coal dust and rocks and dust and everything. And it lasted for about, oh, probably eight to 10 seconds. And then it got really, really hot.



COOPER: Well, as reported earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon clings to life tonight after his third brain surgery in just two days -- his future, clearly, very much a question, the future of peace talks there and relations in the Mideast, a question as well.

CNN's Tom Foreman tonight looks for answers.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not far from the Capitol, in downtown D.C., like many Americans, waiter Ben Parker knows he should care about what's happening with Ariel Sharon. He is just not sure why.

BEN PARKER, WAITER: Well, yes. He's been -- he's been a pretty -- he's been in the spotlight over in the Middle East for -- for a long time, helping shape policy and -- and what's going on.

FOREMAN (on camera): Does he affect your life?

PARKER: I'm sure he does. I don't know of any -- I -- I don't know of what the connection would be. FOREMAN (voice-over): If you care about the war in Iraq, about gas prices, international trade, terrorism, even tourism, Sharon matters, because all these issues are affected by what happens in the Middle East.

Sharon was among the last of the old Middle East leaders, many of whom once fought each other and have been dying or disappearing from power for 10 years, in Israel, among the Palestinians, in Syria, in Jordan, in Iraq, and in Saudi Arabia. For better or worse, they were well-known, generally predictable, and American foreign policy was built around them.

Aaron David Miller knows that, because he was an adviser to six secretaries of state.

AARON DAVID MILLER, WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS: Those who have fought this conflict over the last 50 years and those who also have had a role in helping to address it are now passing from the scene. And it will be up to a new and relatively untested set of leaders to inherit the not so holy land in this case, and to try to grapple with the very difficult situation that exists on the ground right now.

FOREMAN: The Saudi royal family is under pressure. Relations between Palestinians and Israelis remain uncertain and volatile. Democratic reforms in Egypt, even with the longtime president, are slow and shaky.

In short, the Middle East vacuum created by the old guard's disappearance is filling with uncertainty.

TAMARA COFMAN WITTES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: And the squabbles amongst the youngsters, the relative youngsters, over who will come next to the seat of power are squabbles that don't have any clear mechanism for resolution.

FOREMAN (on camera): And no clear outcome at this point.

WITTES: That's right.

FOREMAN (voice-over): The United States has tried many times to broker agreements to ease the region's old conflicts. There is always progress, but never peace. But, again, these people physically fought over the land. And now the struggle passes to the next generation, there and here.

(on camera): So, all of that said, as a young American, what do you hope emerges from the new young leaders in the Middle East?

PARKER: That they're more willing to -- to compromise and -- and, you know, find peaceful -- peaceful solutions.

FOREMAN (voice-over): That has always been the hope, peace, stability and benefits for people in and out of the Middle East.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Wolf Blitzer is standing by live for us in Jerusalem tonight.

Wolf, President Bush had -- he has been trying to look -- looking to bring democracy to the Middle East. Does Sharon's illness make that process more difficult?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, there will be a democracy here in Israel. That's -- that goes without question.

Whoever is elected as the new leader of Israel, in the short term, the acting prime minister is Ehud Olmert, the former mayor or Jerusalem, a close associate of the prime minister. And he's going to be the leader, presumably, of this new centrist party, which polls currently show would still emerge as the dominant party in the next Israeli Knesset, the next Israeli parliament.

But he faces stiff challenges from the right, from Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party, from the left, Amir Peretz, and the old Labor Party. But the democracy here will continue.

Among the Palestinians, it's -- it's a -- it's a difficult question to answer. They have their own elections scheduled for the end of January. And the current leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, is facing some stiff challenges from the more militant groups of Hamas and -- and others.

And -- and that's a real serious problem as well. So, it is it is unclear what happens beyond that. In the region as a whole, as you -- as Tom Foreman accurately pointed out, Egypt is facing some serious problems, and -- and other countries in the region are as well.

So, democracy, I guess, is still an open question for the Middle East.

COOPER: But, I mean, we are talking about one of the most volatile regions in the world. So, how does the U.S. now plan for a Middle East without Sharon?

BLITZER: Well, they have to deal with the -- the cards that they're dealt.

And Sharon's not going to be one of the leaders anymore, even if he does manage to emerge from this surgery. He is in deep, deep trouble. And his political days, almost everyone here in Israel agrees, are -- are over. So, they -- they are going to have to deal with whoever emerges as the next leaders -- leaders of Israel. And that is still an open question.

The elections will go forward at the end of March, but I suspect that whoever does emerge as the leader of Israel will have a good relationship with Washington. This relationship has seen its ups and downs. But, basically, the U.S.-Israeli relationship has stayed pretty strong over all of these years, despite left-wing, right-wing, all sorts of leaders in Israel, Democrats and Republicans in Washington. The overall American-Israeli connection, I suspect, will be strong.

COOPER: Wolf, thanks very much -- more from Jerusalem tomorrow from Wolf.

Tonight, the calls for help next -- next on 360, hear some of the 911 calls made after the explosion at the Sago Mine, and those from rescue workers when the bodies were found.

Also ahead, it was Lynette Roby who first told us that only one miner survived the explosion. Tonight, she shares photos she took inside the church when the truth became known.



RON GRILL, ESCAPED SAGO MINE: We knew the explosion occurred but we didn't know where. or exactly where, but we knew we was still alive. So, I told them guys we have to get to the main escape way to fresh air.


COOPER: That was miner Ron Groll, one of the lucky ones who escaped from the Sago mine in the minutes after the explosion. In the chaos that followed, information sketchy to nonexistent, really. Almost 90 minutes before the first call for help went out. Throughout the ordeal, emergency workers, like everyone else, had little if any solid information to go on. The 911 tapes you are about to hear make that painfully clear. Today we heard those tapes for the first time. Here's CNN's Brian Todd.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From the time of the explosion, nearly an hour and a half passes before the world gets its first inkling of what's happened inside the Sago mine. Monday, January 2nd, 7:55 a.m., a call from the mine to the Upshur County, 911 operator.

OPERATOR: Emergency squad.

CALLER: Yes, ma'am we need an ambulance at Sago mine.

OPERATOR: OK, this is the one up on the Sago road.

CALLER: Yes, ma'am.

OPERATOR: OK, what's going on?

CALLER: Something happened inside the mine here.

TODD: Less than 15 minutes later, an emergency crew is on the scene. With the first chilling account of what rescuers are facing. CALLER: Be advised we are being informed, we are on the scene, we are being informed that there are several men trapped inside. We're going to need a lot of help.

LOUISE BLEIGH, UPSHUR COUNTY 911 SUPERVISOR: Certainly hearing there were several men trapped inside came as quite a surprise, quite a shock. And then, I think your adrenaline kicks in and you start doing what you're trained to do.

TODD: Benny Nazelrod, fire chief in Adrian, West Virginia, says his station is less than five miles from the mine. His teams get there quickly, but by law, only specially trained mine rescue teams can go inside.

CHIEF BENNY NAZELROD, ADRIAN, W.VA. FIRE DEPT.: You do feel helpless. You know there's only a certain amount you can do, and your normal instinct when you are into any type of rescue is to go help.

TODD: We know of no 911 calls between Monday morning and late Tuesday night. At 11:48 p.m. Tuesday, the first inaccurate reports have come from inside the mine and one emergency response team radios another.


SECOND EMERGENCY RESPONDER: OK, you might as well stand still right where you are at Gary. They did find and they're all OK, I guess, so I think we might be transporting them. I'm not exactly sure. But we're stuck right here.



TODD: And in the next two minutes another call comes in saying the men are alive. And there is one from an incident commander requesting any medical unit that can transport patients. The 911 operators' supervisor tells CNN they never received a call saying the men were dead. She says they found that out by watching the news -- Anderson?

COOPER: It is so sad, so sad. Thanks very much for that report.

At Sago Baptist Church, where the miners' families were waiting for news, the miscommunication, of course, set off a wave of celebration that is now is painful to watch. Joy that turned to rage when the truth came out, 12 miners dead. Coming up next, exclusive photos we are seeing for the first time inside the church. Pictures taken by Lynette Roby, who found me that night, just after she learned the awful truth.


LYNETTE ROBY, REVEALED TRUTH TOLD AT CHURCH: The nation, everyone needs to know that it is not true. The celebration -- doesn't mean that the prayers can't still keep coming in, but there's only one.


COOPER: What happened on Tuesday night outside the Sago mine seemed unreal at the time, and frankly, it still does. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the euphoria set off by the news that 12 trapped miners had been found alive. One of the first people I talked to that night was Lynette Roby, who had heard the news and came to the church with her children, Kiki and Travis, to celebrate. Here's what she told me.


ROBY: We were all glued to the television sets in the bedrooms. And they had almost just fallen asleep when I came down the hallway, screaming and so it was watching the TV and glued -- if we had been out on our front porch or back deck, we definitely could have heard the bells, but we were glued of course to CNN. So we didn't get to hear that.

COOPER: What were you screaming when you went down the hall?

ROBY: They're alive! They're alive! You know, although they're not here yet, just the anticipation. Just the families at the church, and seeing all that. You know? We know good's going to come out.


COOPER: Three hours later, Lynette and her kids ran out of the church and found me. As soon as I saw them, it was clear, something was terribly wrong.


COOPER: Charlie, Charlie, we have to come back. Come back to us.

ROBY: They're all --

COOPER: Wait, wait. Come here. What's happening?

ROBY: There's only one -- there's only one made it out alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they're fighting --


ROBY: I think the name was Randal Ware. The governor is in, and this big in-charge CEO of the mine is apologizing, and it is all -- they did nothing but -- I don't know how this information could come out that --

COOPER: But where have --

ROBY: There is one person alive. And he is en route to the hospital.

COOPER: Where have you gotten the information?


ROBY: From the CEO who's been on the news.

COOPER: You were inside the church?

ROBY: Yes. We were inside the church.

COOPER: You said fist fighting now?


ROBY: There was a big eruption. People are screaming you're a liar. You've lied to us.

COOPER: Wait. Come over here, please. Stand over here.

ROBY: The misinformation -- and it's awful.

COOPER: You kids were in the church, too?


COOPER: You heard this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah. We tried to run away.

ROBY: I took the kids, and we ran out the church as fast as we can.

COOPER: I can hear yelling now over at the church.

ROBY: Yes, they're screaming and yelling, the police are in a big brawl. I don't know how something like this could happen. Drag the kids out of bed at this time of the morning to celebrate and this is a -- and it's not true.


COOPER: Lynette's son, Travis Roby, summed up what happened in the church that night in six words. He says, "It went from happy to sad."

Lynette Roby joins me now from Upshur County, West Virginia with Travis and Kiki.

Great to see all of you again. Lynette, describe, I mean, you describe what happened this night as disgraceful and awful. It's been a couple of days, you have had some time to think of it. How do you look back on it now?

ROBY: It is just a total unfortunate situation to happen to our community, our state, and actually the whole nation. It is -- it's overwhelming. It's just to put it -- just a few words can explain it. It's just most awful experience that the nation could ever go through. COOPER: You live near the church and I know Travis and Kiki don't have IFVs, so I'm going to ask a question to both of them and if you could ask them for me.

ROBY: Yes, sir.

COOPER: I know, I have been spending -- Kiki and I have been e- mailing each other today and she was saying she is scared about going near the church. Why is that?

ROBY: Kiki, Anderson wants to know why you're scared of going near the church.

KIKI ROBY, LOCAL RESIDENT: Because of all the violence.

ROBY: Because of what happened inside the church, the violence.

COOPER: Lynette, when you were inside the church, describe the scene. You've taken some photographs, you took two photographs. This is the first we're seeing of them. We really have not seen any images from what happened inside the church.

Let's take a look at the first photograph. We're seeing the governor in a clearly despondent. What was it like that moment?

ROBY: At that point, it was definitely clear that something -- something definitely had went wrong. And we were coming there to receive the news of the miners and their conditions. And, they were supposed to be brought down to us. As soon as we saw Governor Manchin, I immediately -- you can see from the photo that -- something had -- something definitely went wrong. He appeared to have been crying and stood there with his head down and didn't speak a word at the time.

COOPER: Then the next photo, which I guess the next in the sequence, is the CEO and president of the company making the statement. What was he saying? What happened then?

ROBY: He was taking full responsibility. As soon as he started to talk, I took the picture. He was saying there's been an error, and he took full responsibility for the miscommunication.

COOPER: And when you -- I mean, when you were taking the picture, you probably didn't know what he was about to say. When did it register, how long after you took the picture did you guys run out of the church?

ROBY: Well, as soon as I took the picture, possibly 15 to 20 seconds later, as soon as he said there had been an error, people were -- people knew something was wrong from putting two and two together with the governor. And, you know, Mr. Hatfield, making the statement, people started screaming. There were some obscenities and it just became a very, very bad scene.

And, approximately a minute or so later, we were gone out of the church. We were in there two minutes tops.

COOPER: I talk to one of the --

ROBY: As we were trying to make --

COOPER: Sorry, go ahead.

ROBY: As we were trying to make way to get out of the church, people were pushing forward and, you know, people were devastated their hearts were broken. Every bit of hope they had for 41 hours had been ripped away from them.

COOPER: If you could ask Travis for me, just what was it like for him seeing all this?

ROBY: Travis, what was it like for you seeing everything that occurred in the church?

TRAVIS ROBY, LOCAL RESIDENT: It was very scary. And, scary and frightening.

ROBY: He said it was very scary and frightening. Both children have -- the children have stated for days, you know, they don't seem to understand and it is hard to -- hard to actually explain it to anyone, why something like that would go on in a church.

COOPER: You think they still have a hard time --

ROBY: Why the news --

COOPER: Still have a hard time understanding it all?

ROBY: Certainly. They're coming to grips with it now, but just the nation, and everyone in our community, everyone's just shocked how everyone had to go through for it three hours. There is absolutely no good reason why somehow it couldn't have been clarified, or stopped the celebration until we had some news that was more accurate.

COOPER: Well, you guys have been -- you're the ones that broke to the news to the nation of the truth of what happened there. And you were the first to say it on any station anywhere. And we appreciate you joining us again tonight.

And I told Kiki in an e-mail earlier today that, you know, when scary things happen to me, usually it takes a little bit of time but we all do get over them. And I'm sure -- I hope -- she gets to a point where she doesn't -- you know, she feels OK about going back to the church. You live real near there and I know it is an important part of your lives.

ROBY: Yes, this community, as a whole, is definitely pulled together and will get through this. It's a one-of-a-kind state and we'll get through it, one way or another.

COOPER: I have no doubt that you will. And, Kiki and Travis, just tell them I appreciate them joining us and staying up late for us.

ROBY: They like that part.

COOPER: I bet they do. I bet they do. I'll send you some e- mails. Appreciate talking to you.

ROBY: All right. All right. Take care.

COOPER: Lynette Roby, Kiki and Travis.

I just want to show those photos again. It is really the first images anybody has seen inside the church. This picture of the governor, despondent. Lynette said he looked like he had been crying. This shot right before the CEO and president of the ICG began talking in the next photo.

We see him, Lynette's saying, he said that there had been an error that he took responsibility for. Soon after that photo, she left the church.

A neighborhood saturated in over 1 million of oil after Hurricane Katrina. But if you're a homeowner, where do you go for help? There seems to be uncertainty and confusion. Who's to blame? Talking about New Orleans, and we're keeping them honest tonight.

And a photographer's evocative journey into coal country. Striking images of a valiant, selfless people and the legacy that's literally in their blood. Across America and around the world, you're watching 360.


COOPER: The music world is mourning the loss of soul singer Lou Rawls. That's him singing his hit, "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine". Sophia Choi, from "Headline News" joins us with more on that and some of the other stories we're following tonight.

Hey, Sophia.


What a voice, huh? Lou Rawls passed away this morning at a Los Angeles hospital. The three-time Grammy winning singer was 72; he was hospitalized for lung and brain cancer.

Rawls will be remembered for his unique voice and helping raise millions of dollars for the United Negro College Fund.

In Chicago, an historic church destroyed by fire. Pilgrim Baptist Church, dubbed the birthplace of gospel music went up in flames. The father of legendary singer Aretha Franklin once taught music at this church. There are no reports of any injuries and no word on what caused this fire.

Over at Lake Pontchartrain, between New Orleans and Slidell, Louisiana, huge sign of recovery after Hurricane Katrina. The Interstate 10 bridge reopened to traffic today. Katrina's storm surge ripped giant sections out of the four-lane bridge and today Governor Kathleen Blanco announced the federal government will pay about $600 million for a new six-lane bridge that's expected to replace the span in about three years.

And in Melbourne, Florida, the so-called bubble gum bandit caught on tape. Surveillance tape caught him breaking in and smashed a gum ball machine for the change inside. Police say he struck 16 locations in the past few weeks. The latest target, a preschool where he beat up a candy vending machine.

Very bizarre, Anderson.

COOPER: Bizarre, indeed. Thanks very much, Sophia.

COOPER: Safe to say just about everybody in New Orleans was affected by water in some way or another. But one community was flooded by something else, something much worse and certainly more toxic. And with all the recovery money floating around, all the promises to help folks clean up and move forward, remember those promises? You might be as surprised as we were by what Rick Sanchez found. Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest".


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): This is oil, or what's left of 1.1 million gallons of crude oil. How it got here isn't the question, but who's supposed to clean it up is, to say the least, one huge stinky mess. These are the Lewises.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Some things are just hard to -- hard to throw away.

NORMAN LEWIS, CHALMETTE RESIDENT: We asked your neighbors, are they coming back? Most of them tell you -- everybody says they don't know.

SANCHEZ: When he and his wife could finally get home after Hurricane Katrina, their house was inundated with oil. The Lewises are one of about 2,000 families who live in the Chalmette community of St. Bernard Parish. So many of them are stuck in this mess.

After Katrina, more than a million gallons of the thick, black crude leaked from a nearby petroleum refinery owned by Murphy Oil. Oil companies normally fill storage tanks before a hurricane hits to weigh them down. But one at the Murphy refinery was three-fourths empty and when the floodwaters rose it was literally lifted from its foundation. Result, a massive spill.

(On camera): Who's looking out for these people?

CAPT. SVEN RODENBECK, ATSOR DEPUTY BRANCH CHIEF: There's a multiple of agencies, but most importantly, is the local authorities.

SANCHEZ (voice over): Local authorities? Tell that to Saint Bernard Council Chair Joey Di Fatta and you'll get an earful.

JOEY DI FATTA, ST. BERNARD COUNCIL CHAIR: I laugh at that. How can the federal agency, who's tasked with securing safety for the public say something like that?

SANCHEZ: You could still see the smudge lines which illustrate the scale of this mess.

(On camera): We're now in the building that actually houses the agency that monitors toxic substances and in each one of these books there's a toxicological profile for a different chemical. What we want to know is, is this spill being cleaned up effectively?

What's in crude oil that could cause problems? Health risks for the people in that community?

RODENBECK: Potentially, you have benzenes, and you have compounds known as poly-aromatic (ph) hydrocarbons.

SANCHEZ (voice over): Hazardous chemicals familiar to government experts and to experts and to Murphy oil, which is responsible for the cleanup, but not the people like the Lewises.

N. LEWIS: I haven't had no effects yet and been doing it for about a month now.

SANCHEZ: Environmentalists say residents need to be told more.

DARYL MALEK-WILEY, SIERRA CLUB: It puts all the burden on the person to actually really look for the information, you know? You have to know, you have to go to the EPA website.

SANCHEZ: The local council and residents feel confused. The Centers for Disease Control said in November that people should stay away from their homes, until they were cleaned of oil. In December, the CDC issued a report analyzing samples from more than 800 homes, and concluded they didn't contain dangerous level of oil-based contaminants.

(On camera): What are you telling the public right now?

RODENBECK: We are telling the public, right now, that there is, in some locations, near the Murphy oil refinery, areas that have contamination that could potentially be of a health concern and need to be cleaned up before people reoccupy their homes.

SANCHEZ: I have a letter here that Murphy has sent to -- it is addressed to St. Bernard residents, and it says that we are nearing completion of the cleanup. Those are the words they use. Are they near completion?

RODENBECK: I would rather not speculate on how near they are to completion.

SANCHEZ: In October, Murphy Oil's president sent this letter to residents stating, quote, "Nearly all of the oil spilled has now been recover or evaporated. But the company acknowledged it had more work to do for homeowners.

JIMMY LICCIARDI, HOMEOWNER: This is the family room and as you can see, most of this stuff here is covered in oil.

SANCHEZ: Murphy Oil is digging up topsoil and power washing everything else, including people's walls. But they're leaving it up to residents to throw out their own belongings, like furniture and clothes. Jimmy Licciardi says he's not going to do it.

LICCIARDI: Why would I go spend money on something that Murphy -- and nobody can tell me -- in six months is going to be safe.

SANCHEZ: Federal agencies insist that the Chalmette spill can be cleaned up and they expect the Murphy Oil Company will complete the job. Murphy Oil says it will get the job done.

The EPA says, given the circumstances, the process is going well. But residents want both to know the toll it's taking on them. And as for those cleaning their community, they want to be sure the feds are keeping them honest. Rick Sanchez, CNN, New Orleans.


COOPER: You wouldn't think the darkness of a coal mine would be a good place to take a still camera, but the pictures photographer Ken Light has put together in his book, "Coal Hollow" are stunning, and you are about to see them.

Also, tonight, a comprehensive look back at a few dozen hours in a small town in West Virginia that brought more worry and joy -- and then grief -- than any of us will ever really be able to understand.


COOPER: It is one thing, briefly, to visit a mine. A couple of my CNN colleagues have done that over the past few days, in an effort to give the rest of us a glimpse of what that's really like. But it is something else entirely to work in a mine, to descend every morning, to be in the dark all day long, to emerge after sun down, and then to do the same thing all over again, the next day, and the next day, year after year.

The only way to understand it -- that -- is to do it. Which is what the photographer Ken Light did over the course of some years in a series of towns in West Virginia. To produce the book called "Coal Hollow." Some of Ken Light's pictures now, and his thoughts, as well.


KEN LIGHT, PHOTOGRAPHER (voice over): I wanted to go down into a mine to understand, physically, what that was like. It's an amazing experience going into the darkness. You get into the car and you go into this dark, deep hole. It is very cold. There's a lot of danger lurking. A wall could collapse.

A man is an in a cart in which he's shooting up into the ceiling of the mines, steel rods, with glue that actually hold the ceiling of the mine from collapsing. And you stand there for a minute and you realize, this is all that's holding up the top of the mine. These are the coal communities that built America. These people have coal in their blood. You may have not worked, your daddy may have not worked in the mine, but your granddaddy worked in the mine and the stories of that life and that hard work is -- has been passed down from generation after generation.

The people that we met are incredibly hard working people. The problem is there's no work. They're tired. There's a sense of frustration, there's a sense of tiredness that young people have. They're worn out. They're young but yet, their souls are old. A lot of kids have lost hope.

One of the photos that haunts me is a young boy, in Devil's Fork Hollow, with the dirt and dust all over his face and he's very thin. You look at him and you almost feel like he's a 80-year-old man. And just his look, his body, his thinness, the dirt on his face and the stare that he had, there's a sadness that he has about his world.

I think that to go into a mine, you have to have a tremendous amount of faith that you're going to come out. And then, at one point, we stop and they say it's lunchtime and they take their metal buckets, and they go into to a part of the mine -- I mean, they are still in the mine, and there's a little table there. And they set up as if it was a picnic, but yet they're deep under the earth. Their faces are covered with coal dust.

I mean, I'm in the mine one day and I remember for the next week, I was having coal dust come out of my nose as I blew my nose. And you realize these men do this every day, they risk this every day. This is their job.


COOPER: Amazing photographs. The book is "Coal Hollow".

The International Coal Group, the company that owns the Sago mine, has established a fund with an initial donation of $2 million to help the families of the men lost in the disaster there, as well as mining families that may need help in the future. Other companies and individuals, like yourselves, have also made pledges. Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Sago Mine Fund, may do so by calling 1- 800-811-0441, that is 1-800-811-0441.


© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines