The first thing we did was activate our rescuers, as we had been trained. At least four of the rescuers did not function. I shared my rescuer with Jerry Groves, while Junior Toler, Jesse Jones and Tom Anderson sought help from others. There were not enough rescuers to go around.They pounded on a pipe to signal their location, but they got no response:
We attempted to signal our location to the surface by beating on the mine bolts and plates. We found a sledgehammer, and for a long time, we took turns pounding away. We had to take off the rescuers in order to hammer as hard as we could. This effort caused us to breathe much harder. We never heard a responsive blast or shot from the surface.Soon, after trying to find a way out, there was nothing to do but accept their fate:
We were worried and afraid, but we began to accept our fate. Junior Toler led us all in the Sinners Prayer. We prayed a little longer, then someone suggested that we each write letters to our loved ones. I wrote a letter to Anna and my children. When I finished writing, I put the letter in Jackie Weaver's lunch box, where I hoped it would be found.The full text of the letter is here.
As time went on, I became very dizzy and lightheaded. Some drifted off into what appeared to be a deep sleep, and one person sitting near me collapsed and fell off his bucket, not moving. It was clear that there was nothing I could do to help him. The last person I remember speaking to was Jackie Weaver, who reassured me that if it was our time to go, then God's will would be fulfilled. As my trapped co-workers lost consciousness one by one, the room grew still and I continued to sit and wait, unable to do much else. I have no idea how much time went by before I also passed out from the gas and smoke, awaiting rescue.
The miners' air packs use a chemical reaction to produce oxygen. Reportedly, they had problems.
At least two miners who escaped the blast said they, too, struggled with their air packs. Arnett Roger Perry told state and federal investigators he could not initially activate his.International Coal Group, which owns the Sago mine, denied that there was any problem with the air packs:
"They're not worth a damn," co-worker Harley Joe Ryan, 60, told investigators. "There's going to have to be some design changes for them."
ICG said in a statement that the SCSRs worn by the Sago miners "were all within the manufacturer suggested life," that the devices are checked every 90 days by a person at the mine, and are also checked by the wearer every day.More coal stories here.