Hogan's Alley

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Horrible Twist Ends Mine Tragedy

My heart goes out to the families of the 12 West Virginia miners lost in an accident. The tragedy was cruelly compounded when word spread that all 12 had been found alive. The families short-lived joy was to be crushed three hours later when officials confirmed that only one man had been found alive. He is in critical condition at a hospital in Morgantown, WV.

The news media, as well as the families, believed the initial, albeit shaky reports. Most of the print headlines across the country this morning celebrate the miracle that was not to be.

How did this mistaken report happen? The best information I have heard was on MSNBC this morning, which reported that the communication lines between the mine rescue team and the above ground control center were essentially and open line. Someone misunderstood a communication about the discovery of 12 men of unknown condition as an assertion that the men were alive and that mistake spread like wildfire throughout the hopeful community.

The air this morning is understandably filled with recriminations and the desire to find someone to hold accountable for this terrible error. I fear we will find that only our human fallibility is responsible.

As to the more, in the end, crucial questions about how the accident occurred, the condition of the mine at the time and possible additional safety measures that can be mandated, perhaps some positive resolution will emerge with time.