Published on The Money Times (http://www.themoneytimes.com)
Joint Federal-state report links lightning to Sago explosion
Nearly a year after the explosion that occurred at the Sago Mine near Buckhannon, West Virginia on January 2, 2006, state investigators have concluded that the disaster was caused by a lightning bolt that ignited methane gas underground, a union official said.
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One miner was killed in the initial blast, and 12 others were trapped inside the caving caused by the detonation of the methane gas. It took the rescuers more than 40 hours to reach those trapped miners, but they could save only one man, the other 11 died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The victims of the Sago Mine tragedy were: Tom Anderson • Alva M. Bennett • James Bennett • Jerry Groves • George Hamner Jr. • Terry Helms • Jesse Jones • Dave Lewis • Martin Toler Jr. • Fred Ware • Jackie Weaver • Marshall Winans, while Randal McCloy Jr. was rescued in the rescue operation.
International Coal Group Inc. (ICG), the Sago Mine’s owner, has been claiming since March that the explosion which led to the death of 12 miners was ignited by the lightning and fueled by methane that naturally accumulated in an abundant area on the mine.
But the critics of the company have argued against the coal group’s lightening theory. Contrary to the critics, United Mine Workers officials who assisted in the investigation and briefed on the report's conclusions said Thursday the report will depict that the lightning caused the W.Va disaster.
Joint Federal-state report links lightning to Sago explosion - "I’m certainly convinced that lightning was involved,” said E. Philip Krider, a University of Arizona lightning expert who has assisted in the investigation and is one of the editors of the report.
In their report, which is to be published on Monday, the investigators have determined that a powerful “large" bolt of lightning struck a tree more than a mile from the mine's entrance at "almost the moment the methane" inside the shaft was ignited.
That unusual large lightning strike, together with another at the same moment on the other side of the mine, may have created an electromagnetic field that sparked the explosion. "We don’t have all the answers yet," Krider said.
However, the state is still waiting for test data on the electromagnetic fields in and around the mine, and is working to schedule more tests to try to pinpoint the lightning’s path into the mine, Krider said.
“We’ve identified a number of possible mechanisms and we’re planning further tests and perhaps even measurements during a lightning storm in that area to try to pin down the exact mechanism,” he said.
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