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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 January 2006, 12:34 GMT
Mine families' anger at 'lies'
Dan and Ann Meredith, relatives of dead miner
Dan and Ann Meredith say they believe they have been "lied to"
Families of miners killed in the Sago Mine in West Virginia have been describing their anger and despair after learning that the men they believed had survived had in fact died.

Early on Wednesday morning in Tallmansville, Upshur County, joy turned to grief just hours after an incorrect report emerged that 12 of 13 missing miners were still alive 40 hours after the blast.

Anger and frustration directed at officials of the mining company International Coal Group (ICG) quickly followed.

Family members say the company handled the situation badly and that they had been "lied" to throughout the rescue operation.

"I feel that we were lied to all along," said Anne Meredith, whose father died in the incident.


Late on Tuesday night family members gathered in the Sago Baptist Church received word that their loved ones were still alive.

Daniele Bennett, daughter of miner
Daniele Bennett becomes emotional after learning her father was dead
Their euphoria turned to terrible grief when they learned at around 0300 (0800 GMT) that 11 of the men had, in fact, died.

"Everybody is stunned," said Sam Lands, the brother-in-law of miner Martin Bennett.

"I thought I was going to pass out. I couldn't believe it. We've been lied to all along. We need answers."

Anna Casto, cousin of a miner, told CNN of her "tremendous anger" and also demanded answers.

She said families wanted to know why officials from the mining company had waited almost three hours before they told the families that 12 of the miners had not survived.

"Why were we lied to," she said. "We got our hopes built up - you just don't do that to people."

Ben Hatfield, president and chief executive of the mine company International Coal Group, blamed the earlier reports on a "miscommunication".

He added that "ICG never made any release about all 12 of the miners being alive and well. We simply couldn't confirm that at that point. But that information spread like wildfire because it had come from the command center, but it was a bad information."

'Coming home'

However this "miscommunication" raised false hopes among waiting families.

There are small children in the church who have probably lost their fathers
Anne Casto, miner's cousin

"You guys get told that your loved one is safe, on his way out of that mine and within an hour he will be over here with you," one woman said.

"An hour later, they come over and they tell you: 'Oh, we're sorry, we was misinformed. Your dad's dead.' How would you feel?"

Families were seen leaving the church in a state of shock and tears.

Ms Casto directed most of her anger at Mr Hatfield, ICG's president.

"Why didn't they bring over someone from the rescue team to talk to us," she said.

Families that had gathered in the Sago Baptist Church "were not holding up very well in the church".

"There are small children in the church who have probably lost their fathers," she said.


Chief Joe Tallman, of the Washington District Fire Department, who was part of the rescue crew, said "no one should shoulder the blame for miscommunication."

"It is very emotional for us to talk about it," he told CNN.

Nick Helms, a relative of one of the miners told the Associated Press: "They said it was miscommunication, come on. You come in and you tell all these people that have been waiting here you've got 12 guys coming out. There is no miscommunication."

Jana Zehner, a spokesperson for the Red Cross who had been in the church said there had been much joy in the Baptist Church when the families heard the miners believed the men were alive.

"This has been obviously absolutely heart-breaking for everyone involved, she told the BBC. "After having spent a lot of time with these families, and getting to share in their joy at the good news and then to have it fall apart so quickly was just, just devastating."

One local resident described to CNN how she had taken her children out of their beds to join families in the church celebrating the "miracle" that the men were alive.

But she said she had to pull the children out of the church quickly when the relatives became angry after discovering the miners had died.

She said when ICG president Mr Hatfield stood up in the church to inform the relatives that the previous information was wrong, people had started screaming "hypocrites" and the situation had quickly become tense.

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