UPDATE: Former federal safety official to conduct investigation - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UPDATE: Former federal safety official to conduct mine investigation

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Gov. Joe Manchin is asking a former top federal mine safety official to conduct an independent investigation of an explosion that killed 29 West Virginia miners.

Manchin told The Associated Press on Tuesday that J. Davitt McAteer will serve as his special adviser on issues involving the blast at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine. McAteer headed the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration during the Clinton administration.

His probe will be independent of separate investigations being done by state and federal officials.

McAteer also led a similar independent investigations after the Sago and Aracoma mine tragedies in 2006.

Manchin is also calling for stepped-up scrutiny of safety violations that may have played a role at Upper Big Branch.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WKOW) -- Mine crews have started the solemn task of bringing the victims of this week's underground coal mine explosion to the surface.

West Virginia Medical Examiner's spokesman John Law says several bodies were recovered Saturday.

He did not know when the remaining victims will be transported from Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine to Charleston.

Twenty-nine miners were killed and two injured last Monday in the nation's worst coal mining disaster in 40 years. Seven were pulled from the mine immediately following the blast.

One miner remains hospitalized.

Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere says the investigation into the cause of the blast began Saturday with the collection of material from the mine.

She says a team of investigators will arrive in West Virginia on Monday.


MONTCOAL, W.Va. (WKOW) -- Authorities say crews have found the bodies of four miners missing nearly a week since an explosion at a West Virginia coal mine, bringing the death toll to 29.

Officials say the mission now is to recover all 22 bodies still inside the Upper Big Branch mine located 30 miles south of Charleston.

The new deaths mean it is the worst coal mine disaster in the U.S. since 1970 when 38 were killed at Finley Coal Co. in Hyden, Ky.

Authorities said early Saturday that they will begin bringing out the bodies so they can be identified. Seven bodies were recovered soon after Monday's blast. The first funerals were held on Friday.


MONTCOAL, W.Va. (WKOW) -- Officials say they're close to ending the rescue attempt of four West Virginia miners.

Gov. Joe Manchin said Friday night that they could end the search effort by midnight. Crews are within 2,000 feet of the refuge chamber. Officials have said that's there only chance of survival.

It's their fourth attempt to find the four miners missing since Monday's explosion killed 25 others in the nation's worst coal mining disaster since 1984.


MONTCOAL, W.Va. (WKOW) -- Records show a safety inspector found that management considered production more important than safety twice at a West Virginia mine under scrutiny since an explosion killed 25 people.

In two evacuation orders in 2009, a federal inspector cited the operators of Upper Big Branch mine for skipping mandatory checks of a piece of heavy equipment.

The inspector's notes say management deemed production more important. The citation says the operator complied with the requirements later that day, Sept. 23, 2009.

The notes are included in 140 pages of documents that federal officials released Friday.

Massey Energy Co., which owns the mine, has defended its record and disputed accusations from miners that coal profits were put ahead of safety.


MONTCOAL, W.VA. (WKOW) --- Search crews will once again go underground in search of four missing miners in West Virginia.

A federal officials says a camera will not be able to see anything.  That was the option many were hoping would work after crews had to turn back from their third attempt at searching.


MONTCOAL, W.Va. (WKOW) -- Rescue crews had to pull out of the mine in West Virginia again.

Officials say the crews made it to the refuge chamber where they hoped the four missing miners would be.  Signs of fire and smoke forced the crews to retreat.  This was the third attempt since the Monday explosion to find the missing miners.

Crews may now have to use camera equipment to check the area.


MONTCOAL, W.Va. (WKOW) -- Officials say more drilling is needed to help clear a West Virginia mine of dangerous gases so that rescue teams go underground again.

J. Christopher Dins, chief operating officer of Massey Energy Co., said he hoped to have rescue crews back underground Thursday evening. He also says they have found an alternate route that should save time if rescuers are able to enter the mine again.

The announcement came about three hours after rescue crews abandoned the mine because of an increase in the gases.

More than 30 rescuers had traveled nearly 4.5 miles Thursday morning and were within 1,000 feet of the safety chamber where the missing miners could be.

Gov. Joe Manchin expects to hold another news conference around 6:30 p.m. CST Thursday evening, when rescuers will have reentered or will be ready to reenter the mine.


MONTCOAL, W.Va. (WKOW) -- A major setback in the rescue attempt of four missing miners in West Virginia, after dangerous levels of gases underground forced crews to evacuate.

Kevin Stricklin, an administrator with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said Thursday the gases put the rescue teams in danger and they had to be pulled.

The crews got to about 1,000 feet of a rescue chamber before they had to pull back.

Stricklin says this remains a rescue mission, though officials have slim hope the miners may have made it to that rescue chamber where there is food and water.

Crews had begun working their way through the mine early Thursday by rail car and on foot.


MONTCOAL, W.Va. (AP) -- Authorities say rescue crews are working their way through a West Virginia coal mine in search of four miners missing since a blast killed 25 colleagues.

Gov. Joe Manchin say crews entered the Upper Big Branch mine about 30 miles south of Charleston at 4:55 a.m. EDT.

Rescuers had to wait to enter the mine until four ventilation shafts were drilled and dangerous methane gas and carbon monoxide levels dropped to safe levels.

Officials are holding out hope that the miners had somehow survived the explosion by escaping into airtight chambers with enough food, water and air to survive for up to four days.


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The Massey Energy coal mine where 25 people died in an explosion was cited for violating two federal safety rules on the day of the blast.

Mine Safety and Health Administration records show the citations were issued Monday.

Massey spokesman Jeff Gillenwater says neither violation was life-threatening. Kevin Stricklin, a top federal mine official, says he is confident the violations had nothing to do with the blast.

Records show one of the violations involved inadequate maps of escape routes from the Upper Big Branch mine.

The other involved an improper splice of electrical cable on a piece of equipment. Gillenwater says that violation was fixed the same day.


MONTCOAL, W.Va. (AP) -- A federal official says crews are getting close to entering a West Virginia mine to search for four missing miners.

That operation could begin as soon as Wednesday night.

Dangerous gases have prevented rescuers from venturing into the coal mine, where an explosion killed at least 25 workers. Two people are hospitalized.

Click the camera icon to watch our report.

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