He also knew that everybody was down at the church celebrating a lie.
But he let them celebrate for three more hours before he finally confirmed the bad news at a press conference, not by going down to the church where the town had gathered.
What was he thinking? Okay, we have a problem. The miners aren't alive like we thought, they're really dead, but since we thought they were alive before, maybe if we wait long enough they won't be dead anymore, they'll be alive again.
The mine's history of problems in the past year alone may be indicative of this head-in-the-sand management philosophy.
Even more astonishing is that there was someone at the church who could have kept a lid on the craziness that followed the unconfirmed reports that the miners were alive.
The governor, Joe Manchin III.
He was there at the church talking to the families, when news of the supposed miracle came in. He claims he asked his communications people and security detail if the miracle had been confirmed and the answer was no. Apparently he asked them more than once. And the answer was NO more than once.
So why didn't he take that opportunity to get up and tell everyone to take it easy and let him make sure the news was correct? He IS the governor, isn't he? He's supposed to be a leader, right? He even lost his own uncle in a mining accident, so he knows that the chances of survival are usually poor. He could have been a voice of reason and calm.
Why didn't he point out to the crowd that the news was not confirmed and encourage them to wait until he could find out for them?
Instead he became a victim of the wishful thinking that overtook the entire town.
We've all had experiences where our hopes have been raised and subsequently dashed to smithereens. I was once told I'd made the cast for the big school show in high school. I was ecstatic, celebrating for over an hour until I went to check the list and discovered I wasn't on it after all. It was devastating. To this day, I don't believe anything unless I can confirm the information myself.
So I can't begin to imagine the emotional damage this execruciating experience will do to the families of the miners who died. Especially the children. There's been an accident. Your father may be dead. No!! He's alive! Just kidding. He's dead.
At the very least, the impotent, ineffectual governor and the insensitive clod of a CEO make FEMA's Michael Brown look like a statesman.
Given a chance for a do-over, Hatfield said, "I would have personally gone to the church. . .to say something may be wrong here."
Wasn't that his job in the first place?
POSTSCRIPT: Just because Randal McCloy is still alive doesn't mean he can expect to live a normal life again. Carbon monoxide poisoning that leaves you in a coma can cause irreversible brain, lung, kidney and other probems that can make the rest of your life pretty unpleasant.