Thursday, January 5, 2006

The Hatfield and McCloy Incident

According to most accounts I've read. Anker West Virginia Mining Company CEO, Bennett Hatfield, knew that all but one of the Sago coal miners were dead within twenty minutes of the first, erroneous, notification that they had survived.

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.

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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.



sdoscher458 said...

You've stated my feelings exactly. Whatever were they thinking? or not thinking at all....Sandi

ally123130585918 said...

Mrs L I was stunned at the events that happened to the Sago Coal Miners - my heart went out to their Families and friends how could such a stupid thing happen - to announce that 12 were alive when in actual fact only one survived. - The Jubilation turning to grief and disbelief.....I wonder what kind of life Randal McCloy will face after his terrible ordeal...It is all so Sad and unbelivable....Ally

gaboatman said...

Mrs L
I've missed my regular visits here and just want to say how glad I am you returned from London safely.  As usual, you have hit the bullseye with this entry.  It was such a sad affair from every perspective.  Let us pray that lessons were learned here and steps will be taken to reduce the possiblility of this kind of dissaster happening again.

bosoxblue6993w said...

SOMETIMES PEOPLE HEAR WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR ... that probably includes the Governor.

pudge450 said...

According to the AP release in the morning paper after (the one which reported they were found alive) this (mis)information was spread by an employee of the Mining Company (a foreman) who was in the rescue area and heard the first report that the men had been found.  He then began calling people on his cell phone telling them the men had been found alive.  He apparently just deduced  they were alive when he overheard the report of the men being found.  I, personally, doubt Anker West was aware that the families had been informed of anything at all, even though he was aware the men were dead.  I believe the foreman who spread this story should shoulder much of the blame.  He just wanted the glory of spreading the word and is certainly not the person who should have been involved in breaking the news, good or bad.  According to reports I have heard, it was actually quite some time after the initial report of finding the men before their status was relayed to the surface, due to communication problems caused by the gear the rescuers were wearing for their own protection.

Upon learning the fate of the men, there was some delay at that point, because officials were trying to get law enforcement in place for crowd control, knowing there was probably going to be problems.

Oddly enough, I have not seen a repeat of the original story about the foreman breaking the news.  I believe Virginia Mining Company deserves a little more consideration than the press is giving them.  The press just likes to jump on the big guy and give him hell.  Plus it perpetuates the story for days and days and days and........

God bless the families of these dead miners.

jevanslink said...

If you watched Dateline last night, their version of what happened is different than your version. As far as I am concerned, company management is entirely culpaable and should not be allowed off the hook.  Mrs. L

sunnyside46 said...

It is so sad...I can see how the word could get out erroneously...people were under such duress.