Public hearings on Sago Mine tragedy set for May 2

By The West Virginia Record | Feb 28, 2006

CHARLESTON -- Gov. Joe Manchin has announced that the public hearings on January's Sago Mine Tragedy will be held Tuesday, May 2 on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon.

The hearings, which tentatively were scheduled for March 14 in Buckhannon, were rescheduled for a later date at the request of the victims' families.

The joint state-federal hearings will be moderated by Davitt McAteer, special advisor to the governor on the Sago and Alma mine tragedy investigations, and will include a panel consisting of representatives of the the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety & Training (WVMHST), state, labor and industry officials.

Both MSHA and WVMHST still are conducting investigations into the incidents -- including interviews and underground inspections -- and have not yet completed their findings.

"Several of the miners' families asked that the public hearings be pushed to a later date to allow the federal and state investigative teams to develop more information," McAteer said. "After consultation with investigators and state legislators, I concurred.

"It's a complex investigation and, as the miners' families have said, it's more important to determine the facts carefully and thoroughly than to act before all the facts are in."

McAteer will continue to brief the governor, state legislators and the miners' families as the investigations proceed.

"I'm confident that May's public hearings will be very useful in providing crucial information to the families of these fallen miners," Manchin said. "In addition, it's important to get mine safety and disaster prevention right, and I've promised the miners' families that we will settle for nothing less. That's a promise we'll keep."

David G. Dye, acting administrator of MSHA, stated, "The families of the fallen Sago miners and the public deserve to know the progress we have made in determining the cause of this disaster. MSHA hopes these public hearings perform that vital informational function. MSHA's investigation into the Sago Mine disaster will be thorough, and the full investigative report will be made available to the miners' families and the public once our investigation is completed."

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