updated 1/4/2006 2:58:54 PM ET 2006-01-04T19:58:54

Federal officials expressed sorrow Wednesday over the deaths of 12 West Virginia coal miners and pledged a full investigation into what happened.

“Our hearts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of the 12 miners who perished in this tragedy and our hopes and prayers are with the one miner who survived,” Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a statement issued before dawn.

“Along with them, the nation has been riveted by the heroic efforts of the mine rescue teams and others, who rushed to the scene and put their lives on the line to try and return their comrades to safety.”

She said the Mine Safety and Health Administration is launching a full investigation to “determine the cause of this tragedy and will take the necessary steps to ensure that this never happens again.”

Acting Assistant Secretary David Dye, who heads the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said the investigation will “evaluate all aspects of the accident and response, including compliance with all federal health and safety standards, and how emergency information was relayed about the trapped miners’ conditions.”

The emotional impact of the loss on the families of the lost miners was intensified when they were told early Wednesday that 11 of 12 trapped coal miners found were dead — three hours after they began celebrating news that they were alive.

The misinformation was blamed initially on confusion from overhead mobile phone calls that was relayed to anxious family members waiting in a church near the mine.

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