updated 1/4/2006 2:56:36 PM ET 2006-01-04T19:56:36

Guest: Jeff Goodell, Chris Hamilton

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  We continue MSNBC‘s breaking news coverage of the trapped miners in West Virginia, one body found, but, right now, a desperate search to find the 12 other men.

We have just learned some important details about what has been found deep in that mine.  And the governor of West Virginia confirms that crews are in full rescue mode.  Of course, again, breaking news earlier tonight, tragic news—one body has already been found.

But, right now, it‘s all just speculation about what‘s going on in this tiny town in West Virginia, a town like so many towns across that region where so many people are drawn into the mines because of the economic promise that it brings, not only to them, but to their families, in a poor state, a poor state that the average income is about $30,000 a year.  These miners have put their lives on the line every day, going into, unfortunately, in the best of circumstances some pretty perilous work environments. 

These people do that, because their average salary is around $60,000 a year.  It is a good job that pays well in a region where good jobs are hard to find. 

Let‘s go back to that region right now, and that state.  We will go on the scene and talk too MSNBC‘s own Rita Cosby. 

Rita, please bring us up to date with all the latest, not only the latest news, but what you‘re hearing on the scene from family members. 

RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY: LIVE & DIRECT”:  And I can tell you that the news here is definitely grim. 

As you mentioned, one body has been located.  Somebody who had spoken to the rescue workers, a source told me that happened around 5:30, that they actually located a body and were told, came out officially just at 9:00, about an hour or so ago, coming out here.

International Coal Group, which owns the mine, Joe, came out and said that that body was located about 11,000 feet from the portal, which is the entrance to the mine, which is just about half-a-mile away from where I‘m standing here. 

That‘s where they thought that the activity took place, i.e. the explosion, that they heard about 6:30 yesterday morning.  The sense here, Joe, when I was talking to the governor, and I have been talking to a lot of the officials here—the sense is that it is very grim. 

They are praying for a miracle at this point.  I can tell you that they thought a few hours ago, before they even got word that a body was located that, that they knew the chances were so remote.  They knew that the carbon monoxide levels, which, of course, are deadly, when it‘s at an increased level, it‘s 400 parts is basically the maximum sustained part—they had 1,300 parts, in other words, three times the maximal sustained limit, basically, much more than any human could handle, basically tolerate for even a few minutes. 

And we were told that level was right about that point the mouth of the portal about 11,000 feet in.  When they got that word, Joe, that they suspected at that point that it was very, very slim that anyone could have survived.  And then we heard now just a few hours ago getting the tip and now getting the word just officially about an hour ago that one body was located. 

The good news is, Joe, that there is this portal man bus because it‘s very small when you go into these mines.  It‘s very low, very shallow, very dark, very wet, very treacherous conditions.  These men are real brave, going in there every day, doing their job there, but particularly at that point we‘re told it‘s very low.  They go in on this portal man bus.  It‘s like a rail car sort of that they were sitting in.

And they did say during the press conference that we heard about an hour ago that the men appear to have gotten out safely.  In other words they were healthy enough to physically get out of that portal bus and they were able to physically walk out. 

And let‘s listen to how they described that during the news conference just a little bit ago. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BEN HATFIELD, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP:  The body was found here in the belt entry near—this is the two left section.  This is where the production crew was going to work on Monday morning.  So, one body was found here.  The portal bus was about 700 feet deeper into the mine and that‘s where the production crew apparently abandoned the bus and started moving toward the outside.

QUESTION:  Can you show where they would be moving to the outside in your opinion?

HATFIELD:  Well, ideally they would have come over to the intake side and started following this green line all the way up towards the mine portal.  That would have—that‘s what we call the primary escape way, the intake escape way.  That would have given us hopefully a very good outcome but because we have moved in on that course and we haven‘t crossed them yet, we don‘t know where they are.  It‘s possible that someone may have become confused and gone up into the old works.  We just don‘t know.

QUESTION:  Did you say that was the abandoned part where you...

HATFIELD:  This is the abandoned area that had been sealed off.

QUESTION:  OK and that‘s where there are indications the explosion originated?

HATFIELD:  Yes.

QUESTION:  Or occurred.

HATFIELD:  The explosion apparently originated behind the seals in this area.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSBY:  And the logical thing from mine analysts that we have been talking to, the logical step would be to put the breathing apparatus and go out directly toward the portal, go out through the 11,000 feet if they did survive. 

The other option, as you were just hearing from the head of International Coal Group, which owns the mine, the Sago Mine, is that maybe they went into one of these pockets.  There were a few sort of small air pockets. 

We do know that they had some breathing apparatus with them.  We do know that there are some clear air pockets in there.  So, there is still a very, very remote chance, that, unfortunately, it‘s a remote chance, Joe, at this point, but there is a very remote chance that maybe we may find some survivors.  And that‘s the mood right now.

Right now, the family members are so devastated.  I think what‘s even been so difficult for them, Joe, is this trickling of information, first getting word that maybe something was located, then finding out that a body was located, now not knowing who that person is.  No identity so far on that person, not knowing if it‘s your loved one or not, and waiting and praying that your husband or your brother who‘s in there, there was lots of experience, but could they survive an explosion?  Could they survive massive amounts of carbon monoxide?  That‘s the question right there at this hour—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Rita, talk about the growing anger there at the company that owns this mine, and, obviously, a company that has been slammed with countless violations over the past several years. 

Are the family members starting to level criticism at this coal company for running what they consider to be a dangerous mining—mine operation? 

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  Yes, Joe, they have been blasting the mine operation from the very beginning. 

As soon as they heard the word of the explosion, a lot of relatives and people were saying, you know what?  My dad, my brother, they have been complaining about the dangers, complaining about problems in the mine.  In fact, this particular mine, it just had an inspection which ended December 22, not that long ago, 46 citations just that time alone, a lot them some pretty serious citations. 

In fact, this mine had much more, in terms of numbers of citations, than a lot of other mines in the state.  On the other hand, when we have talked to some mining analysts, they say some of these citations, although they are a lot of numbers, were not necessarily serious citations.  They‘re fairly standard operations.

But if you look at the numbers, their numbers are still quite high.  Family members say that their father and their brothers, that those people were complaining for a long, long time, saying that it was very dangerous, that they wanted extra precautions. 

This ownership just started.  It just changed over last year.  Another company actually owned it for many years prior to that.  So, some of the problems really were ones that they necessarily inherited.  But, still, there have been continuing problems, continuing complaints coming from family members. 

And, also, in addition to that, Joe, they also are just very frustrated.  They found out about this one body from the press.  At least some family members that we spoke to—maybe some of them were briefed by the governor, by other people, but authorities here told us that they would tell the family first.

Then the word would come out to the press.  Well, it hit the news wires first, at least to some family members.  We had someone live with us.  They found out on the air.  So, they are really disgusted at the way this has been handled.  They feel that the company and also some authorities in the area know a lot more than they do and they‘re really being overprotective and also that they think that they‘re going to have a lot of problems down the road. 

These families are livid.  They are angry and they want answers.  They also want to know what caused it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Rita.

And, if you can, stay with us through the hour.  You have been providing some great reporting from on the scene, some exclusive interviews with family members, who obviously, anybody that saw Rita‘s interview with these family members could tell just how angry they were, how they felt like the authorities were leaving them in the dark, how they felt like unfortunately the mine company had not been keeping the safety standards up to an acceptable level. 

We are going to be going back to Rita and also getting the latest information.  And you‘re looking at a live picture right now.  Again, breaking news came over the wires a few hours ago that one body has been found in the mine.  There have been a lot of rumors throughout the day, a lot of buzz about what‘s been going on there, but right now it‘s just rumors and obviously that‘s one of the reasons why the family members are so despondent, so angry. 

They‘re just waiting for any information they can get.  And right now the information is just trickling out. 

With me now, let‘s bring in veteran correspondent Robert Hager, who‘s an NBC News analyst.  And he joins us with insight into the situation. 

Thank you so much for being with us again, Robert. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Give us an update.  You were deadly accurate last night.  Give us an update 24 hours later about the situation, as you see it.  Has it gone from bad to exceedingly grim? 

(CROSSTALK)

ROBERT HAGER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it is exceedingly grim.  It absolutely is.

But just a look at the facts of it here.  I want to do that map that the company man showed, and hold it up first, a simplified map.  And we will go over it, just to see where they stand at this point. 

But this is the way he had it.  And then I want to turn it this way, upside down—sorry—just so we can understand it a little better.  But here you have the front of the mine.  And then two miles back here, we‘re looking down on it.  This is an overhead view, front of the mine and two miles back here these chutes go off to the left. 

And then I have simplified it.  But in reality, there are little crisscross tunnels off of all those chutes.  Now, what we learned tonight is that, first of all, they can see by the collapse of some of the curtains and the ventilation equipment that the explosion probably occurred about there.  Just beyond there they found the body of the one miner that‘s been located so far. 

Now, 700 feet beyond that body, they found the cart, a cart meaning it probably runs along the rails and it takes the miners up to the face of the shaft up here where they work.  So, it must have been dropped this one miner off, because he‘s by a coal conveyor belt, 700 feet beyond, that cart was found.  But here is the curious thing.  The cart was not badly damaged, no sign of the miners that were in it, the 12 miners. 

So, no bodies found, no sign of whether they fled or just what happened, other than they‘re not there.  So, that‘s the conjecture here.  It will be a tedious task, but the rescuers have to work their way up in here.  They‘re curious, because they can‘t figure out why if the miners survived that were in that cart, the other 12 miners, what happened to them. 

If they survived, why weren‘t they able to put on the breathing apparatus and make their way back out here?  They probably had time, because they could get about an hour out of that breathing apparatus.  Otherwise, the conjecture is that maybe they were blocked here, couldn‘t make their way there, got up in here, in the grid of tunnels, and the hope is, the shred of hope, that somewhere up there they were able to find the pocket of fresh air and erect curtains to keep that deadly carbon monoxide gas out, and they‘re huddled there now in a safe haven. 

So, that—the rescuers will be doing that in the coming hours tonight, working their way slowly up here, going through those shafts to see if they can‘t find some sign of those 12 miners. 

So, that‘s sort of the facts of where this search operation stands at this point. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, thank you so much, Bob Hager.  We greatly appreciate it.  We look forward to going back to you—and—and getting more insight into it.

And, obviously, anybody that saw Robert‘s report last night knows that from his description of the mines and the pictures that we showed you, it is cold; it is damp; it is dark in these areas where these men go in and work day in and day out.  And it would be very easy to be disoriented in those type of situations.  And they could have possibly lost their way, gone the wrong direction, and, of course, put themselves in a position where it‘s that much harder to be rescued. 

But there is still hope tonight.  Certainly, the governor of the state of West Virginia has—still has hope.  He says that West Virginians believe in miracles and they believe a miracle can still happen.

We are going to be talking—or hearing from the latest, going to be hearing from the governor, also, more breaking news out of West Virginia, the latest in this story. 

Stay with us.  SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re looking at a live shot out of the West Virginia, where tonight a desperate search continues for 12 missing miners.  Of course, news reports earlier that one miner was found dead, but families hold on hope that the other 12 may be found.  That search continues.  We will have more on that story when we return. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Breaking news out of West Virginia again.  We have been following reports over the past several hours, that the search, the desperate search, continues.  One miner found dead, 12 obviously still missing.  The search continues tonight.  Families obviously desperate to get any news, any glimmer of hope that their loved ones are still alive. 

Let‘s go back right now to the scene and MSNBC‘s own Rita Cosby. 

Rita, what do you have? 

COSBY:  Well, joining me right now, Joe, is Chris Hamilton.  He‘s the senior vice president of the West Virginia Coal Association. 

Chris, you and I have been talking through the night.  You just talked to also some of the rescue crews. 

CHRIS HAMILTON, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, WEST VIRGINIA COAL ASSOCIATION: 

Yes. 

COSBY:  Who located the body.  What did they say to you?

HAMILTON:  Well, first of all, our hats off to these mine rescue operations and crew members.  They‘re literally risking their own life while life is at stake here.  So, and they‘re in the hands of perhaps the most qualified, most competent mine rescue teams found anywhere in the country. 

And they do have a proven record, so we‘re very optimistic.  As the governor just reported, unfortunately, they have found one body at this point in time and are extremely optimistic, though, that the other miners are safe and out of harm‘s way. 

COSBY:  Are they hopeful?  Is there a shred of hope? 

(CROSSTALK)

HAMILTON:  There is a shred of hope. 

COSBY:  But just a shred, unfortunately. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAMILTON:  Well, in—you know, these situations, that you have to keep hope alive.  You have to remain optimistic. 

COSBY:  You absolutely do.

HAMILTON:  There‘s just an outpour of support from—and extraordinary coordination among the mine rescue teams, the state and federal regulatory agencies, and the company is doing everything humanly possible here to keep the optimism alive. 

COSBY:  Where did the rescue crews tell you that they found the body and how did they react?  That must have just been so painful for them.

HAMILTON:  Well, it‘s a terrible situation for them, of course, when they come across an actual victim.  They‘re hoping that all the miners are alive.

And they found him about—about 12,000 feet into the—into the operation, where they started a—a section that come off of the main developing part of the mine, where the man trip was located, where the end of the track was nearby. 

COSBY:  No identifications of this one.  Do we know if—was the body badly deteriorated—badly exposed to the explosion, damaged, or do we have any—did you have any sense of...

HAMILTON:  Did not really have a chance—a sense of that.  It was believed initially to be overcome by contaminated atmospheric conditions. 

COSBY:  That was—so maybe carbon monoxide or something. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAMILTON:  It‘s possibly carbon monoxide or an oxygen-depleted environment. 

COSBY:  No other signs of sort of death, that that‘s the initial sense? 

HAMILTON:  That‘s the initial sense. 

In fact, there‘s—it gives also rise to some of the other earlier speculation that perhaps the ignition source was caused by a stray lightning strike in an adjacent portion of the mine that has since been sealed. 

COSBY:  Now, is that because the man car, the railcar that they come in on, was not damaged, we are told?  Is that why? 

HAMILTON:  It was not damaged.  The area was not damaged, nor were other miners found in the proximity. 

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  So, in layman‘s terms, that means that maybe somebody was working close by an adjacent area, and that caused the explosion?

HAMILTON:  Well, it‘s now believed that the miners either were in a separate part of the mine from the man trip car itself, perhaps had vacated the man trip car, and had since gone to work, or perhaps they were in—near the man trip when the ignition occurred in a part of the mine adjacent to where they were, and they were able to escape to an area that perhaps hopefully is capable of sustaining human life. 

COSBY:  What do you make of the fact that indeed this body was found 700 feet we are told from the man car, from the railcar?  No other bodies at this point.  Is that normal that they would be so far away?  Was that a good sign that maybe they were able to escape?

(CROSSTALK)

HAMILTON:  Well, it raises a lot of other issues. 

But the fact of the matter is that the individual here that they have since found may have been separate and apart from the miners that were actually riding on the man trip car or had since gone to work.  It may be that this individual, for instance, was—vacated the man trip car before it reached its destination to engage upon some fire-bossing or examination of a belt or some other routine tasks that are typically done in conjunction with the production operations. 

COSBY:  Chris, how did they describe the conditions?  How did the rescuers describe the conditions down there? 

HAMILTON:  So far, they‘re optimistic with respect to the atmospheric conditions. 

They are doing extensive monitoring of the gases that are coming out of the bore holes that they are finding underground.  And they are in acceptable ranges, both the carbon monoxide, methane gas.  There‘s no excessive amount of methane gas remaining within the mine or allowed to accumulate anywhere.

As the mine rescue teams are progressing into the mine, they are establishing very methodically the ventilation and securing that portion of the mine in which they have traveled to get to where they are at the current time. 

COSBY:  And, real quick, they said they were overcome by something. 

It seems at least that was the initial response on this one body. 

(CROSSTALK)

HAMILTON:  Yes.  That‘s correct. 

COSBY:  Whether it was carbon monoxide or hydrogen, we are not sure, or methane.

HAMILTON:  Well, in all probability, it would be carbon monoxide gas, which is exceptionally dangerous and poisonous in even small quantities, which you find following a—following a mine fire.  It‘s the product of incomplete combustion and—and/or an oxygen-depleted environment is another—is another... 

(CROSSTALK)

COSBY:  Chris Hamilton, thank you very much, with the West Virginia Coal Association.  We appreciate it. 

HAMILTON:  Thank you. 

COSBY:  Thank you very much;

You can tell, Joe, a lot of people are working hard.  But just as we were suspecting, the initial reports, and, again, this is just preliminary, as you just heard, this is the first time we are hearing it, that it does look like there were some indications of them being overcome, this initial victim, this first victim, probably carbon monoxide. 

Of course, there‘s other options.  It could be, as I suggested, hydrogen, which I‘m told could come from some of the batteries, also methane gas.  But carbon monoxide was one of the things that they suspected.  And, unfortunately, that could bode obviously not very well for those 12 folks who are missing, if the gases were indeed so overwhelming, so overbearing.

We heard that the levels were very high there initially.  And, again, at this point, 12 still missing, holding out hope that they may be found in one of those very, very remote air pockets, maybe were not overcome by the toxic gases.  And you can bet these folks will be working through the night, trying to get some answers for these families, who are desperately waiting for answers here right in front of the Sago Mine—Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Rita, we have seen so many times in news stories where so many people in the news have—for good reason have been discouraged about a situation and said there‘s no way.

Obviously, the situation with the miners back in Pennsylvania, everybody had written them off, considered them as good as dead.  But you also have missing stories.  America‘s hearts were broken when, in 2003, I believe it was, Elizabeth Smart went missing and everybody assumed that she was dead.  You don‘t never really know until you know. 

And do you get a sense on the ground that the people there, we have seen pictures of these churches, and get a sense that the people on the ground are still hopeful, that they still believe, as the governor said last night, that West Virginia‘s a place that believes in miracles, it believes that they have got the best—you know, the best searchers in there that they can have in there.  They have got a good situation.  The gentleman you just spoke to said it‘s not as bad in there as he originally thought. 

Do they still believe there‘s a chance that their loved ones can come out alive? 

COSBY:  There is that chance. 

And I will tell you, this community—I have spent a number of hours here now today.  I‘m going to be obviously spending a lot more I‘m sure in the next day or two.  But the folks here are just good people.  These are like sort of true Americans.  This is the heart of America right here. 

West Virginia, it doesn‘t almost get any better when you talk about coal mining.  This is the number two coal producing state in the country.  And these folks are very faith-filled, very religious, very family oriented, truly, truly love their husbands and brothers who are inside that mine shaft, and also very much believe in faith, and very much do believe that there is such a thing as a miracle. 

The governor is, too.  On the other hand, they are now looking at some bad news, and knowing that the reality is that chances are slim, but these guys in the mine also have a lot of experience as well.  Some of them have more than 30 years of experience, and they believe, if anyone can do it, it‘s these guys.  So, they may get a miracle and of course we‘re all praying for that—Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Everybody is praying for that.

Thank you so much, Rita.  Greatly appreciate it. 

We will be back with you later in the hour to get the latest in the breaking news out of West Virginia. 

Also, we will be hearing from the governor of West Virginia and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re looking at a scene right now in West Virginia, center of the state, where the search, the desperate search, tonight for a dozen missing miners continues and will continue well into the night.  And SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be there.  We will have the very latest on that story and more when we return. 

But, first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We‘re continuing coverage out of West Virginia. 

Obviously, as you heard earlier tonight, the wire services were reporting that one body has been found, 12 miners still missing in rural West Virginia.  And, as you heard at the news break, unfortunately, while there is some hope out there, unfortunately, those searchers that have gone in have found deadly levels of carbon monoxide and fear that, unless these 12 miners were able to find an air pocket in which they could sustain themselves until the rescuers made at least to their part of the cave—into the mine—that it will be very, very difficult for them to survive. 

Now, earlier, Ben Hatfield—he‘s the president of the International Coal Group, addressed the press.  Let‘s go to that SOT. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HATFIELD:  Mine rescue crews have also located the body of a miner near the belt drive at the entrance to the second left section, which is roughly 11,250 feet from the mine portal.

Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to identify and confirm the deceased miner‘s identity.  Plans are to bring the body out as soon as possible and identification may precede removal of the body.

The mine rescue crews are still operating under mask in rescue mode and are continuing to look for survivors.  The man bus used by the 12-man production crew has been spotted on the rail track approximately 700 feet beyond the first body location but none of the passengers have yet been found.

It appears that the passengers exited the man bus under their own power and made their way toward the intake escape way but we do not know from there at this point where they‘ve gone.

So we have one body located, 12 people missing.  They apparently exited their portal bus, the vehicle they were riding under their own power and at this point have not been located.

The production crew should have had an hour‘s worth of oxygen on their belt system and that should have gotten them to the outside so we don‘t now what‘s been the holdup.

We haven‘t confronted that situation to this point.  Again, the delay that we‘re encountering at this point is simply that we‘ve reached the furthest extent that our equipment will go without moving up the ventilation system.

We restore the ventilation structure as we move deeper into the mine and the crews, the rescue crews can even extend about 1,000 feet beyond that under their mask with full self-contained breathing arrangements.

I don‘t have any information at all on the condition of the body.  As you can I‘m sure appreciate our rescue teams are in rescue mode.  They identify a body.  If the person is deceased, they simply tag it, confirm the location, report it to the outside, move quickly toward the face trying to find the remaining employees.

It‘s the worst news we can possibly deliver to families that are anxiously awaiting good news, so we‘re devastated by it.  The families are devastated.  There‘s a lot of anxiety because we haven‘t yet identified the employee, so our heart and prayers at this point are with the families.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s bring back in NBC News analyst Bob Hager. 

Bob, obviously, the issue facing these miners tonight, facing the rescue operation, has to do with the carbon monoxide, the deadly gases inside that mine.  Talk about the search-and-rescue effort that‘s been going on today, and also about the animation that NBC News put together to try to explain exactly what‘s been happening. 

HAGER:  Sure.  Let‘s see if we can run that animation.  And I will see if I can take you through it, because it—it begins here with a view of the general area, the mountain there, and you cut through the side of the mountain. 

And down there underneath is where they thought maybe the men were.  And they sank that first just six-inch-wide shaft and sent a camera down, and also air-monitoring equipment.  They found toxic gases. 

The camera looked around, didn‘t see any sign of miners.  Then they sent a little robot up into the shaft, held out a lot of hope that that robot, which can work in poisonous gas conditions, might be able to find something.  But it bogged down in the mud. 

So, then they started drilling some other shafts.  Some water held up one of those other shafts.  The other shaft got down.  They got both those shafts to within 20 feet of the roofs of various sections back there in the mine where they thought the men might have been, but then they stopped short of the roofs because the rescuers were making good fairly good progress themselves by going up the shaft of the mine. 

And tonight it‘s those rescuers which came on that first grim scene, where they found the body, and then the abandoned cart where the other 12 miners must have been some time before the explosion. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bob, what do you make of the news of the abandoned cart?  Obviously, people that are holding out hope are saying that it‘s good news that the 12 gentlemen weren‘t found inside that cart.  What does that possibly mean to you? 

HAGER:  Well, somehow, they got out of the cart. 

But they could have got out before the explosion, could have left the cart there, gone on to work in another area of the mine.  And that means the rescuers will find them later on, where they were working.  Or it could mean they did in fact—that they were alive at the time of the explosion, survived the explosion, were able to get out of the cart, use their breathing apparatus, to try to get somewhere to find some safe air. 

So, we will have to see.  I think that the rescuers will get the searchers up in that area later on tonight and—and have some news of where those miners got to. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And from what you can gather by sorting through all the information that‘s been coming in over the past 24 hours, what would you say has been the biggest risk, the biggest challenge to those miners during the explosion and immediately following the explosion?  Is it in fact being overcome by the carbon monoxide?

(CROSSTALK)

HAGER:  Yes.  It seems to me the carbon monoxide gas, which is a product of the combustion of the explosion. 

So, it wasn‘t debris flying around.  And as in the case of the mine in Pennsylvania, where they found the miners alive, it wasn‘t water.  It wasn‘t any of those things.  And it‘s good it wasn‘t debris, because that can be deadly, big chunks of debris, or a collapse of a mine tunnel at some point.  So, it was the gas that was the biggest—that clearly has been the biggest threat to these miners, yes, at levels three times the lethal level of carbon monoxide. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And you heard a representative of the mine talk about the fact that these gentlemen all had backpacks on, oxygen backpacks, that would sustained them for an hour.  What is your best guess on why that wasn‘t enough time for them to walk out of the mine safely? 

HAGER:  Oh, boy, if you had to take a guess, they could have been disabled by the forces of the explosion. 

I think that might be very likely.  Or they might be up in one of those little tunnels beyond the point where the cart was, that they left the cart.  They were working somewhere, and they were stunned or maybe killed instantly by the force of the explosion. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  How easy is it to be disoriented in there? 

HAGER:  How easy would it be to be—I think—well, first of all, these are seasoned miners.  They have all been in the mines for a long time.

So, even in those horrible conditions, the dead black, no light, and in those cramped quarters, they would be pretty good at figuring out where they were.  It would be—you could get disoriented, but I—seasoned miners like this, I have got a hunch, if they were in sound body, that they could find their way out in those conditions.  But here they‘re fighting that gas and time. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  These guys are pros, though.

OK, thank you so much, Bob Hager.

HAGER:  Sure.  Absolutely, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  As always, greatly appreciate it.

When we return, we are going to be hearing from the governor of West Virginia, and also going back to the scene live with Rita Cosby to get the very latest, as the desperate search continues for the 12 missing miners in West Virginia. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s go back to the scene in West Virginia and MSNBC‘s own Rita Cosby. 

Rita, I understand you have new information on the miner that was found.  What do you have? 

COSBY:  Yes. 

I was talking to Chris Hamilton.  He‘s with the West Virginia Coal Miners Association.  And he had said to us—forgive me, because there‘s a lot of course official vehicles kind of going behind us now, with word that that one body was found.

But Chris Hamilton said to us—I asked him.  I said, was there a mask on the body that was found?  And I think that it‘s very significant he said no, that he was told that there was no mask.  In other words, the person did not have time to put the oxygen, to put the breathing tanks. We know that they had that breathing apparatus that allows them for at least one hour of additional breathing, if should a situation like a carbon monoxide overpowering take place inside the mine.

Specifically for that type of a reason, an explosion or something like that, they have this breathing apparatus that they can actually put on.  Some people have said that it actually allows them to breathe for two to three hours. 

We know that at least one hour.  We‘re told, according to Chris Hamilton, who was on our show with you just a few moments ago, Joe, that apparently no mask was found on that individual, signaling that it was so rapid, so quick. 

The other thing, too, that he was told from rescuers is that it looks like that person was overcome by fumes, possibly carbon monoxide.  Again, this is just the initial reaction, but what it means is, if there was no mask found on that person—these guys have a lot of training.  We don‘t know the age of this particular person, if this was one of the more experienced miners.  We know there were some very experienced ones that were deep down, some with 30 years of experience.

But we do know that they are trained to automatically, when there‘s a problem, put on that breathing apparatus.  It‘s supposed to be very handy, very quick to put on.  Clearly, that individual did not have time to put on a mask, according to what Chris Hamilton is telling us, meaning that that overcome—that combustion that probably happened—and, again, this is surmising, based on what he is being told—but if that combustion happened, releasing just these enormous levels of carbon monoxide, which the officials said that they did find in those places of the mine...

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

COSBY:  ... maybe it happened so rapidly, so quick, that it overcame, that they‘re not able even to grab a mask.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

COSBY:  Which did not bode well, unfortunately, for the other miners. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Rita, stay with us. 

I want to bring in Jeff Goodell.  He‘s co-authored a book, “Our Story:

77 Hours That Tested Our Friendship and Our Faith,” with the Quecreek miners, also the author of “Big Coal,” a new book on the industry that‘s coming out this spring. 

Jeff, you just heard the—the report from Rita.  She is getting information that possibly one of the these miners was overcome so quickly he was not able to put on his mask.  What does it mean? 

JEFF GOODELL, AUTHOR, “OUR STORY”:  Well, it‘s very early to say what it means.  Obviously, it suggests that there was some kind of an explosion, that he didn‘t have time to put the mask on. 

Every miner knows to do that, and if they had time, they certainly would.  So, it suggests that it happened very quickly.  But these kinds of things are all going to be sorted out in the coming hours. 

(CROSSTALK)

GOODELL:  And what‘s striking to me, when I‘m looking at these images is—that we‘re seeing on the screen—is of the families and remembering talking to the families of the Quecreek miners and what it was like for them. 

And I think what‘s important to really get is that, for these families, this is not a random event or something that they‘re watching on TV.  This is something that they have lived with and dreaded all—for years.  Every coal miner family that I have talked to, they have nightmares about this.  They think about...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Jeff, talk about that, because obviously there were—we had a guy that was on last night talking about how he had lost a family member back in the 1960s.  Talk about how there‘s this sense of dread, that while they‘re drawn to the mines for the promise of better pay, that not only their spouses, but also their children and parents, have nightmares about this very thing happening. 

GOODELL:  Almost every coal miner I have ever talked to, and their wives and their children have some sort of dreams and nightmares of being buried. 

And it‘s something that they live with in a daily way.  That said, there are a lot of coal miners—and I‘m sure that some of these guys are among them—who we talk about them as doing this, and we talk about how much money they make and how hard the work is, and all of that is true. 

And it‘s also very dangerous.  But there are also a lot of men who really love this work, who would do it if they were paid half as much, because it‘s in their blood.  They have been doing it for three or four generations.  There‘s a real camaraderie among the guys down there.  They‘re in this closed world, where they‘re among themselves. 

It‘s—one of the Quecreek miners described it to me as wrestling with Mother Nature down there.  And that‘s certainly what goes on in there.  And, so, there‘s a tremendous sense of pride.  And that‘s also—and togetherness.  And that‘s also what‘s driving I‘m sure these rescuers to take such risks to go after these guys. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, some of these men just—they go down there obviously because it‘s a job, but they also do it because they love it. 

GOODELL:  It‘s hard to believe, but when you go into a mine, you can get the—you get that sense, because you see how they have to work so closely together, with all this heavy machinery whizzing around.  You have incredible danger, which bonds them. 

It‘s like a secret world down there.  No one else goes there.  They talk about things that they don‘t talk about with their wives or their kids or anyone else.  It‘s a real world that is very hard to understand, if you haven‘t been in there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Very hard to understand, a frontier underground. 

What are your thoughts tonight on the news that you have been receiving, like the rest of us, over the wires and on TV?  Do you—is hope dwindling, in your mind, for these 12 miners that are still missing tonight? 

GOODELL:  Well, what I‘m thinking about right now is what this is like for the families.  And I‘m also thinking about what a volatile situation we have here for these families. 

These families have lived with these miners, and they know what they have gone through, and they know how dangerous this mine probably was.  And they know many stories that are going to come out in the next few weeks.  And I think that even in the Quecreek case, there‘s a lot of rage and anger and a lot of it justified at the coal operators. 

There‘s no love lost between the coal operators of these families.  And I think that as you see this story play out—and we have seen these violations—I think you are going to see a lot of that anger expressed.  And I think that it‘s going to be a very volatile situation. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Jeff, we got to go.

But tell me very quickly, why—why were the unions—why have the unions, for the most part, left the state? 

GOODELL:  I‘m sorry.  I didn‘t hear you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why have the unions—the unions just aren‘t as strong, these miners‘ unions, as they once were.  Why is that? 

GOODELL:  Well, that‘s a complicated—there‘s lots of complicated reasons for that, but partly because the unions did a bad job of managing some of their negotiations in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and partly because mine operators have gone out of their way to break these unions. 

In fact, the company that recently bought out this mine has been known for breaking up some unions.  And, so, there‘s a lot of anger among the unions about that, too.  And this is volatile.  The labor history in the coal industry is among the bloodiest in America. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

GOODELL:  And I think that I‘m not predicting anything like that, but this is just—there‘s a lot of tension here that‘s not on the surface right now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I‘m sure it is going to be coming to the surface soon. 

Jeff, thank you so much for being with us.  Greatly appreciate it.  And you can expect the unions obviously to try to return in full force in the coming months and years. 

I‘m joined now by Tucker Carlson.  He‘s the host of “THE SITUATION

WITH TUCKER CARLSON.”

Tucker, what‘s the situation tonight? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  Well, Joe, we are going to be following this story in West Virginia live until midnight.  MSNBC will continue covering it live even after that. 

We are going to bring you every detail.  We have got people on the ground, analysis of what‘s happening. 

We will also be tackling the other breaking news tonight.  And that is the guilty pleas of Jack Abramoff, the now disgraced lobbyist in Washington.  This is a huge—I don‘t need to tell you—scandal, Joe, that‘s going to be huge, I think, transformative in Washington.  There are going to be a lot of people who are going to be in deep trouble.  Some of them are going to go to prison.  Some of them are now holding office.  I think this is going to transform the city. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think it‘s going to also, Tucker.  I think it‘s going to be the biggest scandal, congressional scandal, at least, since Abscam. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  And they deserve it, actually.  Some of these people deserve to go to prison.  I‘m going to applaud when they get sentenced.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  If you misuse the public trust, I have absolutely no sympathy for you at all.  Go straight to jail. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Tucker, thanks a lot. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And make sure you turn into “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON,” coming up next, at 11:00. 

We will be right back in just a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re looking at a live shot of the mine in West Virginia that right now is the center of a great deal of attention, not only in that state, but across America, as the wire services reported earlier this evening, that one body was found in this West Virginia mine, overcome, apparently, by carbon monoxide poisoning. 

A dozen miners are still missing tonight, as a desperate search goes on. 

Well, earlier tonight, the governor of West Virginia had this to say about the desperate situation. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  Unfortunately, we found one body.  And—but yet, we have found the tram, and we‘re still in full rescue mode, looking for the 12 miners, those 12 miners that we‘re still trying to locate.

And we know that the tram they would have rode in on was intact.  There was no damage to that at all.  And, so, we‘re in search right now of those 12.  And the crews are doing everything humanly possible.

So, unfortunately, we did—we have one fatality that‘s been confirmed.  And our hopes—and as I tell you so many times, we still believe in those miracles, and we‘re still hanging onto this miracle.  And we‘re hoping for the best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  They and the rest of America. 

We will be right back with more in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  We will have more of the latest breaking news on the West Virginia mining disaster when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HATFIELD:  ... hardest thing I‘ve ever had to do, but we remain hopeful that there will be some good news before it‘s all over with, but hopes certainly are stretched thin at this point.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION:  Is there another exit?  When you said they might be making their way towards an exit when they left their bus, is there some way they could have tunneled out from there?

HATFIELD:  No, it would not have been practical to tunnel out.  They would simply have to move through the existing tunnels toward the mine portal. 

There are several different routes they could have used to come to the outside.  But, again, because we‘ve—we have come from the outside toward them and we‘ve not encountered anything to this point that indicates their presence, we‘re somewhat mystified as to exactly what may have happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, the search goes on. 

That was the president of the International Coal Group, the company that owns the mine, who held a press conference earlier this evening. 

And, obviously, all of our thoughts and prayers are with the family members and also the trapped miners tonight in West Virginia.  And we will keep them, and you should keep them in your thoughts and prayers throughout the evening.  They really need it right now. 

That‘s all the time we have for tonight. 

“THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now—Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks a lot, Joe. 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

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