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Sago Mine survivor awakening from coma

Doctors in West Virginia now said the only survivor of the mine explosion that killed 12 other miners appears to be awakening from a coma.
Randal McCloy, seen with his son in 2003, is in a “light coma,” his doctors say.AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sago Mine survivor Randal McCloy Jr. is breathing on his own and appears to be coming out of his coma, more than two weeks after a mine explosion that led to the deaths of 12 other miners, doctors said Wednesday.

“With great hope we announce that Randy McCloy is awakening from his coma,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, a neurosurgeon at West Virginia University’s Ruby Memorial Hospital. “We consider him, probably best described, in a light coma.”

He said McCloy moves his arms and legs, he opens his eyes when doctors call his name and the family believes “he has some level of connectivity with them.”

However, the 26-year-old McCloy has a long way to go, Bailes said.

“In many ways, we are in uncharted territory in predicting his recovery,” Bailes said. “The longterm outlook will be measured in weeks and months, and not days.”

Doctors hope to be able to move McCloy to a rehabilitation hospital within two weeks, said Dr. Larry Roberts.

Responding to family members
McCloy, who was pulled from the Sago Mine more than 41 hours after the Jan. 2 explosion, is “opening his eyes, he has purposeful movement, he is responding to his family in slight ways,” Bailes said. He said McCloy is also exhibiting facial movement and his brain stem function remains normal.

The blast itself is believed to have killed one miner immediately, and state officials have said the others died of carbon monoxide poisoning. McCloy may have suffered brain damage from his exposure to the gas, but the extent of the damage won’t be known until he regains consciousness.

Doctors moved McCloy out of intensive care Tuesday and said his heart and liver functions are recovering slowly, but he remains on dialysis because of kidney damage. McCloy, of Simpson, has been breathing without assistance for several days.

Officials investigating the blast are interviewing a series of witnesses.

The interviews are being conducted in private by officials from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration and the state Office of Miners’ Health Safety and Training.

Representatives of the mine’s owner, International Coal Group Inc. of Ashland, Ky., and the United Mine Workers union also were to attend.

Poisonous gas is still being purged from the mine, about 100 miles north of Charleston, and the company doesn’t know when it will be safe for investigators to enter it.