Officials from the Sago mine have confirmed that 11 of the 12 miners still trapped after an explosion have died. This means the death toll has risen to 12 after one man was found dead late on Tuesday. A doctor said the only survivor, Randal McCloy, had been taken to hospital.

Relatives were told of the deaths by Ben Hatfield, the head of the International Coal Group. The news came more than three hours after Joe Manchin, West Virginia's governor, said he had been told that all 12 employees were still alive.

Bewildered family members gathered to hear the news at Sago Baptist Church, which only hours earlier had been the scene of singing and jubilation.

According to John Groves, whose brother Jerry Groves was one of the trapped miners, Hatfield told relatives "there had been a lack of communication, that what we were told was wrong and that only one survived".

Misheard calls

At this point, chaos erupted in the church and a fight started.

 

Hatfield said the rumours had spread rapidly when people overheard cell phone calls between rescuers and the rescue command centre. In reality, rescuers had confirmed finding 12 miners but were still checking their vital signs.

 

He told a news conference "the initial report from the rescue team to the command centre indicated multiple survivors. That information spread like wildfire, because it had come from the command center. It quickly got out of control."

 

Hatfield said the company waited to correct the information until it knew more about the rescue.

Officials discovered dangerous
levels of carbon monoxide

One miner had been found dead late on Tuesday about 210 metres from a mine car where the men appeared to be working on a beltline, which brings coal out of the mine.

Officials had earlier found high levels of the dangerous carbon monoxide gas in the part of the mine where the men were believed to have been.

Consequently hopes had been fading for the lives of the men before the erroneous information claiming they had survived was spread.