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Improving miner comes out of coma

Associated Press
Published January 26, 2006

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The sole survivor of a mine explosion that killed 12 fellow miners emerged from a light coma Wednesday but still cannot speak, his doctor said.

Randal McCloy Jr., who had been in a coma since his Jan. 4 rescue, is able to respond to simple commands and follow movements with his eyes, said Dr. Larry Roberts at Ruby Memorial Hospital.

McCloy is also able to chew and swallow soft foods, doctors said.

McCloy, 26, of Simpson, W.Va., may have suffered brain damage from the carbon monoxide exposure in the mine, but the extent of any damage is not yet known. He has a slight fever and remains in fair condition.

Roberts said McCloy continues to show slight neurological improvement each day.

"The family obviously is thrilled with Randy's constant progress," said Aly Goodwin Gregg, the family's spokeswoman. "They remain optimistic about his continued recovery and they recognize how long the recovery process is going to take."

Gregg said McCloy's wife has remained at his side and his children visit him regularly. They talk to him and he responds to them.

Lara Ramsburg, spokesman for West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, said McCloy "continues to be a miracle and the governor is extremely pleased with his progress."

McCloy survived the Jan. 2 blast at the Sago Mine and more than 41 hours of exposure to deadly carbon monoxide. For days, he had hovered near consciousness, but doctors would not classify him as out of the coma until he was fully awake.

Union dispute slows mine accident investigation

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Plans to begin gathering evidence inside the Sago Mine fell apart Wednesday when International Coal Group Inc. refused to let members of the United Mine Workers accompany state and federal investigators underground.

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, which had already recognized the union as legal representative for several workers at the nonunion mine, went to U.S. District Court in Elkins seeking an order to grant the union access.

The union's involvement has been a point of contention for nearly two weeks. Nearly 70 percent of ICG's miners are being represented not by the UMW but by three co-workers. ICG has said it wants to verify the workers' employment.

"Some of the Sago miners requested that the United Mine Workers be their representatives for the purposes of this investigation, and they have a right to be there," said Ed Clair, associate solicitor for mine safety and health. "Together, the state and MSHA made a commitment to the families that we would conduct a fair, open investigation, and we decided we needed to take this extraordinary step to keep that commitment."

State and federal investigators had hoped to enter the mine Wednesday, more than three weeks after an explosion that left 12 miners dead.

Hazardous levels of carbon monoxide and other gases had to be vented and water had to be pumped out before investigators could get in, but the mine is now considered safe.

[Last modified January 26, 2006, 01:02:16]

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