Saturday, January 07, 2006

Miner's Account of Being Trapped

One of the men who died in Monday's mine explosion in West Virginia kept a diary-like record of what happened as he and his fellows were dying. The entries indicate that the trapped miners were still alive at least 10 hours after the blast.

The daughter of 61-year-old Jim Bennett, who was a shuttle car operator in the mine, said the note has three or four entries, the first coming Monday at 11:40 a.m. and the last, in words that trailed off the page, at 4:25 p.m., nearly 10 hours after the blast.

"Each time he documented, you could tell it was getting worse," Ann Merideth told The Associated Press. "Later on down the note he said that it was getting dark. It was getting smoky. They were losing air."

Monday's blast killed one miner immediately and 11 more who were found nearly 42 hours later huddled together behind a plastic curtain erected to keep out deadly carbon monoxide.

The only good news in all of this is that the only miner who survived the explosion is showing significant improvement.

The critically injured lone survivor among the miners trapped deep inside a coal mine by an underground explosion is showing dramatic improvements in both his organs and his brain function, a doctor said Saturday.

Randal McCloy Jr. remains critically ill in a medically induced coma at a Pittsburgh hospital. Doctors believe he has brain damage from severe oxygen deprivation.

However, "we've seen substantial improvement," said Dr. Richard Shannon, speaking for a team of doctors treating McCloy in Pittsburgh.

McCloy's injured muscles are improving, along with his liver and heart function, and tests showed his brain swelling is reducing, Shannon said at a news conference.

In addition, when doctors lighten up on the medically induced coma in which McCloy is being kept to allow his brain to heal, he "does move spontaneously, he does flicker his eyelashes," Shannon said. "All his brainstem functions appear to be intact."

The brainstem controls breathing, heartbeat, and articulate speech.

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