"They don't have to die. That's what the reports show. That's what the record shows."
-- - Ken Ward Jr., reporter The Charleston Gazette
The 2006 Sago mine disaster left 12 coal miners dead, and earned a dark place in American history and memory. For nearly two days in Upshur County, West Virginia, family and friends gathered, awaiting news of their loved ones, and just before midnight on January 3 cries of joy and relief rang out: "Twelve alive! Twelve alive!" Unfortunately, the families were given false information; only one man survived. The outrage and horror of Sago would make worldwide headlines. But despite the reams and reams of reporting on what happened at Sago, few reporters dug deeper to find out how, why and if tragedies like this need to happen at all. Reporter Ken Ward Jr. and The Charleston Gazette
did go deeper, taking a long hard look at the history and heartbreak of the coal mining industry and the governmental bodies that regulate it. Ward found that not only are most mining accidents preventable -- the result of lapsed or ignored safety regulations -- he also reported that most miners who die on the job die solitary, painful deaths without satellite trucks or reporters or much fanfare. It is these deaths, taken in the aggregate, that form a portrait of an industry that has a very hard time taking care of its own.
Read the original reporting in The Charleston Gazette
, including coverage of the immediate aftermath of the Sago mine disaster as well as Ken Ward's "Beyond Sago" series.