Sago Mine Survivor Talks to Investigators

Sago Mine survivor Randal McCloy Jr. spoke with state and federal investigators for the first time Monday, telling them what he can remember about the Jan. 2 explosion and prolonged entrapment that killed 12 co-workers.

McCloy, 27, of Simpson, is still recovering from brain damage caused by more than 41 hours of exposure to carbon monoxide. He often had to pause for long periods or have questions clarified during questioning, said family spokeswoman Aly Goodwin Gregg.

"While he is still undergoing intensive mental and physical rehabilitation, Randy provided what information he was able to at this time," Gregg said. "He just gets tired. But he did well."

McCloy offered to meet with investigators again if they need him, she said.

It was not immediately clear when a transcript of his interview might be made available. Investigators have released transcripts of other interviews they have conducted.

In late April, McCloy sent a letter to the families of his dead colleagues detailing how at least four air packs failed after the blast, forcing the men to share what little oxygen they had.

McCloy wrote that he didn't remember the blast but he does recall that the mine filled quickly with fumes, smoke and carbon monoxide. One miner died instantly in the explosion; the other 11 slowly asphyxiated some 260 feet below ground.

His letter laid out a tragic scenario in which the crew fought to make their whereabouts known, banging on metal roof bolts to send a signal, then gathered to pray as they drifted off to unconsciousness in a poisoned atmosphere.

Though McCloy has made a number of public appearances, from guest starter at NASCAR races to the signing of a new federal mine safety law in Washington, D.C., last week, he had not spoken to investigators formally since the accident.

His thought processes and speech are a little slower than normal, and his memories are not chronologically ordered, so interviews are challenging, Gregg said.

"Randy was glad to be able to meet with investigators and understands his obligation as the sole survivor to share his accounts of Jan. 2 since the other 12 men cannot," she said.

State and federal investigators have reached no official conclusions about the cause of the explosion. Mine owner International Coal Group Inc. has said it believes a lightning strike ignited a buildup of naturally occurring methane.