But MSHA's Stricklin said that's simply impossible.
"We know it wasn't operating safely, or we wouldn't have had an explosion," Stricklin said.
"It's quite evident that something went very wrong here," he said. "All explosions are preventable. It's just making sure you have things in place to keep one from occurring."
Asked if he was concerned about Massey's safety record, Manchin replied, "I'm not comfortable when there is an accident, no matter who it is."
Manchin promised the state would hold a public hearing as part of his investigation, and that he planned to ask Clinton administration MSHA chief Davitt McAteer to help the state work out the details of its probe.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., said that House Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-W.Va., had committed to holding hearings to investigate the disaster.
In a prepared statement, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said, "Twenty-five hardworking men died needlessly in a mine yesterday. I pledge that their deaths will not be in vain. Miners should never have to sacrifice their lives for their livelihood."
The explosion was the worst U.S. mining disaster since December 1984, when 27 workers died in a fire at the Wilberg Mine in Orangeville, Utah. It was the worst disaster in West Virginia since 78 miners -- including Manchin's uncle -- died in the November 1968 Farmington Disaster in Marion County.
"Clearly, we must get to the bottom of what happened, how and who was responsible," said Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va. "And we must and will hold those parties accountable.
"West Virginia's coal miners are the backbone of a great nation that depends on their work," Byrd added. "They deserve nothing less than a safe working environment, and an employer who respects and values their safety."
Tuesday afternoon, the state Medical Examiner identified the first seven victims of the disaster: Steven J. Harrah, 40; William R. Lynch, 59; Jason Atkins, 25; Benny Ray Willingham, 61; Carl Accord, 52; Deward Allan Scott, 58; and Robert E. Clark, 41.
Other names were not officially released, but identities of the dead and missing began to spread as national and international media descended on the Raleigh County area to cover the story.
Some family members were vocally critical of Massey, saying the company did not contact them or provide adequate information and support in the hours after the explosion.
"We sat and we sat and we sat," said Michelle McKinney, whose father Benny Willingham was among those killed. "We are still waiting on that phone call."
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