As the rescue effort dragged on through its second full day, hope for a miracle was waning, officials said.
Three of the missing miners are believed to be in one location and the fourth in another location, somewhere near one of two rescue chambers located near the working face of the mine. Rescuers already checked a third rescue chamber, but did not find any survivors there.
Stricklin said once rescue teams can get into the mine, it might take them about two hours to get into the areas where the miners are believed to be.
"They may not be in the exact location we think they are, so we may have to fan out a little bit," Sticklin said. "You have to play it by ear ... you have to shoot from the hip."
Early Tuesday morning, rescue teams had reached 500 to 600 feet from the area where the miners may be before bad air readings forced them out of the mine.
New miner tracking systems installed following a string of mine disasters in 2006 were of little help to the rescuers. Like most mines nationwide, Upper Big Branch has not yet complied with the new federal requirements. And West Virginia's state rules do not require operators to track miners' specific locations once they enter active sections of the mine.
Even as the rescue effort continued, plans for investigations were moving forward.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said her agency's team would be headed by Norman Page, a 25-year MSHA employee who is currently district manager in Pikeville, Ky.
"Twenty-five hardworking men died unnecessarily in a mine Monday," Solis said. "The very best way we can honor them is to do our job. MSHA's investigation team is committed to finding out what happened, and we will take action."
MSHA has also said it will conduct an "internal review," its typical practice after disasters of appointing agency officials from another district to examine how well MSHA policed the Upper Big Branch Mine.
Manchin has said West Virginia would hold a public hearing as part of its investigation, as it did following the Sago disaster. The governor has not announced plans for that hearing or the investigation.
Rep. Nick J. Rahall, D-W.Va., has said that Congress will hold hearings on the disaster as well.
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