CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Another West Virginia coal miner died Friday in an underground accident, just three weeks after 29 workers were killed in a huge explosion at a Massey Energy Mine in Raleigh County.
The latest death came after a 28-year-old miner was crushed between a continuous mining machine and the mine wall late Thursday night at International Coal Group's Beckley Pocahontas Mine near Eccles.
Amy Louviere, spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, said the miner -- whose name has not yet been released -- died Friday morning while undergoing surgery in Charleston.
Late Friday, Gov. Joe Manchin again ordered the state's flags to half-staff on Sunday for the memorial service in Beckley to honor the miners killed and injured in the April 5 explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch Mine near Montcoal.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are both scheduled to attend and speak at the memorial, being held at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
Mine safety experts believe, based on preliminary information, that the explosion at Upper Big Branch involved an ignition of methane gas that was made far worse by a buildup of explosive coal dust underground. The mine had been repeatedly cited previously for inadequate ventilation and improper control of coal dust.
MSHA officials have repeatedly said in recent weeks that such explosions are preventable if mine operators take proper precautions, such as following approved mine ventilation plans and spreading crushed limestone, or "rockdust," to control the buildup of coal dust underground.
On Friday, Richmond, Va.-based Massey continued to defend itself against new lawsuits and national media reports that harshly criticized the company's safety practices.
"Clearly, something went wrong at Upper Big Branch," said a statement issued by Massey spokesman Troy Andes. "But we simply don't yet know what it was.
"If there was improper conduct regarding operations and safety, there will be accountability.
"Serious accidents that lead to loss of life in any industry are typically not the result of one easily identifiable cause," the statement said. "Instead, they usually result from a complex interplay of contributing forces. Separating those strands of forces can take time and intense, expert study. That is why it is so important that for this accident, as for others, there be no rush to judgment about its cause."
Investigators working to re-enter the Upper Big Branch Mine to begin the underground portion of their probe have been hampered by air readings showing gases that could indicate fires in the mine.