Twenty-nine miners died in the April 5 explosion, making it the worst U.S. coal-mining disaster in 40 years. The disaster is the focus of multiple civil investigations, a congressional probe, and prompted federal prosecutors to begin their own examination, looking for possible criminal wrongdoing related to hundreds of Upper Big Branch safety violations dating back more than four years.
On Friday, Massey issued a new statement to emphasize that it did not use the specific phrase "act of God" to describe its theory of the disaster's cause.
Legally, an "act of God" is an event outside of human control for which no one can be held responsible.
During Thursday's news conference, one reporter asked Massey general counsel Shane Harvey, "Do you think this data and this crack ... does it indicate that a natural event beyond the control of the company could have caused this event?"
Harvey responded, "It's a possibility at this stage."
Speaking to the National Press Club later Thursday, Massey CEO Don Blankenship said he would not promise to take steps that would ensure such an explosion never happens again.
"I'm a realist," Blankenship said. "The politicians will tell you we're going to do something so this never happens again. You won't hear that from me because I believe that the physics of natural law and God trump whatever Man tries to do."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.