"They could've done anything in that mine that they wanted to,'' he said. "We just had a major explosion. ... They could've killed every one of us.''
The interviews -- conducted from May 2010 through March 2011 -- represent just a fraction of the 263 people questioned by state, federal and independent investigators. MSHA has said it will release additional transcripts in consultation with federal prosecutors, who are simultaneously pursuing a criminal investigation.
Dominating the interviews, some of which run more than 120 pages, are technical questions that show investigators aggressively pursuing MSHA's theory that Massey allowed highly explosive coal dust to build up and fuel the blast. Massey denies that dust played a role. It claims a sudden rush of methane or natural gas overwhelmed all safety systems.
But sprinkled throughout the transcripts, too, are comments that provide the first detailed glimpse of the horrific conditions searchers found. Boots blown off their owners' feet. Fluorescent stripes melted off blue work clothes. A far-flung hardhat, its brim ripped off. Melted cables and dripping oil on damaged electrical boxes.
And bodies, some so blackened with soot they were unrecognizable even to the rescuers who had called them friends. Bodies mutilated, either by sheer force of the blast or by flying debris. Bodies with air packs, or self-contained self-rescuers, the owners never had time to use.
Gene White, now West Virginia's deputy mine safety chief, testified about retreating to grab fabric to cover four victims found along his team's path.
"The teams were going to have travel right by them. We didn't want everybody exposed to that. So we covered those four individuals,'' he said. "There was no reason to expose anybody to that, and it is more respectful to the victims.''
The debris and damage were nearly incomprehensible, the metal plates under the roof bolts bent in so many directions that rescuers couldn't determine which direction the explosion traveled. In some spots, debris was so deep that teams had to crawl over piles, unable to see the mine floor.
"I saw airlock doors. They were rolled up in a ball, you know, the size of a beach ball,'' said MSHA rescuer David Leverknight. "I mean they were just ... they were destroyed. There was nothing.''
State rescuer John Kinder described a metal box that had been sheared asunder, with part of it driven into the roof.
Mullins says the transcripts reveal the damage was far more severe than the victims' families were initially told.
"I feel like I was lied to by Massey and MSHA and the state,'' he said.
They also reveal his brother was found just hours after the explosion, even though his family wasn't informed until days later.
"They said they couldn't positively identify them,'' Mullins said, but it was Blanchard and Whitehead who found his brother. "I think it should've been told that night. They knew by the devastation ... that no one could have survived.''
In an emotional interview that he began with a prayer, Massey mine rescue team member Mark Bolen described how six-man teams carried the bodies out relay-style, gently handing the baskets over to the next team.
Bolen worked at the last stop; he helped load the victims onto a shuttle car, cover them with American flags, then drive them to the surface.
It was "nothing short of a miracle to have 140 men underground working together with no motivation but love,'' he said, "and it was a beautiful thing.''