THE horrific explosion at Performance Coal Co.'s Upper Big Branch mine ended the lives of 29 men.
The mine is still too dangerous to enter, and the underground investigations into what happened have not even begun. Answers are many months away.
That left a news vacuum, which human nature abhors. Scarcely had the memorial service ended - 29 crosses, 29 hard hats - when people with personal, institutional, environmental and political motivations seized upon the moment to begin pursuing their own agendas
Authors flogged books on needy news channels.
The United Mine Workers has been unable to organize some Massey Energy mines in what had been the heart of union country. UMWA President Cecil Roberts vilified Massey Energy President Don Blankenship with a fiery speech in Maryland.
"He's broken every health and safety record in this country," Roberts said. "If there's any justice in America, the day will come when he's in leg irons and in handcuffs marching off to jail."
The anti-fossil-fuel crowd weighed in.
"Clean Energy Works, a coalition of about 60 groups that want climate legislation, sent an e-mail to reporters with the headline 'Coal Mine Owner Puts Profits Before Safety,' " wrote Greenwire for the New York Times.
J.W. Randolph of Appalachian Voices said, in Greenwire's words: "The explosion was caused by the same profit-at-all- costs culture that leads coal companies to ignore the ecological consequences of mountaintop-removal mining."
"The death of 29 miners highlights the need for a transition away from coal and toward safer jobs such as wind turbine manufacturing, said Randolph with Appalachian Voices," Greenwire said.
Law firms trolled for grieving plaintiffs that could help them win millions of dollars in fees.
Robbins Geller Ruman & Dowd of San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Boca Raton, Washington, Philadelphia and Atlanta filed a class-action suit in Beckley seeking plaintiffs who bought Massey stock and saw its price go down after the accident.
Said BusinessWire: "The complaint alleges that prior to and during the Class period, Massey claimed to be one of the safest mine operators in the industry, regularly touting its safety achievements and telling investors that safety was its number one priority. In fact, safety at Massey's mines was repeatedly sacrificed so that aggressive production goals could be met."
Well, in fact, that "fact" has not yet been established. Understanding citations and accident rates has proved difficult for laymen.