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Investigators to begin probing mine accident

MONTCOAL, W.V. — A team of federal investigators was expected to arrive today in West Virginia as officials try to figure out what caused the blast that killed 29 men in the worst U.S. mining disaster since 1970.

While some of the dead have been laid to rest, efforts to recover the bodies of miners still in Massey Energy Co.’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal continued.

Crews worked Sunday to remove the bodies of several others, but the recovery had to be halted because of high gas readings in the mine. Crews need to drill another hole to vent the mine before they can continue.

Richmond, Va.-based Massey has been under scrutiny for a string of safety violations at the mine, though CEO Don Blankenship has defended the company’s record and disputed accusations that he puts profits ahead of safety.

Authorities have said high levels of volatile methane gas may have played a role in the disaster. Massey has been repeatedly cited and fined for problems with the system that vents methane and for allowing combustible dust to build up.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin called for a moment of silence at 3:30 p.m. Monday in memory of the victims of last week’s deadly mine blast. The tribute would mark one week since the explosion.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said he asked Virginians to join the observance and continue looking for ways to help their West Virginia neighbors as they go through a tragic time.

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