Massey Energy C.E.O. Don Blankenship told ABC's Diane Sawyer late this afternoon that he has apologized to the families of the miners killed or trapped in yesterday's accident, but he declined to take or place blame for the accident until an investigation determines what caused the explosion that killed has 25 miners and trapped four others inside his company's Montcoal, W. Va. coal mine.
"I think every accident should be prevented, that's what the definition of an accident is," said Blankenship. "Once we know what happened, we'll know whether it was preventable by someone or not."
Blankenship said that he didn't know of any steps his company could have taken to prevent the disaster, though the Montcoal mine had received 58 citations in February alone. Blankenship deflected suggestions that his company's coal mines are more dangerous than others.
"Eighteen of the last 20 years we've been safer than the industry average," Blankenship told Sawyer. "We're the leaders in safety innovation and continue to be more creative in the area of safety than any other company, in our opinion."
Blankenship acknowledged a record of problems at the Montcoal mine, but the C.E.O said that the mine had been called safe by regulators.
"We have lots of regulators in the industry, probably more regulators in the coal industry than any other industry in the country, and the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the state agencies, all the safety people we have on hand felt this was a safe coal mine," Blankenship said. "At the Massey level, we're doing everything we can to make all of our mines as safe as we can."
When asked by Sawyer whether Massey Energy owes anything to the families of the killed miners, Blankenship said that his company will set up a fund for the families and provide assistance for the needs of the miners children.
Sawyer asked the C.E.O. what his company will do differently in the future to prevent more tragedy, and he said that while Massey Energy will fully investigate the cause of the explosion, "Anything you do in life has risks."
"I've taken that risk. I've worked underground at one time," he said. "I think that I understand the needs for safety. We invest more in safety and do more for innovation than any company that I'm aware of."
When pressed on whether he had personally been grieving for the deceased miners, he said, "The insinuation in the question is pretty misplaced because we feel the responsibility, we know that there's a big responsibility when you employ thousands of people in mining. We do the best we can to meet that responsibility. We're all human, but I don't know what exactly happened here or whether there's fault or whether there's something preventable or not."