The mine's trained rescue team interviewed the 19 miners who escaped to learn what they were dealing with. Of the 32 men who had been working the shift, 13 were still inside.
About 8 p.m., rescuers entered the mine and moved cautiously through the tunnels toward Four Section. They found Raymond Ashworth, Blevins' third volunteer, near the section entrance. He was conscious but burned from the top of his head to the soles of his feet.
At 11:30 p.m., he was evacuated from the mine and airlifted to the University of Alabama Medical Center in Birmingham. By the time his wife, Cathy, got there, he had slipped into a coma.
All she could do was ask the nurses to clean the coal dirt from his swollen tongue. The next day, he died.
At the entrance to Four Section, the searchers found the bodies of Blevins and his two other men. They stopped and took air readings. The methane concentration was high. So was carbon monoxide, indicating that the section was still burning.
The searchers were in the barrel of a gun that was primed to go off again. About 6:30 a.m., with no hope of finding more survivors, the rescue team pulled out.
That morning, the mine was flooded to put out fires raging in the tunnels. Once the fires were extinguished, the water was pumped out.
Over the next few months, searchers explored the mine piece by piece. Working in short shifts to avoid heat exhaustion, they would creep along a few hundred feet, halt and build a temporary seal so they could ventilate the section. Then they would explore another few hundred feet, stop and do the same thing.
On Nov. 2, more than five weeks after the explosion, searchers recovered three bodies at the entrance to Four Section. Six days later, the last nine bodies were found.
The mine reopened in mid-December, an early Christmas present for workers who'd been sitting home for nearly three months.
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration cited the company last week for 27 violations, eight of which contributed to the accident and the deaths. One of the worst, the agency said, was failing to start evacuating the mine after the initial explosion.
Jim Walter Resources executives refused to comment.
Earlier, the agency admonished Jim Walter Resources for having "no responsible person who took control of the situation" during the accident. The agency also declared the mine's firefighting plan inadequate.
Although federal law requires that firefighting and evacuation be simulated every 90 days, several miners interviewed recently were hard-pressed to recall an evacuation drill and said firefighting drills were usually limited to a foreman running through a checklist.
The mine's firefighting plan has been revised with an emphasis on improving coordination from the control room.
In recent months, the mine has been cited for numerous violations, including accumulations of coal dust, ventilation problems and inadequate roof support.
The Bush administration's new budget calls for a 5% cut in funding for MSHA's coal mine enforcement. Experts say that could mean fewer inspectors.
In September, a thousand miners, family members and company officials marked the one-year anniversary of the accident by erecting a memorial.
Among those who perished, Blevins has been singled out perhaps more than any other as the embodiment of courage. His tombstone in a Tuscaloosa cemetery is inscribed: "Son, Husband, Father, Grandfather and Hero of JWR 5 Mine Explosion."
His son, Dave Jr., who worked at neighboring No. 7 mine, has led the drive to make the mine owner pay.
He's a natural leader, just like his dad. Ten of the 13 families that lost breadwinners have filed wrongful death lawsuits against the company, alleging negligence.
Jim Walter Resources denies that it was negligent and characterizes the accident as unforeseeable.
The company says the miners who were killed and injured understood the risks but chose to follow their creed and go to the aid of their brothers.
Of the three men injured in the first explosion, only Tony Key has returned to work underground -- over his wife's objections. He wanted to prove to himself that he could do it.
Michael McIe, the man who led Key to safety, spends his days tramping through the woods, under doctor's orders to do something that gives him peace. Troubled by nightmares, he is on anti-anxiety medication.
Ricky Rose, the miner who prayed as he headed toward Four Section after the first explosion, is back underground. It's the only work he knows. But he asked to be taken off the belt crew, which lost three men.
After the mine reopened, he went to the spot where their bodies were found, knelt in the coal dust and wept.
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THE STORY SO FAR