Miners trapped — Crews working around clock to reach 6

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 7 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

Robert Murray, right, the president of Murray Energy, which owns the Crandall Canyon Mine, speaks about efforts to find the miners. He urged people to "pray, pray, pray." Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., left, said no expense will be spared in the rescue.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

HUNTINGTON, Emery County — It could be days before rescuers are able to reach six miners trapped 1,500 feet underground in a collapsed mine shaft.

Getting to the men has been a difficult, round-the-clock operation, with a lot of setbacks.

Rescuers have encountered large amounts of debris, much more than anticipated. In the mine shafts, some debris continued to fall, risking the safety of workers trying to reach the trapped miners.

One attempt did not work as mine officials had hoped Monday.

"What I wanted to report was this worked, that we'd gotten to them," said Robert Murray, the president of Murray Energy, which owns the mine.

There has been no contact with the miners. The men are believed to have oxygen and water that could last them for days, but authorities admit they do not know if the men are alive or dead.

Rescuers have been working frantically to free the trapped miners. Crews are trying four different ways to get to the trapped miners, including drilling from inside and outside the mine and through a mountain. A specialized drill is expected to be brought in this morning to try another rescue attempt.

The men were among 10 people working in the coal mine Monday when it collapsed. They were about eight hours into a 12-hour shift when the area collapsed.

Four workers were able to evacuate safely, but the other six were trapped.

"They know where they're at in the mine," Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guyman said. "It's just a matter of getting to them."

Heavy equipment is being used in attempts to reach the men. The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration is coordinating the search efforts.

"The area where the miners are believed to have been working is about four miles from the mine entrance," MSHA spokesman Dirk Fillpot said.

'It happens in mines'

Mining operations at Crandall Canyon have ceased, and employees are focused on rescue efforts. Miners showed up for their shifts Monday night dressed in their work clothes, sturdy shoes and carrying lunch pails and coolers.

Ryan Powell, a miner from East Carbon, sat in the back of a pickup with his co-workers ready to start a shift of rescuing.

"There's nothing you can do about it," he said of the collapse. "It happens in mines."

Buddy Mills has worked for 2 1/2 years at the Crandall Canyon Mine. He took the job because it pays well. He said they have been trained frequently on safety.

"The first thing to do (in a collapse) is to make sure you're OK, then try to find somebody else," he said. "Staying as a group is a big thing."

The area where the trapped miners are located is believed to have oxygen and water. They also had breathing apparatus, which had about an hour's worth of oxygen. Other apparatus are stashed throughout the mine, said Doug Johnson, the director of corporate services for UtahAmerican Energy, which manages the Crandall Canyon Mine.

An earthquake?

The collapse inside the Crandall Canyon Mine was so powerful, authorities initially thought it was an earthquake.

An event measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale struck about 16 miles west of here at 2:48 a.m. Monday. Guyman said the University of Utah Seismograph Stations notified emergency dispatchers of the event, inquiring if it was an earthquake. A short time later, Emery County sheriff's dispatchers were notified of the mine collapse.

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