Contact expected in next 24 to 48 hours, trapped miners identified

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 8 2007 12:00 a.m. MDT

Wylee Sherman, 3, puts his handprint on a sign that his family made for the miners' families at Canyon View Junior High in Huntington where the families have gathered.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

HUNTINGTON, Emery County — Within the next 24 to 48 hours, rescuers may be able to make contact with six miners trapped 1,500 feet underground inside a collapsed mine shaft.

Drilling rigs are making progress on the outside of the Crandall Canyon Mine, said Bob Murray, the president of Murray Energy Corp., which owns the mine.

Wearing miner's gear and his face a little blackened, Murray said he had just returned from a tour of the mine with the son of one of the trapped miners, and the brother of another trapped miner.

"They gave an outstanding report to the families that I know went a long ways to give them some confidence that everything humanly possible is being and has been done to rescue these miners," Murray told reporters tonight.

Officials who spoke to the Deseret Morning News on the condition of anonymity identified the trapped miners as Manuel Sanchez, Kerry Allred, Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and Don Erickson.

Rescue efforts

Rescue efforts continue around the clock.

Efforts are being made to reach the trapped miners from inside and outside of the mine. Two holes are being drilled into the mountain above to reach the miners. Murray said a 2 1/2 inch hole has been drilled 875 feet into the ground now. Federal officials told the Deseret Morning News today it is moving at a pace of about 70 feet per hour.

A hole nearly 9 inches in size has only made it 20 feet.

Yet mine officials said it is possible both will be able to make it to the area the miners are believed to be in within the next 24 to 48 hours.

Drilling through the mountain from the outside will only allow them to make a hole big enough to communicate and supply food and fresh air for the trapped men. Mine officials suggested the miners could survive indefinitely underground with that support.

"We can provide everything they need, including a toothbrush and a comb," said Murray.

Crews have been going back into the mine and restabilizing some of the mine shafts, using timber supports and chain link fencing to guard against any more cave-ins. Murray said they have to wait for the seismic activity underground to subside before proceeding.

The underground method is believed to be the fastest way to reach the miners. Overnight, crews were able to repair the ventilation system inside the Crandall Canyon Mine, restoring oxygen flow to parts of the coal mine.

It is unknown if the miners are alive or dead. They were in the middle of working a 12-hour shift early Monday when the mine shaft they were in collapsed in an event so powerful, it registered 3.9 on the Richter scale. Ten miners were inside the area at the time, four managed to escape.

Families frustrated

Meanwhile, family members expressed some frustration trying to get information on the rescue efforts.

"They are frustrated," Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guyman told the Deseret Morning News after leaving a meeting earlier this morning with the families.

Maria Buenrostro, the sister of trapped miner Manuel Sanchez, said Murray got angry with the questions and walked out of a meeting this morning.

"We want the truth, that's all we want," Buenrostro told the Associated Press. "If there's nothing that they can do about it, you know, just tell us so we know what to expect when they bring them out."

She said there was no interpreter for three Spanish-speaking families. Asked about his meeting with families, Murray said he's been thanked by them.

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