PRICE Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said early Friday he is pushing for underground operations in the Crandall Canyon Mine to cease immediately, "unless MSHA and others can guarantee it can continue safely."
Huntsman made an unexpected appearance before reporters outside Castleview Hospital about 2 a.m. Friday. He said Utah had already been through enough tragedy the past two weeks and wanted to see no one else be injured.
Three rescuers were killed and six others injured Thursday evening as a result of an underground "bump" that caused part of the mine to collapse, injuring search crews who had been working the past 11 days trying to find six missing miners in the Emery County coal mine.
Ultimately, it will be up to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration to decide whether or not the rescue operation inside the mine will continue. Huntsman said he was scheduled to meet with MSHA later Friday morning.
"I will discuss with MSHA and the (mine) company (Murray Energy Corp.) where to go from here," he said.
Until then, Huntsman added, the "underground mining would cease for the time being," but the drilling of a fourth borehole on top of the mountain where the mine was located would continue. The above ground drilling will ultimately be the best source of information in finding the trapped miners, Huntsman said.
Huntsman was joined by the city mayors of Price and Huntington, region county commissioners and other officials during the brief news conference. He said the officials and the rest of the world expressed their condolences to those who committed the ultimate act of selflessness by risking their own lives to save others. He called the men "heroes."
"I just want to express our deep, deep sense of sadness and condolences to the families of the three miners (killed)," he said. "These were good people ... great people."
At a time when Utah had already asked for the nation for its prayers after the first tragedy, "We just ask for a few more," he added.
Huntsman also met with the families of the deceased and injured rescuers inside the hospital.
The governor said a "thorough" investigation into Thursday's tragedy would be conducted, possibly involving Congress. He hoped that the safety of all mines would be looked at in light of this most recent tragedy and that the lessons learned at the Crandall Canyon Mine would help those mines do things better in the future."Let's focus like never before (on workplace safety)," he said. "If we learn no lessons at all, this will have been in vain, and that is unacceptable."