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Front Page » August 14, 2007 » Local News » Rescue crews exhibit unwavering determination
Published 2,563 days ago

Rescue crews exhibit unwavering determination


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher


Archie Allred speak to the press about his cousin, Kerry Allred, who is one of the six miners trapped below the rubble in the Crandall Canyon mine.

The collapse of the sidewalls and possible uplifting of the floor at Crandall Canyon mine on Aug. 3 in Huntington Canyon has put all involved in trying to rescue six trapped workers in a conundrum.

Clearing rubble from portal number one to locate the miners has become so dangerous that workers have been pulled off the effort almost as many hours as they are able to proceed with the endeavor in a day.

According to officials, the concern is that rescuers could be injured or killed in the process of clearing the entryway.

But behind that rubble are the six men the emergency crew members have vowed to rescue. Some men on the rescue crews spent more than four days without sleep trying to dig the miners out of Crandall Canyon. It has been a monumental effort.

"We have spared nothing at trying to get to and rescue these men," said Robert Murray, chief executive officer of Murray Energy and co-owner of the mine, last week.

The names of the six trapped workers have not been officially released by the company or by the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration. But the families of the men have released the names.

The trapped miners are identified as Don Erickson of Helper, Manuel Sanchez of Price, Kerry Allred of Cleveland, Jose Luis Hernandez, of Huntington, Juan Carlos Payan of Huntington and Brandon Phillips of Orangeville.

On the mountain above the mine, two drill holes were completed in the last four days. But the two and one-half inch and more than eight-inch diameter drill holes have done little to alleviate fears about the fate of the trapped miners.

"When we broke through with the drilling, we used the common practice of pounding on the pipe that went down the shaft to alert anyone down there that we had broken through," said Michael Glasson, a mining engineer from Carbon County. "We got no response. We tried to do that numerous times and nothing came back."

Mining Safety and Health Administration representative Richard Stickler updates the media and public about the current situation in the mine on Aug. 10. Stickler is pointing out the position and general area that company and government officials believe that the trapped miners may be.

Miners are trained, if they are trapped underground, to respond to rescuers with like banging on metal.They can use anything they have to hit metal supports or equipment to make sound.

The accident in the mine, which occurred more than a week ago, is the most publicized mining accident in the Castle Country area in years.

In fact, the Crandall Canyon incident may have had more coverage than any other disaster, including many that killed hundreds of miners.

Representatives of more than 30 media agencies, including Utah television news teams and all national networks, are on the scene. Huntington Canyon is restricted to one lane in the area near the entrance of the mine because of the large numbers of vehicles and service trucks required by the electronic media.

When the accident first happened, communications with the area was spotty because of limited service and the canyon walls blocking cell phone signals.

Emery Telcom, however, erected a cell phone tower in the canyon last Tuesday to serve the needs of the media and officials who are at the scene.

On Monday morning, the crews removing rubble from the entry tunnel had about a 1000 feet to go before they reached the area where it is surmised the miners were working when the cave-in happened.

"We have been moving slowly in removing the rubble to protect those on the rescue team," said Robert Stickler, who heads MSHA.

Murray said the rescue teams have made no mistakes, but he is disappointed that the efforts are moving so slowly. He also said seismic activity was continuing.

Earlier last week, the first reports said an earthquake had set off the mine disturbance.

But after a preliminary analysis of the data, University of Utah seismologists indicated that the mine collapse appeared to have caused the disturbance. The U of U findings were later backed by the University of California at Berkeley scientists.

Nevertheless, Murray still maintains that an earthquake caused the problem.

On Sunday, officials announced they will be boring a third eight inch hole into another area of the mine where the miners might have retreated after the accident.

UtahAmerican Energy Owner Robery Murray speaks with the press.

The process was to begin Monday after a road had been built across the steep terrain that makes up the Huntington Canyon area. Reportedly that hole will not be a vertical shaft but will be drilled at a slant.

Families of the six trapped coal miners have been meeting daily at Canyonview Junior High in Huntington for updates from officials.

"It is remarkable the strength these people have," said Murray. "They are holding up well."

The Crandall Canyon incident calls up previous mine accidents that have occurred in the Castle Valley region, although many of the past disasters have included explosions and fires due to methane gas. The Crandall Canyon mine's atmosphere has shown little methane when tested, but also little oxygen. The two-inch line has been used to pump oxygen into the mine since Friday.

The move to drill a third hole in the ground to another area where the miners could be was announced a short time after the rescuers tried to lower a camera into the mine for another time.

The crews lowered the camera through the larger hole with more lighting equipment. But rescuers still could not see anything inside the mine but some equipment and a contorted conveyor belt that apparently was damaged by the cave-in last Monday morning.

When the camera was lowered on Saturday, it showed a five and one-half foot space where miners could survive if there were an adequate amount of oxygen to sustain the trapped workers. However, the limited light prevented the camera from picking up images farther than 15 feet away, said Stickler.

The third hole will extend through 1,414 feet of cover into the mine. The length is more than 400 feet shorter than the two holes drilled last week.

Drilling could take up to six days, said Rob Moore, president of UtahAmerican Energy.



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