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Front Page » August 23, 2007 » Local News » Outlook remains grim at Crandall Canyon
Published 2,964 days ago

Outlook remains grim at Crandall Canyon

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Flags fly at half-mast for the trapped Crandall Canyon miners, the injured rescuers and the three men who died in the tragic incident on Aug. 16.

At 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 22, the fifth bore hole broke through into the Crandall Canyon mine.

United States Mine Health and Safety officials indicated that collecting oxygen samples and lowering a video camera along with audio equipment into the shaft would take several hours. Analyzing the data would require additional time to complete.

"We're not going to recover dead bodies if it endangers the life of another human being. We have had nine heroes killed or injured Thursday night. We're not going to do that anymore. But if we find somebody alive, which is very unlikely, then we will continue our rescue efforts," commented Robert Murray during a press conference Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman called for the immediate inspection of two other mines owned by Murray Energy.

"I read something last night about the continuation of mining, not in this exact mine, but certainly in the mountain, as soon as things are sealed off. That's just totally unacceptable. There will not be business as usual until there is closure," stated Huntsman while participating on KSL News Radio's Nightside Project.

During an Aug. 20 press conference, MSHA official Richard Stickler discussed the status of the rescue effort.

"The fifth bore hole is down 850 feet. We met with eight experts we brought in for review of ground control. We spent most of yesterday showing them maps and pictures of the underground workings, noting the changing conditions. Today, the eight ground control experts gave a conclusion," said Stickler.

The assistant labor secretary read the following direct quote from the statement issued by the ground control experts:

"After reviewing the available information, the preponderance of data shows the entire west area to be structurally unstable."

Due to significant risk factors, officials suspended the underground operation indefinitely.

In the event live miners are found with the fifth bore hole, officials would send a capsule carrying a rescue person down into Crandall Canyon, pointed out Stickler.

But the ground control experts determined that the risks associated with sending a rescuer 1,500 to 1,600 feet underground for the purpose of exploration would be unacceptable.

"MSHA and UtahAmerican has not left a stone unturned," commented Murray during the Tuesday press conference.

Assistant labor secretary Richard Stickler points to the location inside Crandall Canyon where company representatives and MSHA officials initially believed the six coal miners were trapped on Aug. 6.

The original seismic activity that trapped the six coal miners on Aug. 6 registered at 3.9, 10,000 times stronger than last Thursday's fatal event, according to MSHA and company officials.

The Aug. 16 bounce at Crandall Canyon claimed the lives of three men and injured six additional rescue workers.

"This is a devastating blow in what has already been a tragic situation," pointed out Price Mayor Joe Piccolo during a press conference at Castleview Hospital on Aug. 16. "But I can tell you that the mood within that hospital is a hopeful one. There are families in there praying for their fathers and brothers. If they can stay hopeful, then so can we."

Castleview received six of the injured rescue workers.

One victim was pronounced dead at the Price hospital and one injured rescuer was airlifted to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

Three of the injured miners were treated and released, according to Castleview chief executive officer Jeff Manley.

The second fatality was later confirmed by representatives at Utah Valley medical facility.

During the local press conference on Aug. 20, Stickler explained that there is no way to predict where, when or how frequently mountain bumps will occur. And no mine plan filed with or approved by MSHA can guarantee that bumps will not occur.

The three deceased rescuers were identified as MSHA roof control specialist Gary Jensen and Castle Country coal miners Brandon Kimber and Dale Black.

To date, the names of the six underground workers trapped in Crandall Canyon have not been officially verified by the coal mining company or MSHA.

However, the families of the men previously released the names.

The miners trapped inside Crandall Canyon have been 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.

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