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Rescue teams drill hole, continue efforts to locate miners

By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher


Rescuers load a roof support during rescue operations at the Crandall Canyon mine. In the inset photo, Crandall Canyon safety manager Bodee Allred addresses the press on Wednesday, telling the reporters that all coal miners are family and brothers. Allred is the cousin of one of the underground workers trapped in the mine.

On Wednesday, officials from the United States Mine Health and Safety Administration and UtahAmerican Energy confirmed that a third drill hole had punched into Crandall Canyon where six underground workers have been trapped since Aug. 6.

"The drill broke through this morning," said Robert Stickler, the head of MSHA at the conference. "As soon as we could, we put a microphone down in the hole, but ran into a problem because a correction on the drill angle had to be made earlier and it has a bend in it. We could only get the microphone down within 20 feet of the roof of the mine. We really can't hear anything right now because of that."

Later, Robert Murray of UtahAmerican Energy indicated the crews broke through to the mine about 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday.

Stickler said the correction had to made when the crew realized that the drill had drifted from the exact position where it needed to be to break into the mine. When the crew put a directional bit on the rig, it created a bend in the hole.

At the Aug. 15 press conference, Stickler indicated that the microphone had been withdrawn from the hole. And crew members were withdrawing the drilling steel so a video camera could be sent down into the mine.

"As soon as we can get that out of there, we are going to lower the camera and lights down without putting any steel casing in," said Stickler.

When the process was done with the second hole drilled last weekend, the falling matter and moisture in the hole caused problems with the camera.

But the MSHA representative said he believed the crews had done some protective measures on the camera that would prevent that from happening once the equipment was lowered down the third hole.

Rescue team member Paul Gilbert loads equipment, support materials and supplies to shore up the main entryway into Crandall Canyon mine. Rescuers have been working around the clock since Aug. 6 to gain access into the mine and locate the six workers trapped in the underground shafts.

When asked about a time period before the video camera could be in the mine, Stickler said as soon as possible.

The third hole was drilled into what is called a bleeder tunnel approximately 1,300 feet from where the men were working on Aug. 6.

Officials have pointed out that miners are taught to retreat into that type of area in case the mine portal is not available as an escape route.

Stickler also said the clearing of the mine portal toward the trapped underground workers had made 90 feet of progress since the last press conference on Tuesday.

"There was a seismic event that slowed the process down during the night," stated Stickler. "We had a bounce and it caused some problems, including damage to the continuous miner we are using in the mine. That had to be repaired and that took three or four hours. They are once again moving at a good rate now."

The press conference became emotional when Crandall Canyon safety manger Bodee Allred, a cousin of trapped miner Kerry Allred, took the microphone.

As a thunderstorm rolled through Huntington Canyon, Bodee Allred told the press that everyone involved in the rescue attempt was important and all of the participants are committed to the effort.

"This effort to save these guys starts right downtown and goes to the face of where we are removing rock and debris," he said in response to reporter questions about men who have asked to be removed from the rescue crew. "We need to just keep hope alive. These miners are very tough men."

The names of the six trapped workers have not been officially released by the company or MSHA. 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.

Bodie Allred said Crandall Canyon was a safe mine before the Aug. 6 event.

But the incident created some of the toughest mining conditions he has ever witnessed.

"When you are mining, you've got to be on your toes all the time," pointed out Bodee Allred. "And that is more true now than ever."

Murray stepped into the interview with Bodee Allred several times when reporters attempted to get the miner to comment on what the company representative had indicated as facts in the past few days.

"You asked me to bring someone to you who had been working on the rescue effort, now I have," said Murray. "I would appreciate you not trying to bring up things I have already corrected. And you need to respect Bodee's privacy.

Murray indicated that a fourth hole is already in the planning stages and the surveying has already begun.

"However, some developments that we are aware of could change that location. I don't want to comment on that right now," said the company official.

He also encouraged the community to not lose hope.

"What we are doing is not a long shot - they can still be alive," said Murray. "We will not stop. We will keep driving on until we find them."






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