Crandall Canyon Mine rescue suspended
Deseret News - Salt Lake City,UT,USA
August 31, 2007
HUNTINGTON — The rescue effort for six miners trapped in the Crandall Canyon Mine since Aug. 6 is officially over, and there is no word of when or even if there will be a recovery effort of the bodies.
"I think our trapped miners are going to be in there a long time," said Colin King, a Salt Lake City attorney hired by the families of the missing miners. "I think this means that MSHA (Mine Health and Safety Administration) has concluded the miners are dead."
The final hope of finding any signs of life failed today as workers dropped a robot with a camera down into the fourth bore hole. All they found was more debris, mud and water, much like Thursday's dip into the seventh and final bore hole.
The next step is for MSHA to begin its investigation into the cause of the original mine collapse that trapped Kerry Allred, Manuel Sanchez, Louis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Don Erickson and Brandon Phillips. That investigation is expected to begin on Tuesday and last for possibly several months.
The families received what was to be their final briefing from MSHA officials at the Desert Edge Christian Chapel in Huntington today.
"We basically told the families that at this point and time, we've run out of options," said Rich Kulczewski, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor. As for drilling an eighth hole, he added, "We just don't know where else we could put a hole to get any other information."
Each of the seven holes, Kulczewski said, revealed basically the same things: conditions inside the mine that continue to deteriorate with the addition of more mud, water, debris and a sagging roof everywhere they were able to see with a camera. The robot used in today's final attempt down a bore hole is now stuck behind a rock, and its operators hope to recover the device on Saturday.
Speaking on behalf of the families, King said the fourth bore hole showed only a "muddy mess" inside the mine. He attended the briefing with MSHA officials.
"The families that were there were understandably very upset," King said. Some asked for a continuation of efforts. "There were quite a few tears in there."
King said MSHA officials had no answer as to when, if or how a recovery effort might someday take place.
"We intend to look at that very carefully," King said about plans for a recovery.
It was also too early, he said, to speculate on when a memorial service for the miners might be held or when funerals will happen. Those families now realize it may be many months before any consideration is even made about a recovery of their loved ones and any burial services.
"It's a bad day," King said. "And it's the end of a line we feared against and hoped against."
The men were trapped Aug. 6 when a portion of the Crandall Canyon Mine collapsed in an event so powerful that it registered 3.9 on the Richter scale. Three rescuers were killed and six others were hurt when a mountain "bump" that measured 1.6 in magnitude struck 10 days later.
Since then, underground efforts have been halted, and continuous drilling through the mountain into the mine has revealed no sign of the six men.
Recently, some family members acknowledged that their loved ones were dead, family spokesman Sonny Olsen told the Deseret Morning News earlier this week. However, they continue to hope for a recovery of the miners' bodies one day, when the seismic activity underground has subsided.
Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guymon said tonight that the families were taking it hard.
"It's pretty tough," he said. "They're giving up hope a little, because nobody knows what to do and where to go."
A series of investigations will begin next week, when MSHA will start looking into the cause of the collapse. U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao announced that an outside investigation will also examine MSHA's handling of the mine disaster.
Several congressional probes are set to get underway next week. The state of Utah has also formed a panel to look into mine safety and whether states should take more control of it.