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Utah Mine Rescue is Dealt a Setback

Utah Mine Rescue is Dealt a Setback

Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

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Mining officials are now confirming the drill entered an area where the miners were thought to be working at the time of Monday's collapse.

They earlier thought their drill had simply hit a sealed, abandoned area of the mine that had little oxygen.

Readings of air composition at the bore hole showed there was not enough oxygen to support life.

But officials kept up hope, saying the miners may have fled to another area that could have more oxygen.

Another drill is creating an eight inch hole into the mine. Rob Murray, CEO of the mine, is hopeful that hole will be completed sometime "in the wee hours of the night."

Once completed, high-tech camera equipment will be sent down to survey the situation.

The crews digging through the cave-in debris are making slow progress. It will be days before they reach the spot where they think the six men are.

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A drill tunneling into a mine might have actually gone into a sealed chamber rather than the area where six miners are believed to be trapped.

A microphone dropped into the hole produced no sounds and widely differing air samples.

"Now there is no reason to lose hope. There are still certainly possibilities that these miners are still alive," officials said.

Rescue crews are not losing hope. At a press conference this morning they said they believe they have drilled into the wrong spot. And that could be good news, because it may explain why they haven't had any communication with the miners.

Richard Stickler of the Mine Safety and Health Administration said, "We're all disappointed by the information. We would have hoped to have had more positive information at this time. Their spirits are still up. They still have hope. We should all continue to have hope."

That hope is coming from two separate sets of air quality results. The first ones we reported this morning were ideal conditions. The second set were recorded in the same cavity an hour after they broke through were poor and not likely to sustain life.

But the reason that could be good news is the poor results coincide with oxygen levels inside the sealed off areas of the mine. One of the areas is just to the right of where they think the six miners are trapped.

Officials believe under the downward pressure the small 2-inch drill may have drifted into the sealed off area. The miners could not be located there.

Stickler says crews knew that by using the smaller drill this was possible.

"The advantage of the two and a half inch hole is it was fast. The disadvantage, it's not as accurate. We can't steer it, we don't have good control over it. As Rod mentioned, the 8-inch hole has a downhill motor. They can steer it and guide it. So we're looking for much better accuracy," he said.

They are now using survey equipment to verify where that small drill actually ended up. What this all means is that it will be critical for the eight inch drill to hit the right spot, and it is more accurate and also the one that can send food and water down to the miners, until they can be rescued.

Utah Mine Rescue is Dealt a Setback

At our last report that bore was about 75% of the way to its destination. It is thought the drill should reach the mine within 12 hours. They said they really didn't want to speculate on a time frame. Certainly now the hope is shifting that they'll find more information through the 8-inch drill.

The two-inch drill struck the mine cavity just before 10 p.m. yesterday. Crews lowered a microphone into the mine, but there was no communication with the miners.

Crews spent a period of time listening for any noise to come from that cavity. In order to hear better, they pulled rescue crews out from inside the mine and stopped the eight-inch drill.

Despite the disappointment of not hearing from the miners, those in charge of the rescue are still trying to emphasize the positive.

Mine co-owner Robert Murray said, "The fact that we have not picked up any sound I believe should not be interpreted as bad news. I would not make that decision and that conclusion yet."

Utah Mine Rescue is Dealt a Setback

Another piece of vital equipment is now on the scene and will eventually be lowered into the mine. It's called the substrata camera system. Once lowered into the hole, the lens can rotate 360 degrees to give rescue crews an idea of what's in the cavity.

That system was delivered by a truck overnight. The truck was brought into Salt Lake City by the Air Force on a giant C-17 cargo jet.

Right before this morning's early press conference, Robert Murray gathered the trapped miners' families at the junior high school in Huntington to tell them the news.

"They were pleased that we had entered the cavity. They were quiet. I don't think there was a lot of surprise," Murray said.

Murray says he told the family the same thing he told the media, not to draw conclusions too early. He says he visited with the families and they expressed gratitude for the progress rescuers have made so far.

The people who live in and around Huntington are persistent in their hope that answers will be coming soon.

Tamara Wilson says, "Every day we turn on the radio just hoping today's the day they find out if they're O.K, or what the outcome is going to be."

Father Donald Hope is ministering to the families of the three miners from Mexico. He says it's not so much a matter of them having a good day or a bad day; they have good hours and bad hours as they wait for news.

Last night, the families e-mailed this message to Father Hope: "We, the Sanchez, Payan and Hernandez families, want to thank you immensely for your prayers at this difficult moment. During this moment, we feel the loving presence of God in the midst of our pain.

"We ask you to continue praying for our six miners trapped in the mine. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you again for all your support.

"Also, we would like to ask you to light a candle and raise a prayer for our miners."

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The six miners trapped in the Crandall Canyon mine are Kerry Allred, Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Don Erickson, Manuel Sanchez and Brandon Phillips.

Phillips is 24 years old and has worked in the mine for just three weeks. The Deseret Morning News reports Phillips' uncle was one of the miners lost in the 1984 Wilberg mine disaster.

Anyone who wishes to donate to the victims' famlies can make a donation to the Crandall Family Support Donation fund at through Zions Bank. You can call 1-800-974-8800 or send money to

Zions Bank
PO Box 60
Huntington, UT 84528

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