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Sam Penrod Reporting High-tech listening equipment picked up noise from underground, immediately after a drill punched through to the Crandall Canyon mine on Wednesday. But is it coming from the six miners who've been trapped for ten days?
Robert Murray, president of Murray Energy Corporation, said, "Don't read too much into this noise we picked up. But it is a sign of hope."
It's a new development at the coal mine in Emery County. Also, images from a video camera lowered into the mine Wednesday showed an undamaged shaft and a curtain that could mean the men, if they survived the initial cave-in, found breathable air, Murray said.
There is no way for mine officials to know for sure if the noise came from the trapped miners, but they are modifying their plan to drill another hole in the area where the sounds were picked up.
Crews were already planning to drill a fourth hole into the mine. But because of the sounds they picked up, they are changing the location.
The drilling should begin around midnight in between the first two holes that were drilled into the mine, and the third hole that reached the mine Wednesday morning. It's giving everyone at the mine some hope that the six miners are indeed alive.
As soon as crews finished drilling into the mine Wednesday, they picked up noise readings on three of six geophones positioned on the mountain, that have been monitoring continuously since the day after the mine collapse.
Richard Stickler, of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, said, "We saw some indication of noise for a period of about five minutes that we had not seen before. We're not sure what that means, but we think it was significant enough that also we considered to move the number four bore hole closer to that area, where we picked up the noise from the geophones."
There are a total of six geophones on the mountain, all of which picked up measured noise Wednesday morning, some stronger than others, Murry said. The vibrations occurred every 1.5 seconds, in a steady pattern for five minutes, he said.
"We have no idea what that sound is, but we are going to know when we get the fourth hole down there," Murray said.
This graphic can give you an idea of where the first two holes went in on the right, where the third hole hit Wednesday and where the drilling of the fourth hole will go. It's expected to take the drill at least 48 hours to reach this section of the mine.
Again, the theory is that the miners sought refuge there and built barricades to protect themselves from the ongoing collapses inside the mine, and for breathable air.
Rescue officials were reviewing the images from the high-tech camera, which were the first from that camera lowered into the third borehole drilled into the mountain. The camera picked up no sign of the miners, but showed a hemp ventilation curtain that divides intake air in the mine from the exhaust air. If the miners passed through the ventilation curtain, they would be in a pocket of good air, mine co-owner Bob Murray told The Associated Press late Wednesday.
"There was no damage at all. The roof is intact; no ribs have outburst. The floors are in place -- it looked just as it did when we mined it," he said. "If the men went in there, they could be alive."
For the first time, Wednesday we saw some emotion from mine boss Bob Murray as he talked about the families of the six miners.
"I have never seen such courageous, strong people in my life," he said. "They actually give me hope, and I just wish I could tell you that we've had them out by now."
Obviously, everyone involved here -- the mine rescue team and the families -- are beyond exhausted, but not giving up.
Meantime, Wednesday night families of the miners heard songs of support from their community.
Donna Mathis said, "This is how our community reacts to things."
A fundraising concert in Huntington brought out hundreds of people who gave donations, entered raffles for donated goods, and came together to show each other support as they wait for any news.
They called it Hope in the Park.
Victor Dunegan said, "I mean it's not much, but we are all out here trying to let them know we are here."
The miners who are trapped are from both Emery and Carbon counties, and the proceeds will go to the families.
Join us Thursday morning on Eyewitness News Today for the latest.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story)