HUNTINGTON, Utah — A video camera lowered into a coal mine revealed equipment but not the six missing miners, a federal official said Sunday. Officials planned to drill yet another hole in an attempt to locate the men.
Poor lighting allowed the camera to only see about 15 feet into a void at the bottom of the drill hole, far less than the 100 feet it’s capable of seeing, said Richard Stickler, head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
Rescuers saw a tool bag, a chain and other things that are normally seen underground in a mine, he said.
“We did not see any sign at all of any of the miners,” Stickler said.
The men have not been heard from since the mine was struck by an earthshaking collapse early last Monday. Rescue leaders said they were proceeding as if the miners were alive.
“Our attitude is we always have to have hope, and our position is that we’re hoping and we’re praying and it would be a terrible mistake to give up hope until you know for sure,” Stickler said.
Another attempt to see farther in the mine will be made with an improved lighting system, Stickler said. In between using the camera, compressed air is being pumped down the hole into the mine.
Stickler announced the findings after a 3½-hour meeting to brief families of the miners.
The drill rig was to be relocated to a new position late Sunday where it will send the drill down 1,414 feet. The previous holes were more than 1,800 feet.
No estimate on time
Bob Murray, head of Murray Energy Corp., co-owner of the mine, said the new hole will target an area that the miners would have gone if air in their original location was bad.
Officials did not immediately estimate how long it will take to complete the new hole. The latest hole took about three days to drill.
The Crandall Canyon mine is built into a mountain in the Manti-La Sal National Forest 140 miles south of Salt Lake City.
Opening off a narrow canyon, the mine’s main entrance is large enough for vehicles to enter and drive deep into the mine. At the time of the collapse, the miners were believed to be working at a point 3.4 miles from the entrance.
Rescuers have also been slowly moving horizontally through the mine to try to reach the men.
The horizontal route was blocked about 2,000 feet from the men. As of late Saturday, rubble had been cleared from about 650 feet of that route. Officials said the pace has been slow because of the need to install extensive roof and wall supports with each advance.
Councilwoman Julie Jones, who was with the families when they were briefed, said they were very hopeful.
Of the miners’ relatives, she said, “They are one family.”
Families losing hope
Mike Marasco, son-in-law of missing miner Kerry Allred, said his family has been sleeping on the floor of the school where families were gathering to somehow identify with their father’s discomfort inside the mine.
“It’s hard to just sit here. We want to feel what he felt. We’ve been sleeping on the floor ... it’s not even close to being in the mine but it’s something.”
The miner’s son, Cody Allred, 32, looked sad and exhausted. “I’ve accepted all possibilities,” he said.
The cause of the collapse has not been officially established.
Murray has insisted that the collapse was caused by an earthquake. Seismologists say there was no earthquake and that readings on seismometers actually came from the collapse.
A 2½-inch-wide hole was drilled first into the miners’ presumed location.
A two-way communications system was dropped down that hole but there was no answer to repeated calls of “Hello in the mine.”
Air samples taken through a tube placed down the small hole ominously found oxygen levels too low for survival.
A bigger drill bored a nearly 9-inch-wide hole into the mine 130 feet from the small hole late Friday. Rescuers banged on the drill steel to signal the miners but there was no response.
A video camera dropped down the hole Saturday found what officials described as “survivable space” — a 5½-foot-tall void with about 2½ feet of rubble and water on the floor.
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