Officials Concede Utah Miners May Never Be Found



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Officials at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah said Sunday that six miners trapped for nearly two weeks may never be found. The pessimistic tone follows new information from a fourth hole drilled down into the mine that indicated there wasn't enough oxygen present to sustain life.

Officials at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah on Sunday conceded that six miners trapped for nearly two weeks may never be found.

"It's likely these miners may not be found," Murray Energy Corporation Vice President Rob Moore said at a news conference Sunday.

The six men have not been heard from since the Crandall Canyon Mine collapsed on Aug. 6. Tunneling efforts to find the miners were halted after part of the mine collapsed on Thursday, killing three rescue workers. In the wake of that accident, those leading the rescue say it may not be safe for anyone to go back in to continue the search.

The pessimistic tone follows new information gained from a fourth hole that was drilled down into the mine. A camera showed the area was partially collapsed, and air readings indicated there wasn't enough oxygen present to sustain life.

Moore says that his company intends to re-open other areas of the mine where coal reserves exist. Family members responded to the news with emotions ranging from frustration to anger.

Despite the faded hopes, rescuers still plan to drill a fifth hole into another part of the mine.

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Bad news today from the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah where six miners have been trapped for nearly two weeks.

Mr. ROB MOORE (Vice President, Murray Energy Corporation): With the information, the data that we've received from the air readings, as well as the video, it is disappointing. And it is likely that these miners may not be found.

ELLIOTT: That was Rob Moore, vice president of the Murray Energy Corporation.

Last week, part of the mine collapsed and three rescue workers were killed. Those leading the rescue efforts say it may not be safe to resume that effort.

NPR's Jeff Brady has been covering the mine disaster and joins us now.

Jeff, this sounds like a turning point in the search-and-rescue effort. What do you think it means?

JEFF BRADY: It really is a turning point. Just yesterday, Rob Moore was saying very strongly, this is a rescue effort and we're going to find these men and we're going to bring them out. Today, he's saying we may never find them. And that is definitely a change in tone and it was a very somber news conference. You might have heard at the end of that soundbite, there it sounds like his voice was clipped. That's actually how he sounded. He just completely choked up at the end of that remark.

ELLIOTT: Does this mean that the rescue or recovery operation is called off entirely?

BRADY: Well, now, the operation within the mine - that's underneath the ground - that has been called off ever since those three rescue workers died on Thursday and then the other six people were injured; it's been called off.

Up above, on top of the mountain, they're still drilling holes down and number four hole was drilled down yesterday. And that's what brought really the bad news because they sent monitors down there to check the air. It wasn't - didn't have enough oxygen in it to support life. And then also, they sent a camera down and found out that that part of the mine had already collapsed.

ELLIOTT: What's been the reaction today from the townspeople there in Huntington, Utah, and family members of the miners that have been missing for so long?

BRADY: It's really been a mix. I mean, obviously, a huge amount of sadness. They've been on a rollercoaster, from giving up hope to regaining hope to giving it up again. And now to get this definite statement from the folks who have been the ones who've been telling them all along to hold on to hope that they may not actually be any hope. So sadness, but also a lot of frustration; people aren't sure that the rescue has gone as well as it could have.

And in some cases, anger. We talked to Cesar Sanchez, his brother Manuel Sanchez was one of those six trapped miners, and he says he wants his brother out, dead or alive. He wants him out of that mine. So he and some of the other family members are going to insist on that.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Jeff Brady in Utah. Thanks so much.

BRADY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.