Space is found in mine, but no signs of life
Rescuers bang on drill; attempts met with silence
HUNTINGTON, Utah -- A video camera lowered into a mine where six miners have been missing for more than five days shows "survivable space," a federal official said yesterday, but attempts to signal the miners were met by silence.
The void found by a camera lowered into a new hole showed an intact ceiling over 2 1/2 feet of rubble mixed with water, said Richard Stickler, head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration
"We do have a 5 1/2-foot void. We have not lost the space where the miners could be located," he said.
After the nearly 9-inch-wide hole was drilled into the void, rescuers banged on the drill steel to signal the miners. There was no response.
"It was heartbreaking," said mine geologist Mike Glasson, who was on the mountain when the drill rig crew fell silent to listen for a response from far below.
But, Glasson said, "We did not lose confidence in what we are doing up there. Not one bit."
The camera was then put down and encountered trouble because 10 gallons of ground water a minute was flowing down the hole into the vast space below, Stickler said. It affected one of the camera's lenses, compromising performance.
Nonetheless, he said, "We found survivable space."
The camera was withdrawn so a steel casing could be inserted in the well to protect the camera from the water.
A smaller hole about three inches wide that was drilled into the mine earlier was being used to pump oxygen into the void. Sampling of air in that hole had found oxygen levels too low for survival.
The two holes are 130 feet apart. The void is 1,868 feet below the drill rigs.
The men were more than 3 miles inside the remote mine at the time of the thunderous collapse Monday. Efforts to reach them through the horizontal main tunnels have been slowed by fallen rock and by ground movements that require extensive installation of roof and wall supports to keep rescuers safe.
Robert Murray, head of Murray Energy Corp. and co-owner of the mine, said workers had progressed 650 feet through rubble out of a distance of 2,000 feet.
"The rescue effort itself, I am very disappointed at our pace," Murray said, asserting, however, that no mistakes had been made.
The findings from the camera were announced after officials met to inform the miners' families and show them videotape from the camera.
"It's remarkable and wonderful how they are holding up," said Murray.
The brother of missing miner Don Erickson expressed frustration at the news.
"We don't know anything," Terry Erickson said. "It's just the same stuff that's on TV. I'm getting tired of hearing it."
Authorities have said it could take about a week to reach the miners through the tunnels.
Tomas Hernandez, uncle of miner Luis Hernandez, 23, said his family was not optimistic.
"I think with so much time passing we are losing hope," he said, but added that his nephew's wife was trying to keep hers.
"She's very sad and she's hurting about what's happening. As a wife she has to have hope," he said.
"No good news," said Maria Buenrostro, sister of miner Manuel Sanchez, 41, as she drove away from a school where families were briefed.
The mining crew also included Carlos Payan, in his 20s; Kerry Allred, 57; and Brandon Phillips, 24.