HUNTINGTON, Utah -- A cave-in killed three rescue workers last night and injured at least six others who were trying to tunnel through rubble to reach six trapped miners, authorities said. Mining officials were considering whether to suspend the rescue effort.
It was a shocking setback on the 11th day of the effort to find miners who have been confined at least 1,500 feet below ground at the Crandall Canyon mine. It's unknown whether the six are alive.
"It is believed that the accident was caused by a bump. . . . We are in the process of doing a head count to ensure that everyone is accounted for," said Dirk Fillpot, spokesman for the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
A bump commonly refers to pressure inside the mine that shoots coal from the walls with great force.
Seismologists believe that a bump caused the Aug. 6 cave-in that trapped the six men inside the central Utah mine.
The rescue teams had advanced to only 826 feet in nine days. Mining officials said that conditions were treacherous and that they were frequently forced to halt digging because of seismic activity.
A day after the initial collapse, the rescuers were pushed back 300 feet when a bump shook the mountain and filled the tunnel with rubble.
"The seismic activity underground has just been relentless. The mountain is still alive, the mountain is still moving," Bob Murray, chief of Murray Energy Corp., the co-owner and operator of the Crandall Canyon mine, said earlier yesterday.