Reality sinking in that miners didn't survive

Associated Press
Published September 2, 2007

SALT LAKE CITY - Signs of prayer and support for six trapped miners remained on display Saturday as residents of central Utah's coal belt struggled with the realization that the men would not be found alive.

"It's a hard thing. Some are coping with it better than others," said Colin King, a spokesman and lawyer for families of the six miners trapped nearly four weeks ago in a collapse. "They're still dealing with the fact they have to accept now that these miners are not going to be recovered anytime soon - that they've died, in all likelihood."

Rescue efforts at the Crandall Canyon Mine were suspended indefinitely Friday.

A thunderous mountain shudder early on Aug. 6 caused mine ribs to shatter, trapping Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and Manuel Sanchez.

Three rescuers working underground were killed in a second collapse Aug. 16, bringing an abrupt halt to rescue efforts.

Rescue workers drilled seven holes deep into the mountain in search of the men more than 1,500 feet underground but found no signs of life. After a robotic camera became stuck in mud in one hole Friday, federal officials said they had run out of options and told families the search was ending.

The announcement ended hope that the men would be found alive or that their bodies would be retrieved any time soon, if ever.

Federal officials said it's too dangerous to drill a hole large enough to send a rescue worker down into the mine if there's no possibility of finding survivors.

It was a difficult blow for people in Utah's coal country, where messages of hope adorned cars, homes and businesses throughout Carbon and Emery counties, and where residents have gathered for prayer services and vigils in the weeks since the collapse.