CAMERON, W.Va. (AP) - When no one else volunteered to plunge
into an exploded air shaft at a Marshall County mine early
Wednesday morning, two sheriff's deputies descended 940 feet into
the earth to rescue three injured workers.
A methane explosion at about 1 a.m. Wednesday killed three
workers and injured three others as they dug an air shaft for an
underground mine operated by a Consol Energy Inc. subsidiary,
officials said.
"Nobody would get the guys out, so we had to jump in," Deputy
Brent Wharry said. "We just did what we do every day. This one is
just blown out of proportion."
Wharry and Deputy Steve Cook entered the air shaft an hour after
the explosion after local emergency workers said they did not have
proper training for such a rescue. The emergency workers said they
wanted to wait for a mine rescue team to arrive, Wharry said.
As smoke wafted out of the 25-foot-wide hole, the deputies
descended to the shaft's bottom in a 5-foot-wide bucket attached to
a crane. The deputies made one descent into the shaft, and pulled
crew boss Richard Brumley, Benjamin Bair and Aaron Meyer into the
bucket.
Wharry, traumatized by the scene, declined to discuss specifics.
"It was a long trip down and a long trip back, but what
happened in between was something you can't describe," Wharry
said. "The whole deal, going in there, I just don't want to talk
about it. I just wish anybody would do that if it was me."
The victims were identified as David Abel, 47, of Belmont, Ohio;
Richard Mount, 37, of Shadyside, Ohio; and Harry P. Roush III, 23,
of Clover, Pa., said C.A. Phillips, deputy director of the state
Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training.
The bodies were removed at about 1 p.m.
The father of Meyer, 28, of Moundsville said his son had been
treated and released from Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale.
"I saw my boy was OK and that's all I needed," said Paul
Meyer, who lives about a mile from the site of the explosion and
arrived on the scene around 3 a.m.
Brumley, 51, of Waynesburg, Pa., and Bair, 23, of Pentress were
being treated at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Dr. Alain Corcos, a trauma and burn surgeon at Mercy Hospital,
said Bair was in critical condition Wednesday afternoon. Bair was
being treated for second-degree burns, multiple fractures, internal
injuries and smoke inhalation.
Brumley is in serious condition but isn't expected to be
hospitalized long, Corcos said. He has second-degree burns,
puncture wounds to his left thigh and knee and a concussion.
Tests conducted Wednesday indicate that the explosion was caused
by methane, though state and federal investigators haven't
determined what ignited the explosion, Phillips said.
State and federal officials, along with representatives of both
Consol and Central Cambria Drilling of Ebensburg, Pa., a contractor
hired to dig the air shaft, planned to investigate the site
Thursday morning.
Investigators also hope to interview Meyer on Thursday.
The McElroy mine, which employs about 400 people, produces coal
from the Pittsburgh No. 8 seam, which "is known to release
methane," said Terry Farley, administrator of the state office of
Miners' Health Safety and Training.
"Whether they had penetrated the coal seam at the time ... I
don't know."
The air shaft being dug was not finished. About 60 feet remained
between the bottom of the shaft and the coal seam, said Thomas
Hoffman, vice president of investor and public relations for
Pittsburgh-based Consol Energy.
"The mine itself is not in the area; it's several thousand feet
away. There is no physical connection between the bottom of the
shaft and the coal mine," Hoffman said.
The mine was not affected by the explosion.
The three deaths are the first mine-related fatalities in West
Virginia this year, Farley said. Last year, six people were killed
in mine accidents in West Virginia.
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On the Net:
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(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)