Seismologist made first 911 call after mine collapse
By JENNIFER DOBNER
and CHELSEA J. CARTER
Associated Press Writers
Article Last Updated: 08/27/2007 03:33:25 PM MDT
Posted: 3:25 PM- HUNTINGTON -- As rescuers attempt to lower a robotic camera deep into a mountain mine to locate any sign of six missing men, a 911 recording obtained Monday by The Associated Press reveals the first calls made after the cave-in three weeks ago.
A seismologist alerted Emery County sheriff's deputies to a potential problem at the Crandall Canyon Mine before mine officials called for an ambulance, according to 911 tapes.
"Just from the general character of the seismic event, it looks like it might be a coal-mining event," Walter Arabasz, the director of the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, told the dispatcher.
Mine co-owner Bob Murray has maintained the collapse was the result of a natural earthquake not mining activities.
The first 911 call came at 3:47 a.m. from Arabasz in Salt Lake City, 120 miles north of the mine. At 3:51 a.m., a mine employee called for an ambulance.
"We had a big cave-in up here, and we are probably gonna need an ambulance. We're not for sure yet because we haven't heard from anybody in the section," a voice identifying himself as Mark Toomer told a 911 dispatcher. "But we're mostly likely going to need one up here."
Arabasz told the dispatcher the seismic event registered as 4.0 magnitude at 2:48 a.m., and it was located about 3.1 miles west-southwest of Crandall Canyon No. 1, a mine entrance. That number was later revised to 3.9 magnitude.
A thunderous mountain shudder in the early hours of Aug. 6 cracked the ribs of a Crandall Canyon Mine shaft, filling it with piles of rock and coal in the area where the men were working.
Miners Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and Manuel Sanchez have not been heard from since. It's unclear if the men survived the cave-in.
Since then mine and federal safety officials have unsuccessfully worked to locate the six, drilling a half-dozen vertical bore holes into the mountain in hopes of finding signs of life.
Horizontal tunneling through the tons of debris inside was halted Aug. 16 when a second cave-in killed three rescuers, including a federal safety inspector, and injured six others.
On Sunday mine officials said they would begin drilling a seventh hole and send a robot with a camera into an 8 5/8ths-inch hole drilled earlier to glean more information about what went on in the mine shaft nearly 2,000 feet underground.
The robot, similar to the one used to search within the wreckage of the World Trade Center in New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was modified for use at the Crandall Canyon mine.
It can take images from about 50 feet away with the help of a 200-watt light. It can travel 1,000 feet and has some ability to move around the rubble.
Any success has been described as a longshot. It was not known if the camera would fit into the narrow hole or move past rock and other debris before getting inside the mine. Images, if any, were expected later Monday.
Also Monday, the state's new Mine Safety Commission met for the first time. Gov. Jon Huntsman told the panel that he wanted members to determine whether Utah should take over safety regulation of the state's 13 coal mines. A report is expected in the fall.
Utah surrendered oversight of mine safety in 1977 to the federal government. At the time, Utah had only three safety inspectors for all its coal and hard-metal mines, said Sen. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, a member of Huntsman's panel.
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08-28-2007, 11:44 AM #1
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