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THE NATION

Fourth hole finds no miners; rescuers ready to drill fifth

August 19, 2007|Nicholas Riccardi | Times Staff Writer

HUNTINGTON, UTAH — A fourth hole drilled into a mine where six workers have been trapped for 12 days yielded no evidence that the men were alive, another dispiriting turn in a drawn-out rescue effort, authorities announced Saturday night.

Earlier in the day, the drill broke into a tunnel where officials believed the miners could be located.

For four hours, all equipment was turned off on top of the mine while rescuers banged on the drill bit and set off explosive charges, hoping to receive a signal from workers below. Microphones and sonic equipment recorded no response.

It was yet another setback for an enterprise that suffered a terrible blow earlier in the week when a second cave-in killed three rescue workers and injured six more.

Efforts to reach the six miners trapped in the initial collapse by tunneling through the rubble were suspended -- narrowing hopes of reaching them to the boring process.

On Saturday night, workers were dropping a camera down the 8-inch hole and trying to maintain a positive demeanor.

"This continues to be a rescue effort," said Rob Moore, vice president of Murray Energy Corp., which owns the Crandall Canyon Mine. "We have incurred setbacks, we have incurred losses, but we will not give up hope."

A team of experts arrived in the region Saturday night to study the situation and find out whether tunneling could continue.

Until then, rescuers are pinning their hopes on drilling more holes, hoping to find the miners in the 3 1/2 -mile underground complex.

The first two holes, drilled in the first days after the collapse, were aimed at the area where the miners had been working. They revealed a 5-foot void, indicating the roof hadn't caved in, but did not find breathable air or any trace of the miners.

Rescue workers drilled a third hole into an area where they picked up traces of noise, but also found nothing. The latest hole was in an area officials believed the workers might have fled to. Rescuers said they were preparing to drill a fifth hole.

nicholas.riccardi@latimes.com

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