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In Utah, families see the end of hope

The search won't resume for the miners trapped 4 weeks ago.

September 02, 2007|From the Associated Press

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 Aug. 6 caused mine ribs to shatter, trapping Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and Manuel Sanchez. It is not known whether they survived the initial collapse.

Three rescuers working underground were killed in a second collapse Aug. 16, bringing an abrupt halt to tunnel-clearing efforts to reach the miners.

On Saturday, the White House issued a statement expressing the sympathies of the president and first lady. "The people of the central Utah mining community have inspired us all with their incredible strength and courage in the face of tremendous loss," it said. "Last night, a difficult decision was made to end the search. . . . [We] continue to pray for the families of these men."

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 soon, if ever.

Federal officials said it was 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. "Sadly, there is no remaining hope of finding these miners alive," federal mine safety chief Richard E. Stickler said Saturday.

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