A seismic shift in
the mountain collapsed part of the mine and caused coal to explode horizontally
onto rescuers, the New York Times reported. Those killed included two rescue
workers and an official from the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
The effort, which had been underway since Aug. 6, was halted
by officials who said they could not guarantee the safety of rescuers working
“Is there any possible way we can continue this
underground operation and provide safety for the rescue workers? At this point
we don’t have an answer,” Richard Stickler, head of the federal Mine
Safety and Health Administration, told the Associated Press.
The New York Times reported that the rescue efforts have
been hampered by similar seismic jolts since the operation began. The president
of the company that owns the mine, Robert Murray, told the Times that “the
mountain is still alive. The seismic activity had been relentless.”
Before the second collapse Thursday night, rescuers had to
dig 1,200 feet more to reach the area where the miners are believed to be
trapped, according to the AP.
Authorities said they would continue to try and contact the
six missing miners, despite ending the efforts to clear the debris from the
mine shaft. Crews continued to work on drilling a fourth hole into the mountain
hoping to open communications or discover if any of the trapped men are alive.
The second collapse prompted state officials to promise a
full investigation of the series of events that have unfolded in Huntington.
“Yesterday we went from a tragedy to a catastrophe,”
said Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. He promised an extensive investigation into the mine
collapse and rescue efforts.
“We have questions, too, and we want answers to those
questions. We want to make sure that the lives that were lost last night were
not in vain,” Huntsman told the AP.
Coal mines in Utah
have become deeper during the past two decades. The trapped miners were working
at 1,800 feet when the mine collapsed. Before advances in support technology,
1,500 feet was considered the limit of a coal mine, according to the New York