3 men freed from Kentucky mine
MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (AP) — Three men who spent more than half a day trapped underground in a flooded southeastern Kentucky coal mine waded out and were on their way home after just a quick hospital evaluation.
Crews spent the day pumping water out of the mine, allowing the men to walk out. They had spent their time 600 feet underground in a dry location and had access to lights on their helmets, food and blankets.
Family members were happy to indulge Mr. Witherspoon once he, Doug Warren and Russell Asher were released from the hospital. One relative fetched a cigarette from a car for Mr. Witherspoon as he was leaving the hospital.
She had driven about five hours from Ohio along with several other family members.
“I’m glad it’s over,” she said. “I’m glad he’s safe.”
Elaine Smith, community and patient advocate at the Middlesboro hospital, said the three men were evaluated and released.
The three maintenance workers were caught in the mine at 6:40 a.m., when officials said a collapse at the entrance sent water from a swollen drainage ditch gushing in.
The men were nearing the end of their shift when it happened, said Eddie Starks, an official with the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. Mr. Starks said the men used their helmet-mounted headlamps one at a time to conserve power.
Up to 50 rescue workers, including a state-trained mine rescue team, worked to free them, officials said.
“All three miners are out. They’re fine. Everybody is safe. No injuries,” said C.K. Lane, chief operating officer with James River Coal, the Richmond-based company that owns the mine near Middlesboro. “We pumped the water down, and they were able to walk through the water and walk on outside.”
U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said the “swift and persistent action” by the company and state, local and federal employees ended the day with a positive result. She said she was looking forward to talking to the mine workers Tuesday.