- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rescue crews found the body of one of two men missing in a landslide at a gravel pit in southern Mississippi early Thursday and used their hands to dig through mud and slush to free him from a piece of heavy equipment, a state official said.

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency director Lee Smithson said rescue crews found the body about 1:30 a.m. and it was pulled out of the excavator just before 7 a.m.

The family has been notified, but the man’s name was not released out of respect for his relatives, Smithson said.

Copiah County Coroner Ellis Stuart told The Associated Press that the Mine Safety and Health Administration would release the worker’s name.

“From here on out now, our efforts will redouble to find the other missing worker,” Smithson said.

Smithson said safety is the No. 1 priority in the search, which is an around-the-clock operation.

Earlier this week, Smithson identified the two missing men in a Facebook message as Emmitt Shorter and James “Dee” Hemphill and offered condolences to their families.

State emergency officials said the men were operating heavy equipment for Green Brothers at a pit in Crystal Springs when they were buried in 10 feet to 12 feet of mud, slush and sluice about 11:30 a.m. on June 3.

Heavy pumps were brought in Monday to remove mud and slurry caused by rain at the landslide site.

“I can only again stress our sympathy and prayers to those dear family members who have kept this vigil, how heartbreaking it must be,” Gov. Phil Bryant told reporters during a Monday afternoon briefing after meeting with family members at the gravel pit in rural Copiah County.

William O’Dell, MSHA assistant district manager, told reporters Monday that the agency will investigate the incident. The agency is supervising about 25 people working on recovery efforts.

“As far as Green Brothers’ violation history, at this point we haven’t really focused on the history of that,” O’Dell said. “We’re solely focused on our recovery operations.”

MSHA has cited the particular mine for 26 “significant & substantial” violations since 1993, according to online records. Green Brothers, based in Crystal Springs, also operates other gravel mines.

Norman Ford, an assistant vice president of Green Brothers, was not in the office Thursday for comment on the recovery operation.

On Monday, Ford read a statement but took no questions from reporters.

“Please continue to ask for comfort for these families and strength for us to press on for the only mission that matters, the recovery of our guys and their loved ones,” Ford said, his voice breaking.

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