Wednesday, January 22, 2003

CAMERON, W.Va., Jan. 22 (UPI) — An explosion in an uncompleted air shaft near a remote West Virginia coal mine killed three people and injured three others early Wednesday.

The explosion occurred at 1:09 a.m., 1,000 feet below ground as the 24-foot diameter ventilation shaft was being excavated by workers employed by Central Cambria Drilling Co., of Ebensburg, Pa. The shaft is to provide ventilation to the McElroy mine operated by Consol Energy, a Pittsburgh company.

Tom Hoffman, a spokesman for Consol, said the shaft was about 60 feet above the mine when the explosion occurred. He said the cause had not been determined.

“They use explosives to break rock, they use torches to cut metal. Any number of things could have caused it,” he said. He said it was likely to take several days before the cause is known.

Tom Hart, director of emergency services for Marshall County, said the mine was in a remote area called Nauvoo Ridge in south central Marshall County which is in the West Virginia panhandle between Ohio and Pennsylvania. He said it took emergency crews more than half an hour to reach the area because of snow-covered and icy roads. Mine rescue crews were brought in from Blacksville, W.Va., and West Finley, Pa.

Two of the injured were flown to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh and one was taken out by ambulance to a local hospital, he said.

Hoffman said mine safety crews would check the air quality at the bottom of the shaft before recovering the bodies of the three dead men.

He said the explosion had no effect on the coal mine itself and work there was expected to continue.

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