CUMBERLAND, Ky. – A roof collapse at a Kentucky coal mine killed one miner Thursday, and rescue crews spent most of the day digging through a wall of rocks in search of another miner who was presumed dead.
“There has been no communication, no visible evidence that this miner is alive,” said Holly McCoy-Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing.
A section of mine roof 20 feet wide, 20 feet long and 11 feet high collapsed on the workers late Wednesday, said Paris Charles, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing. The miners were part of a crew of about eight men who were performing retreat mining – a dangerous process of removing coal pillars that support the roof.
Two rescue workers were injured in the search for the second miner – both by falling rocks.
The body of Brandon Wilder, 23, was recovered about seven hours after the collapse, officials said. The missing miner was identified as 39-year-old Russell Cole.
Wilder and his wife, Kimberly, have a 2-year-old daughter, and were expecting a second child in December, said one of his brothers, Tyler Halcomb.
“He loved his job. He loved supporting his family,” said another brother, Travis Wilder.
The collapse took place at Stillhouse Mining Mine No. 1 near Cumberland. Stillhouse Mining is owned by Black Mountain Resources, a division of Cumberland Resources. The mine has been in operation since 1999 and has 73 employees.
McCoy-Johnson said state officials discovered that Stillhouse Mining had three roof control plan violations in March and April. The state ordered the mine closed briefly both times.
The confirmed death brings to 11 the number of coal miners who have been killed inside mines in the United States so far this year, according to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration.