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Frustrated family of miner clings to 'one string of hope'

  • Story Highlights
  • Manuel Sanchez and three of his brothers are coal miners
  • Waiting for answers during rescue effort is taking a toll on the Sanchez family
  • Family says mine executive not being forthright with relatives of those trapped
  • Brother finds hope in Manuel Sanchez's 17 years of mine experience
  • Next Article in U.S. »
By Ed Lavandera
CNN
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PRICE, Utah (CNN) -- Marta Sanchez sits and stares across the kitchen table clutching a coffee mug with both hands. She puts the cup down for a moment to rub her eyes and lets out a deep breath of frustration.

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Manuel Sanchez has four children and is described by his family as friendly and outgoing.

It's a small way of relieving the stress of waiting for news about her husband, Manuel Arturo Sanchez, one of six men trapped inside the Crandall Canyon Mine.

"I knew when he didn't get home from work on time Monday morning something was wrong," Marta Sanchez says on Wednesday. "It's so hard."

Manuel Sanchez, 41, has spent the last 17 years working coal mines in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. He has three daughters and a son. The Sanchez family describes the trapped miner as friendly and outgoing.

His nine brothers and sisters nicknamed Sanchez "Turkey" because his birthday falls around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Waiting for answers during the desperate rescue effort is taking an agonizing toll on the Sanchez family. They accuse Bob Murray, CEO of the mine operator's parent company, of not being honest with the miners' families. Video Watch miner's family vent their frustration »

"It's been the longest two days of my life," said Maria Buenrostro, a sister of Manuel Sanchez. "There's a lot of frustration right now, and we need more answers."

Three of the trapped miners are Mexican nationals, and their family members don't speak English.

"They don't have an interpreter. They don't know what's going on," says Buenrostro. "We want the truth; that's all we're asking right now. If there's nothing they can do about it, just tell us so that way we know what to expect when they bring them out."

Murray says his company is doing everything it can to communicate with the Spanish-speaking families.

"Just in case, we're taking additional effort to have them spoken to and give them the initial information in Spanish right from the beginning," Murray says.

Inside the home of Cesar Sanchez, a brother of the trapped miner, a steady stream of family and friends comes offering prayers and support. Trays of cold cuts and cheese seem to arrive with every knock of the door.

Manuel Sanchez's father drove 17 hours straight from his home in northern Mexico. Buenrostro drove 14 hours from Nebraska.

The sibling's children run around the front yard playing with the family dogs, while Sanchez's father stops by the television to catch up on news coverage of the mine collapse.

Manuel Sanchez and three of his brothers are coal miners. The family says Manuel enjoys the hard work and using the large drills to cut through the earth hundreds of feet underground.

"It's a dangerous job; we all know that," Cesar Sanchez says.

Five years ago, Manuel Sanchez was laid off after a nearby mine was shut down. Unemployed with a wife and four children to care for, Sanchez started selling green chiles and watermelons in front of a supermarket.

But he soon found work in the Crandall Canyon Mine and quickly returned to work hundreds of feet below ground.

"He always provided for us. We never had to worry about anything," says Marta Sanchez.

Cesar Sanchez's hands show the scars of a life as a coal miner. Three of his fingertips have been sliced off by drilling equipment.

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He clings to hope, knowing his brother is an experienced miner. If Manuel Sanchez survived the collapse, his brother thinks he has a chance to make it out alive.

"I've got one string of hope, and that's why I'm hanging in there," Sanchez says as he returns to the porch to wait. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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