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Rescuers free 3 men trapped in Kentucky coal mine

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: The U.S. Labor Secretary lauds the rescue, says she'll talk to the miners Tuesday
  • The 3 miners are in good shape and will be reunited with relatives, an official says
  • Heavy rain caused a flood inside the mine, causing a diversion ditch to fail
  • Communications had been established with miners, who had plenty of oxygen

(CNN) -- Three men trapped in a central Kentucky coal mine were rescued on Monday night, a state government spokesman said.

The miners were brought to the surface in Bell County around 8:25 p.m., Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesman Dick Brown said. All three are in good shape and were being taken to a local hospital for evaluation and to be reunited with their families.

"Thanks to the swift and persistent action ... this story has a happy ending," U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a statement. "Times like this further our resolve at the Department of Labor to ensure that every miner gets home safe and healthy at the end of each shift."

The James River Coal Company's Jellico No.1 mine had flooded after heavy overnight rain made a diversion ditch fail, filling the mine and trapping the miners 600 feet away from the entrance, according to a statement released by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Soon after being trapped behind the water Monday, the miners were tracked and communication was established, said Solis, calling this back-and-forth "a great comfort to the families."

Responders touched base with the men every 15 minutes all day, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere. Four pumps, meanwhile, were used to remove water from the mine.

The trapped miners were in the highest location in the mine, and the water eventually stopped coming in, said Rachel Riddle, fiancee of trapped miner Pernell Witherspoon. She added that they had plenty of oxygen, though the availability of food and supplies was unknown.

The other trapped miners were Doug Warren and Russell Asher, reported Kentucky's energy and environment department.

Riddle said she received updates each half-hour from the mine safety agency while she waited in an area church. Around 8:30 p.m., she said officials told her that her fiancee had been taken from the mine alive.

In her statement, Solis indicated that she planned to talk with all three rescued miners Tuesday by phone.

CNN's Sara Pratley, Meredith Edwards, Greg Botelho, Devon Sayers and Deanna Proeller contributed to this report.