Thursday, August 09, 2007
Nervewracking journey into collapsed mine
HUNTINGTON, Utah -- Ever since the Crandall Canyon Mine collapsed Monday, reporters had been kept some distance from it as we covered the story. We asked the owner for closer access; he said no.

But something changed Wednesday, and mine owner Bob Murray told five of us that we could go into the mine as far as we wanted and provide information, video and photographs for all the news media present. This was noteworthy, considering that mines are incredibly difficult places for reporters to get access to, even in normal circumstances.

Twenty minutes after he told us this, we were off. Transported in a van to the mine, we were given coveralls, boots, helmets, a light and oxygen. We were required to take a mine safety course taught by one of the mine employees to make sure we could operate our oxygen canisters quickly in the dark if necessary. We also learned about how to evacuate if there was another collapse. Our course done, we were ready to go in, right up to the collapse site where the rescue workers were drilling to find the six miners.

The mine is huge; you realize that right away when you're put into a small truck to be driven through it. And it's not a short drive in what is in effect an underground city. For nearly 30 minutes, we motor in the darkness at depths close to 2,000 feet under the earth. It is cold and windy. We hear creaks and groans in the coal walls. We see solemn rescue workers arriving at the scene. And then the mine owner tells us, "Right here is where the rescue effort is going on."

We had arrived at the point of no return....Click here to read the rest of this post

-- By Gary Tuchman, CNN Correspondent
Posted By CNN: 8:55 PM ET
  17 Comments
Gary/AC360:
No offense, but Bob Murray must be insane to allow the media down into the mine. Allowing anyone other than qualified miners and rescue personnel is just ludicrous.

His attention should be on the rescue efforts and not planning segment shoots for the media in the mine.

But on the other side of the street, if I were a journalist I would have jumped at the chance to go into the Crandall Canyon Mine.

I pray and hope the results are favorable for the trapped miners.

Stay safe Gary & staff.
Posted By Sharon D., Indianapolis, Indiana : 9:54 PM ET
Gary,

Thank you and the other CNN correspondents for continuing to follow this story. We are all watching, waiting, and praying for a miracle here in Utah. When I was a child, the schools could take you on a tour of a mine in Park City, Utah. I remember being very scared. We rode down the mine in little open cars on a train track. Half way into the trip, the lights went out. It was dark and cold and I was so relieved when we reached the mining area and lights were on. I was even more relieved when we went back to the surface and emerged into the sunlight. You rtrip into the mine in Huntington was very informative. I also wanted to thank Ed Lavendera for his compassion and refusal to speculate on the condition on the miners in deference to the families. Thank you!
Posted By Anonymous : 10:28 PM ET
I'm surprised mining saftey hasn't improved in decades. There has to be a safer way to protect the lives of miners. I thank CNN for the around the clock broadcasting.
At times, I've watched CNN all day, without changing the station.
Posted By DJ FunkyGrrL : 10:46 PM ET
What an extraordinary compelling account of going into that coal mine, what you saw and felt, and the difficulties faced. I'm sure as surreal as it was to you it was frustrating to the rescue workers who have to work so slow and meticulously to try to save their fellow miners.

I hope for everyone's sake that the miners have a happy ending. As time goes on though you wonder if a happy ending is a miracle that doesn't stand a chance of occurring.

Be careful out there Gary - and thank you for bringing this story to us. These men are some of the many workers who make our electricity possible; we never realize that when we flip the switch to turn the lights on. Godspeed...
Posted By Annie Kate, Birmingham AL : 1:04 AM ET
Hey Gary,

There will be the ones to tell you "what the heck were you doing down there?" I will only say I understand it's part of your job and at the end,it is your decision. I've said it before,I do appreciate the human side that you bring to a story.
As for the miners,geeze,the families must be going out of their minds. My thoughts and prayers are with them.
As for the miners,in general.We used to have a lot of mines here,most of them are closed. But wherever they are,I am amazed at the work they do. It is difficult,dangerous,often a hazard to their health. I won't even talk about the way some mine administrators don't follow the rules and put their workers in danger.
But the miners do it for one important reason. To take care of their families.We often hear people say that they would go to the end of the world for their families. Well,they go into the depths of the earth to do so. They have all my respect.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Joanne R. Laval Quebec : 10:31 AM ET
Hi Gary,
I think the access into the mine was eye-opening for you and us viewers. Just seeing how far down it all was and how escape was not within reach. Very frightening. My prayers continue for the miners and their families. Good work as always Mr. Tuchman. Take Care
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 11:01 AM ET
Gary,
I appreciate your taking that journey into the mine. I think it helped all of us get a better prospective of the conditions and what the rescue workers are facing.

I have a couple of questions. When you felt what the owner of the mine called an "aftershock", could you also hear or see rocks/coal falling from the walls or ceiling of the mine? I would imagine you would, but it didn't appear that way on the video segment.

Also, if you're still on site, is the microphone picking up the sounds from the other vertical drill or the horizontal passage excavations?

My prayers are for the trapped miners, their families and friends,the rescue workers, and for all of those who help keep us informed.

Thank you.
Posted By Jan from Wood Dale, IL : 1:46 PM ET
My heart goes out to the miners and their families. I hope I do not ever have to endure something of this caliber. My prayers are with the miners and their families. It just seems that this senario is being played over and over again in this country...obviously this is not the first mining disaster! I was born in Pennsylvania, where mining used to be very profitable and perhaps still continues? Due to the conditions back then, my grandfather, who I never had the chance to know, died of...what they called at that time...black lung disease. Although, through time and much union intervention safety standards have improved somewhat...but not enough! Yes, the days of miners carrying a live canary into the mines to test the gas levels has passed, but the safety of the mines themselves remain in question. I have not checked to see if the coal mine/anyother mining owners have a lobby in Washington...but, somehow I am sure they do to the determental of human lives. With the technology available today, even within the mining community...these numerous mining accidents should not happen on the level that they are happening. As a child, my father took me into a coal mine (not very far), and, even at that young age I could not imagine working every day of my life in a place that had no sunshine or skys above! I, also, realize that people with their college education, BA's, Masters, PHD'S, etc. do not enter into this dangerous type of employment...but, there are wonderful loving people who do and deserve to have all the safety standards in place for them to perform their jobs with a low expectation of risk for death. Do not think that is asking too much! I, for one, would like to see some governmental action on safety standards enacted ASAP!
Posted By Moe, Liverpool NY : 10:42 PM ET
I have been following this story and just saw the report about the concerns the miners had over the safety in that section. I see the owners argued that they aren’t aware of that and safety comes first.

I am the wife of a coal miner and have worked in the offices of mining companies myself. Every company states safety is their number one priority. However, when the pressure mounts to provide decent production numbers or progress during shifts, short cuts are often taken and that puts lives at risk.

I won’t say that mine operators shirk safety intentionally, but mining is a dangerous occupation that must factor in many variables at any given time. It is impossible to plan or predict everything that could happen underground.

I am not surprised that the operators in this case are trying to divert the tough questions like this. If it is found they were aware of such a major problem has the “heaving” they could be in a heap of legal trouble.

I am surprised that “pillaring” was taking place under such conditions as the “heaving” though. I am not an expert or an engineer, but something about the blatantly irresponsible judgment that went into that decision makes me very happy my husband in an employee at that operation.

My thoughts, prayers, heart, and hope go out to the men and the families of the trapped miners.
Posted By T. Law, Beckley, WV : 1:22 AM ET
Gary, A few years ago I explored the caves of Niaux in Southwest France where there are magnificent prehistoric paintings on the walls. I discovered that caving is definitely not my cup of tea. I can't imagine how you managed inside a collapsed mine. It must have been so terrifying! I am constantly amazed at the courage shown by all the CNN reporters. I just want you to know that we greatly appreciate the risks you take to keep us informed.

I really hope the trapped miners are all ok. With all the technology that we have today, it's hard to believe that there is not a safer way of extracting coal. No one should have to give their life so that we can have cheap energy.
Posted By Barbara, Culver City, CA : 3:08 AM ET
Gary,
Ditto the above bloggers on your courageous trip down the mine. Our hearts go out to the miners and their families. At the same time, many of us are shocked at the Dickensian conditions these miners face every day. With all the modern technology why aren't these miners equipped with a GPS system that tracks their whereabouts at all times? Why aren't the mines designed and built with strategically placed holes that go deep down into the mines and contain devices such as cameras and radio communication and whatever else would help them stay alive and maintain contact with the outside world.
Posted By Anonymous : 1:17 PM ET
Gary,

There isn't much more I can say that has not already been said in refernce to your reporting and courage. I think you all have been doing an excellent job.
I have been following this story as much as possible since it happend. It is such a terrible thing for the families to have to deal with, my heart and prayers go out to them.
One thing that my family and I have been wondering is why is there not any other way of contacting these miners? Is the only solutions truly to dig or drill holes when they don't even know where these poor men are, and then drop a camera or microphone down into it? Since they do not know where they are, why couldn't they drop some sort of a whistle, or some sort of noise making device- or a bright light(surly they would beable to see that?) for the miners to hear(or see), and maybe then they could make their way toward the holes that have been drilled? At least then they would have access to food and supplies faster than waiting for Murray to continute to drill 5 day holes in places no where near these miners.
I am just extreemly disapointed in the rescue progress in this disaster. If we can control a robot in outerspace, why does it take a week (and still going) to rescue, or even find these men?
Posted By Crystal Eley : 12:37 PM ET
I think anyone who goes into a mine is insane.
Posted By Wendall, Gary, IN : 6:07 PM ET
Everything that goes wrong is not the fault of the federal government (unless we're in a Republican administration) ! There's such a thing as states' soverignty. Utah is responsible for their state; the less authority you give the federal bureaucrats, the more power goes to the individual people.
Posted By xtina - chicagoIL : 8:54 PM ET
Gary,

I truly commend you for your courage and all of the rescue workers who are desperately searching for these men. I know your heart raced as you traveled through these treacherous areas. I do hope and pray they have survived and have enough water to make it. My prayers are with these men and their families day and night. I have been watching the newscast about the rescue efforts. I don't understand how no one has thought of a solution that would get them out by now. It seems as though they could lower a small remote control vehicle equipped with a camera and light that an expert could meticulously guide through the tunnel looking for any signs of life from a nearby stationed area. Our US military services have all kinds of devices for moving through small areas I'm sure. I do hope this blog will get to the right people because someone has got to think of a better plan.
Posted By Dawn Y. : 1:40 PM ET
My main question I can't seem to get answered or can't find or hear the answer: When each hole is drilled, do they leave the microphone and/or camera in that hole in case the trapped miners get back to that area? I am concerned if they pull the microphone/cameras out and proceed to the next hole. Does this make sense? Also, I really feel, after this tragedy, that there should be several pre-drilled holes with life-sustaining capabilities in all mines after this incident. And miners should carry extra medicines such as blood pressure, diabetic type meds in case of such disasters.
Posted By Darlene Hankins Bowie Texas : 3:10 AM ET
what about (gps)does these mine workers have even a cell phone that has (gps), I don't know and if they don't its time that they do because it may and could have prevented those three lives that was lost who were trying to find the other six. I just really hope that the other six remaing in the mine will be found alive.
Posted By Anonymous : 3:23 PM ET
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