Miner said he heard nothing inside devastating Utah mine collapse


One of four miners who got out of a collapsing coal mine alive said he didn't feel or hear a thing as the mountain shook and caved in, trapping six of his colleagues.

Tim Curtis was near the mine's entrance on Aug. 6 when he got a text message telling him of the collapse on his PED, or personal emergency device. The trapped men are believed to be about 3.4 miles from the mine's entrance.

"Where I was at, I felt nothing," Curtis said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's just like you are here and three miles away are you going to hear a balloon pop?"

The three other men who escaped the mine unharmed were also believed to be relatively close to the entrance.

The cause of the collapse has not been officially established. Bob Murray, head of Murray Energy Corp. and co-owner of the mine, has insisted it was caused by an earthquake but seismologists say there was no earthquake and that readings on seismometers actually came from the collapse.

Curtis, a 33-year-old third-generation miner who works as a mine fire boss, or safety inspector, has worked 12-hour shifts every day since the collapse to aid the rescue effort.

As that effort continued Sunday, there was more disheartening news for rescuers and relatives of the missing men. A video camera lowered into the collapsed mine revealed equipment but no sign of the miners, a federal official said. Searchers decided to drill another hole in hopes of finding them.

The second attempt to use a camera to get a glimpse of the missing men was hampered by poor lighting that limited the camera view to only about 15 feet into a 51/2-foot-high void at the bottom of the hole, far less than the 100 feet it's capable of viewing, said Richard Stickler, head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

Rescuers saw a tool bag, a chain and other items that are normally seen underground in a mine, he said. "We did not see any sign at all of any of the miners," Stickler said.

Despite the setbacks, rescue leaders said they were proceeding under the assumption the miners remain alive.

Stickler, who met with family members for more than three hours Sunday, said officials will try again to see into the mine. They will also pump in compressed air.

Curtis said the miners likely improvised an emergency plan when all four entry tunnels near their work site were blocked.

"It's just like your house, if it caught on fire and you have a plan to get out the window and that window is blocked," Curtis said. "That's what happened here."

Rob Moore, Murray's vice president, said the latest drilling effort could take up to six days.

Rescuers have been moving horizontally through the mine to try to reach the men. Their route was blocked about 2,000 feet from the men and rubble had been cleared from about 580 feet of the route, Stickler said.

Stickler would not estimate how long it would take to reach the miners on the horizontal route, but that effort has been slowed by repeated earth movements known as "mountain bumps."

Family members and supporters could only wait.

Cody Allred, 32-year-old son of missing miner Kerry Allred, looked sad and exhausted as he said, "I've accepted all possibilities."

Associated Press writers Jennifer Dobner, Chris Kahn, Brock Vergakis and Pauline Arrillaga contributed to this report.

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