The dangers that exist in abandoned and closed mines was brought to the world’s attention again in December when four people, reportedly looking for copper wire in the shuttered Rock House Powelltown coal mine, in Clear Creek, WV, became lost in the mine for five days.
Fortunately, rescue teams led by members of the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Safety, Health and Training were able to locate and rescue all four.
According to published reports, four people entered the former coal mine on Dec. 8. The mine had been closed for about two years. On Dec. 10 one member of the party escaped from the mine and was able to tell search teams where the others might be.
Rescue efforts were hindered by a winter storm that blocked teams from accessing the mine. Using another entrance, the teams were slowed by water that had pooled in the mine.
The mine rescue team was forced to try something different. Using large fans, they blasted fresh air inside the mine, while also using pumps to siphon out the standing water that kept getting in their way. By the morning of Dec. 12, there was enough pure oxygen inside the mine to allow the rescuers to go in without their breathing apparatus.
"We go into these events not to recover, we go to rescue," said Eugene White, director for the Office of Miners Health Safety and Training.
The first person was found at around 6 p.m. on Dec. 12, according to White. About 30 minutes later, the other two were rescued about 1,000 feet away from the first, officials said.
Raleigh County Sheriff's Office Lt. M.A. McCray told ABC News that the individuals did not enter at the main entrance, but rather used what's called a punch out hole - a small shaft either accidentally punched out of the side of a mountain or created for ventilation.