CLEAR CREEK, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — The rescue effort inside the Rock House Powelton Mine ended in relief Wednesday night. After the days-long search for three people who were missing inside the mine, all three were found safe.
Rescuers found them just before 7 p.m. They were then taken to Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital.
The outcome was certainly a relief and a shock to family members of 21-year-old Kayla Williams, 31-year-old Erica Treadway and 21-year-old Cody Beverly who allegedly entered the mine to steal copper.
The celebration started the second Eugene White, the Director of Miners' Health, Safety & Training, walked inside to tell the crowded room of family members and friends that all three people were found safe.
Rescuers said the three people were found about 1,000 feet from where they had entered the mine the past few days.
This was the second search inside the mine after the first attempt was unsuccessful. Crews worked for 24 hours pumping standing water out of the mine and pumping fresh air in before rescue teams finally made contact with them Wednesday night.
They had been in the mine since at least Sunday when an ATV was found outside the mine. Eddie Williams, 43, was also in the mine with them but walked out of the mine Monday night and told officials the three others were still inside.
"They got them all three, and they're scuffed up a little bit, and they'll be transporting them to the hospital I guess," Kayla Williams' Father Randy Williams said. "All I know is they're okay, and that's all I wanted to hear is that they're alive and they’re out."
Family members had faith that the three missing people would be found and rescued.
"I knew what God was going to do," Beverly's grandfather Greg Scarbro said. "I love my grandson with all my heart. He’s my life, and the other kids that was in there too I watched them grow up from childhood.”
White said this was an extremely difficult and dangerous rescue mission that had to be planned and executed carefully, and the rescue teams were working with only 19 percent oxygen.
At one point, they were changing out oxygen tanks. Then they started pumping fresh air in. Wednesday night, White became emotional, talking about the team, which risked their own lives in this rescue.
Rescuers were able to find one of the women by the sound of her yelling, and she was able to tell them where the other two were.
"I have a team of mine rescue personnel that have been underground and working, and I’d love to be up there right now hugging them, and that goes for the company’s mine rescue team too. All those people we worked together as a group,” White said.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice had authorized additional rescuers to enter the mine after Williams emerged from inside.
“The mud, and the cold, and the snow, and everything under the sun, and it didn’t deter those people in any way, shape, form, or fashion, and in fact, right when they were gathering together all of them came by me and hit me on the shoulder and said, ‘we’re going to get them, we’re going to find them’,” Justice said.
The abandoned mine is located about 4.5 miles west of Pax, W.Va. and about 20 miles away from the Upper Big Branch Mine where 29 miners were killed in 2010.