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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Helicopters and Ambulances Dispatched to Utah Mine
Aired August 16, 2007 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A lot of breaking news again tonight, including Americans stranded on a tiny Caribbean island directly in the path of Hurricane Dean. We're trying to establish contact with the island right now.
Also happening literally as we speak, ambulances being spotted at the mountain in Utah where six miners have been missing for a week- and-a-half.
CNN's Dan Simon is there. He joins us now.
Dan, I know there's a lot of information we don't know. What do we know?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, clearly, something has happened within the past few minutes. We have seen three ambulances race by us towards the mine. We have seen at least two people being worked on by paramedics. At this point, we don't know who those ambulances were for.
The speculation here on the ground is that perhaps some rescuers were injured. We're trying to sort all that out. This is dangerous work that they're doing. This dangerous mission continues. And you can see what happened today.
Take a look.
SIMON (voice-over): A listening device picked up some intriguing sound, so the adrenaline was flowing as rescuers lowered a camera deep into the mine. But then another disappointment, another emotional roller coaster: The miners were not there and no sign of their whereabouts.
Still, back on the surface, a refusal to give up.
BOB MURRAY, PRESIDENT AND CEO, MURRAY ENERGY: So, yes, I'm disappointed. Am I down? No, not a bit. There is still hope for these miners.
SIMON: The images do offer some hope. It looks something like a car wash. That water is part of the drilling process to clear out dirt and rock. But, through this blur of water, rescuers could tell that the latest cavity showed the ceiling and walls intact, so, if the minor miners are nearby, they may be in a safe area.
Another thing bolstering spirits, the air quality is still good enough to keep them alive.
MURRAY: Your heart rate may pick up a little bit and you may slow down a little bit, but that will sustain life indifferently.
SIMON: So, what was that sound? Five minutes of what seemed to provide the greatest hope since the miners got trapped now almost 11 days ago. Officials acknowledge it could be meaningless.
MURRAY: Anything from water, to somebody walking on the surface, to an animal, to thunder, which was going on at the same time yesterday.
SIMON: But, maybe, just maybe, it was the miners trying to reach out to rescuers. Crews thought it significant enough that they're positioning the next hole, the fourth hole, in a nearby part of the mine. Remember, the drilling is just to see if the miners are alive and provide food, air, and water down the 1,400-plus-foot hole.
At the same time, rescuers are trying to carve out a tunnel to get to the six men so they can pull them out. The ground effort has been hopeful, but agonizingly slow. More jolts, or seismic activity in the mine, slowed them down even more. But the miners are determined.
Still, as we approach the two-week mark of the collapse, rescuers just don't know when they will finally reach the miners.
SIMON: Well, within the past few minutes, again, we saw at least three ambulances come by us and go towards the mine. We don't know who these ambulances are for.
A couple of CNN employees were able to look actually inside, and it appeared, at least to these employees of ours, that paramedics were doing compressions, chest compressions, on at least one of these victims. We know that there are -- there's more than one victim because there are several ambulances.
And I personally saw a couple people in various ambulances. A fourth ambulance, we are told, is now on its way to the mine. Again, we don't know what has happened. But the speculation, at least here on the ground, is that perhaps some of the rescuers were injured in the mine. Of course, they're doing some very dangerous work down there -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. You know, without going down -- too far down the road of speculation, because, as -- again, all of us who covered the Sago Mine have seen ambulances come and go, and it can be interpreted in many different ways.
Let's just pause for a second and just go back on exactly what we know.
You -- you and/or CNN crews have seen at least four ambulances going to the mine? SIMON: I have personal seen at least three. I was just told by my producer that a fourth one is on the way. I have also heard some of the other reporters in the area talking about a medical helicopter that may be up in the air as well. Again, that's unconfirmed, but, from what we understand, at least four ambulances now going towards the mine.
COOPER: And where are you located in terms of the entrance to this mine?
SIMON: We are about two miles away from the entrance to the mine. Now, you can see behind me this pathway. We have seen that's where the ambulances went, down this road back there. Also seen a number of private vehicles going towards that scene. And I should also tell you they were going at a very high rate of speed.
We should point out to our viewers, we have called Mr. Murray, Bob Murray, HIS people, in order to try to get some sort of a comment. Those people who talked to our bookers said that they're in an emergency situation and need to keep the lines open. Those are the words that we were told. We're not sure what that means, that they are in an emergency situation, but, clearly, something is happening.
This is -- there has not been this kind of activity since really for several days; is that correct?
SIMON: No, this is really the first kind of activity we have seen of this nature. Of course, yesterday, there was a bit of excitement when it was revealed that there was some sounds coming from the third bore hole, which, of course, today, crews were -- were downplaying the significance of that sound.
But, in terms of the activity of ambulances going towards the mine, that is really the first time we have seen anything like that.
COOPER: Dan, stay -- stay with us. Check any sources you have.
Dennis O'Dell is with us on the line. He's from the -- he's the safety and health director for the United Mine Workers of America.
Dennis joins us now.
Dennis, hard to know what to make of this, but the effort that is under way, what do you make of the progress so far?
DENNIS O'DELL, SAFETY AND HEALTH DIRECTOR, UNITED MINE WORKERS OF AMERICA: As far as the progress underground, it's hard to say at this point.
We have been getting mixed signals on the work. They -- they have been telling us, the folks we have been talking to on the ground, that they have made progress. But, as everyone has been told by Mr. Murray and some of the other rescue workers, the recovery efforts are still slow.
You reported last night about the sounds that we heard. And, of course, United Mine Workers share the hopes and the prayers of the families and the entire nation that the trapped miners will be found alive. However, it's important to stress to everyone that it is not clear just exactly what is going on at this time.
As you well pointed out earlier, Sago is still fresh in our minds. And I shared a lot of time with you on the ground at Sago. So, although we need to continue to be optimistic, we can't be premature in making any decisions at this point on what's going on or where we're at.
COOPER: There is a report which just -- literally just crossed the wire right now from ABC-4 News in Huntington, Utah -- and I'm reading it literally off the wire as we speak -- that -- they say Castleview Hospital in Price has confirmed there's another been collapse at the Crandall Canyon mine.
KSL Radio is reporting four miners have been injured in that collapse. But they have no confirmed reports by -- by officials.
How would that happen? I mean, what is the -- you know, take us into a mine like this, with rescue workers trying to operate, I imagine, around the clock. It's very dangerous and a very risky, difficult situation down inside that mine.
O'DELL: Yes, it is.
And, as your viewers had seen on earlier footage taking place, as the miners advance into the mine, we have had to take -- they have had to take -- the rescue workers had to take a lot of precautions, as far as additional support for the top. They have had to put chain-link fence and wire ropes and posts against the sides.
And everybody knows that there's been activity. We get mountain bumps in this -- this area. And that's going to continue to happen based on -- if you look at the mine map -- based on the surrounding areas where the rescue work is taking place. There's little left to support the top.
So, any activity, as far as mountainous bumps go, it's -- it's going to make that top unstable. So, it's very, very possible that, while these rescue workers were removing the rock, that another mountain bump could have taken place, another -- and it could have pushed up.
I mean, we just don't know. These posts that you saw that are -- that are set as roof support, they're rated to hold the roof. But it's not like the solid block of coal that was in there originally. This is manmade material that we use all the time. Yet, they can also fail. So, it's possible that that may have occurred. Our hopes are that it didn't.
COOPER: You talked about a mountain bump. And we have all heard the term a lot. It's probably worthwhile just repeating what exactly is a mountain bump.
I mean, our -- when our cameras were actually in the mine, we caught one of them on tape. You can actually kind of hear -- I mean, it sounds like a loud bump, and it sounds pretty frightening. What exactly is it?
O'DELL: Well, what happens is, they're sandstone top. And when the large pillars of coal that has been in place is removed -- and those large pillars are there originally to support the roof -- when those are removed, then there's going to be a lot of pressure placed on that top, because of the large amount of overburden. You have 1,500 to 2,000 feet of overburden.
So, when that pressure squeezes down from the earth above, it -- because the sandstone top is strong, it's going to force pressure on the ribs and on the bottom. So, the bottom actually will move up, and the ribs will pop out when that -- when that occurs. It's just a stress. It's a fracture or a stress break will cause (INAUDIBLE) It has to go somewhere.
In these mines at Utah, it's a typical condition. If you remove too much of the yield pillars that you have in place to support that roof, then mountain bumps will occur, where that pressure will come down. It will heave the floor. It will pop the ribs out. And that -- it will squeeze. And that's what you will see.
COOPER: We are also now getting a report that some AirMed helicopters have been called to the Crandall Canyon mine, that out of "The Salt Lake Tribune," their reporting on this, sketchy information.
We have not been able -- CNN has not been able to independently verify exactly what has occurred. Our people on the ground have seen four ambulances going up to the mine at a high rate of speed. Some of our people saw someone being worked on inside one of those ambulances.
But, again, what exactly that means, again, we have this report from ABC-4 News that Castleview Hospital in Price has confirmed there's been another collapse at the Crandall mine, four miners -- that, according to KSL Radio, four miners have been injured in that collapse. We have not been able to independently verify that, though we are working on it right now.
When we called Bob Murray -- and, Dennis, I'm just repeating this all for our viewers -- when we called Bob Murray, his people said they were in an emergency situation and need to leave the lines open.
Dennis, stay with us. Just hold on one second.
Dan Simon, I understand, has some information.
Dan, what are you hearing?
SIMON: Anderson, we can confirm that six ambulances now have been called to the scene. And, in fact, that was an Air Evac helicopter that is being flown over to the Crandall Canon mine. We don't know if it's landed yet to -- to pick up a possible victim -- but, again, six ambulances. Obviously, something significant has happened. COOPER: And, Dan, either you or one of the -- some other CNN personnel saw, what, someone, more than one person, being worked on in one of these ambulances? Remind me.
SIMON: Two CNN employees saw at least one person being worked on in an ambulance. It appeared as if paramedics were doing some chest compressions.
In addition to that, I actually saw another person in an ambulance. It looked like there was some kind of work being done on that particular victim. I couldn't tell what was being done. But, so far, we have seen two victims in two separate ambulances -- Anderson.
COOPER: Dennis O'Dell is on the line with us as well from the United Mine Workers of America.
Dennis, in a situation like this, obviously, every miner wants to probably get in that mine and help out their fellow miners and get to those miners. What do you tell your men? I mean, how do you counsel, on the one hand, you know, be careful, be cautious, go slow, and, yet, on the other hand, there's this impetus to get there as quick as you can?
O'DELL: Well, that's one of those things that we face every time we enter into a mine rescue, that mine rescue workers are -- are individuals that put other people's lives ahead of their own.
And any time something like this happens, we all become brothers. Whether it's the union or non-union, we as mine rescue workers, if we know that a fellow miner is hurt or injured, immediately, we want to go in and help them. And, sometimes, it's hard to hold us back.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration is the one, and the operators have to make a good, solid decision on how to make that approach, and they have to keep a clear head, so that we don't get additional miners hurt as well. That's something that we do.
And, when I sit in the command center, overseeing an operation like this, we have to make good, strong decisions based on what we know is going on, and -- and protect those individuals that would be going in to help the others that are hurt. It's a tough decision to make, let me tell you.
COOPER: I imagine.
Bob Murray, this mine owner, has been very public, very out in front on this.
What do you -- what's your opinion on this mine? What's your opinion on their safety record, your opinion on him?
O'DELL: Well, I think we need to concentrate more on the situation at hand. I think there's going to be time, once the investigation takes place, to talk about all those things.
We have our thoughts. And -- and we have some things that we would like to discuss with folks. But I would hope that we could at least concentrate on -- on what's happened tonight, and hope that we can get the other miners who have been injured, if that's the case, and -- or the trapped miners. And -- and then we will take care of the rest when the investigation starts.
COOPER: Fair enough.
I just want to inform our viewers we have called Castleview Hospital. According to their public relations, there -- quote -- "may have been a collapse of the mine." They could not confirm this at this time. That contradicts the local news report, which said that the hospital had confirmed there was a collapse.
So, the P.R. department at Castleview Hospital, which is the -- the nearest hospital, is saying that there may have been a collapse of the mine, but they cannot confirm it. They're getting ready for a press conference in 30 minutes.
We, of course, are going to bring that to you -- to you live.
How much of -- in an operation like this, how much of it is really, for lack of a better term, hit or miss, I mean, just kind of guesswork of -- obviously, in this situation, they didn't know the exact location of the minors. They -- you know, they drilled one hole, then a second hole, then a third hole. And then they heard a noise. And, so, now they're drilling this fourth hole based on that noise that they heard.
Is it really -- and we're looking at a live picture now of -- of an ambulance heading -- I don't know if that is heading toward or from the mine. We have seen six ambulances at this point. I'm not sure where that ambulance fits into this number, but that is a live picture we're bringing to you right now.
Dennis, how much of a rescue operation like this is really just guesswork?
O'DELL: Well, the unfortunate part about the whole thing is, if you remember, after Sago, there was a lot of attention put on trying to resolve these issues. Where we are a year after Sago has occurred, we really haven't gained anything. It's still a hit-and-miss operation.
That's why it was so important for us to try to get the new legislation under the MINER Act passed that, in the event of an emergency such as this, that we could have tracking devices on miners, that we could have better communications to be able to talk to the miners in the event something like this would happen, safety chambers where miners could retreat to, in the event that the -- all escape had been cut off.
Those things are addressed in the MINER Act, but, unfortunately, none of those things have taken place yet. And that's what we keep stressing to everybody. We have to move. Other countries do it. It's proven -- technology has proven that it does help. We have seen it happen. And -- and we need to do a better job here in the United States, everybody can see. Miners deserve every protection that they have. There's an attitude out there that, if it's not perfect, they don't want to invest the money, they meaning some operators. And I'm not talking about all operators, because there are some reputable operators who are trying to do the right thing.
But there's a mind-set out there that they don't want to spend the money on some of these things because they're not 100 percent foolproof. And I'm here to tell you, that's true, but any protection is better than what we have now.
I can tell you that they have mining equipment that's not 100 percent perfect, yet, they spend billions of dollars in that technology. And we need to take the attitude we need the same approach towards safety technology.
COOPER: Dennis, if you could hold on the line for us one -- one minute.
As you know, Dennis in a situation like this, information comes in in drips and drabs, and, suddenly, you get access to people.
Chris Nelson is on the line with us. He's with public relations for the University of Utah Hospital.
Mr. Nelson, what you can tell us?
CHRIS NELSON, SPOKESPERSON, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH HOSPITAL: Yes, thanks, Anderson.
You know, University of Utah Hospital is one of the major trauma centers for the Wasatch Front. We have dispatched two of our AirMed helicopters to the scene. It's about a 45-, 50-minute flight from Salt Lake down to the -- the mine site. Our understanding -- I can't confirm anything from the scene, obviously, but our understanding was to -- we rely on local EMS to call us out.
So, we have been called out and are sending two helicopters down there.
COOPER: When did you send -- send out the helicopters?
NELSON: A little after 7:00 p.m. Mountain time.
COOPER: Seven p.m. Mountain time.
OK, so, they would they not -- they should be, at this point, on the scene, if it's a 30 -- I think you said a 35-minute flight or so?
NELSON: Yes, it's about a 45-minute flight.
Yes, we have got one -- one helicopter on scene. The other one is about still 10 minutes out, still, so...
COOPER: And, in terms of landing capabilities, they can land, what, close to the mine?
NELSON: You know, I have not actually seen what that mine site looks like. They have -- they have -- they're -- you know, they're very good helicopter pilots, so as long as there's a clearing that's sufficient.
It looks like it's a fairly mountainous region, so, I imagine they would probably be a little bit away from the mine. But my understanding is, they can get pretty close.
COOPER: Why would your helicopters be called? Is it because a local hospital would not be able to -- to handle it? Are you the nearest hospital? Where are you in relation to -- is it Castleview Hospital?
NELSON: Yes. We're in Salt Lake City. And there's two big trauma centers in Salt Lake City, University of Utah Hospital and LDS Hospital. So, pretty much, usually, what happens in any type of trauma situation, with -- with patients who are very severely injured, we will dispatch our helicopters and usually bring them directly to Salt Lake, rather than a local hospital, because we have all the specialists here, all the imaging equipment typically to take care of patients quickly.
COOPER: How many personnel can you fit in one AirMed helicopter?
NELSON: One of the helicopters can hold two, and the other can hold one. So, I'm not sure exactly which helicopter we have dispatched, but we definitely have the capability to bring back two patients.
COOPER: And are the helicopters -- this is probably a stupid question -- but are the helicopters manned with a doctor, with a nurse, with a trauma specialist?
NELSON: No, sure. Yes, obviously, a pilot nurse and a flight nurse and a flight paramedic.
So, to your knowledge, though, the other -- the helicopter that is on the scene has not left, and it's -- neither of these helicopters are returning back with anyone at this point?
NELSON: Right. Exactly.
Chris Nelson, appreciate your time. I'm sure it's a busy night for you.
COOPER: Dennis O'Dell is still on the line with us. He's from the director United Mine Workers of America, the safety and health director. You know, Dennis, we're looking at these pictures from inside mine, where you see these -- these support shafts, which I think you were talking about earlier. That's literally just holding up the ceiling, correct?
O'DELL: Yes, that's correct.
The picture you just showed -- well, that's the camera going down into the shaft, but the -- the picture prior to that, you could see the wire screen, the screen mesh put against the ribs with additional bolts and wire rope with those posts in front of it to try to hold those ribs back.
COOPER: And -- and the men here who are -- who are -- they're -- they are literally -- what is it -- what are they doing there by -- by pulling down on that? That -- that's moving...
O'DELL: That's a hydraulic jack. And what they're doing is, they're -- they're putting -- they're applying the pressure. So, it's just like a carjack, where you jack it. It's moving that inner jack up against the roof and tightening it against the top and the bottom.
COOPER: And how many men can work in the underground portion of this, in terms of trying to get access to the miners? How many men can work in a space like this at one time?
O'DELL: Well, I mean, it's hard to say at this point. But, if -- if it's kind unobstructed, like what we're looking at now, you -- you can work -- usually, a crew of men will work in that area, which could be anywhere from eight to 10 men, you know, without getting in -- in each other's way too much.
COOPER: This third hole that was drilled yesterday, there was this press conference last night. It sounded very encouraging, although the -- Mr. Murray said, you know, don't get -- don't read too much into it. Yet, at the same time, he said, this is a -- you know, a sign of hope.
They heard sounds in a pattern, with about a minute -- a second- and-a-half space in between. That could have -- could have been something from the miners, but it very well could have been just some natural sound, grinding rocks and the like, correct?
O'DELL: Yes, it could have been anything.
What they're using are geophones. And they are a highly sensitive ground-motion transducer. They pick up -- typically, they're used only for high frequencies. But we use them in cases like this. And it could have been very -- it could have been anything. It could have been movement of the earth. It could have been -- I mean, there's just numerous things that occur, the wind blowing, I mean, that this would pick up.
So, it's -- at this time, it's too premature to even say what it was exactly.
COOPER: And -- and how does that work? I mean, you -- one of the holes is drilled, and then the geophone -- what does a geophone actually look like?
O'DELL: Well, it's just -- looks like a microphone, I guess, is the simplest way that you could put that.
And -- and it will register on this -- this device that they have. And you can't -- you can't distinct exactly what that is. You just know that you're picking up some sound activity. These things have been used by seismologists and geophysicists for decades. It's not like it's new technology or anything. It's something that -- that we have -- it's been around for a long time.
And you listen for different sounds. And -- and, if you can distinctly pick up some sounds, it will -- it will kind of lead you in the direction that you need to go. And -- and I think that was the intention when they started drilling the other hole. They thought that noise was coming from in by where that -- that third hole was, hoping that they could get closer to where that activity was picked up.
COOPER: And the -- I have been getting a lot of e-mails from people asking a lot of questions about this. And some of them are very good, and simple, but very, you know, good questions.
Why can't all these holes be drilled at one time? I mean, why is it, you know, one day, it's one hole, and then another hole, and then another, and, today, a fourth?
O'DELL: You know, I think that everything has to be approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration, everything that's laid out, all activity that takes place.
In other words, any time you're into a rescue and recovery operation like this, the operator will submit a plan on what they intend to do. And, when they submit this plan, that plan goes to the Mine Safety and Health Administration for review, because the mine is under what we call a K-order, a closure order. So, any activity that takes place, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the federal government, has to give them the OK.
Typically, it may be that they only have two drills in the area that they can move about, you know, to do the drilling. They may do one. Depending on how close the location is, they may do the second hole when the first one fails. And it's just a methodical way that they go through things, hoping that hole number two will reveal something that number one didn't, three, four, so on and so forth.
And everything -- all -- all these have to be approved by the Mine Safety and Health Administration when they do it. It may be a lack of not having the drills on the site that they need. It's...
COOPER: Also, the angle of the side of the mountain has to be dealt with. And I understood that some of these -- some of the locations, I mean, they're literally having to kind of create roads to get to these locations.
O'DELL: Yes, that's true. They have. It's my understanding that part of the drill that they brought up had to even be brought in by helicopter to put in place as well. So, I mean, this is an area that is not easy to access to begin with.
COOPER: Just for our viewers, just to -- to review what we know, what we don't know, we know six ambulances have been dispatched. Six ambulances have been seen by CNN personnel, who are about two-and-a- half miles away from this mine, at the staging area for media.
We have confirmation from the University of Utah Hospital public relations department they have sent two AirMed helicopters, taking about 35 to 40 minutes. They dispatched those at 7:00 p.m. local time, Mountain time. One of those helicopters is already on the scene. The other one should be there really any moment from now. Those helicopters could take anywhere -- a maximum of three people back to hospital to Utah, where they have one of the -- the state-of- the-art trauma centers in that area.
The nearby hospital to this mine does not have, obviously, as an advanced trauma center as this one.
We also know there's going to be a press conference at the local hospital, which is Castleview Hospital in Price, Utah, where, apparently, some of the patients have either gone or will be taken.
I'm told Dan Simon has some information. He's on the scene.
Dennis, stay with us.
Dan, what are you hearing?
SIMON: Anderson, I just spoke to an official with the Utah Natural Resources. She just arrived at the scene. She told me that there was a bump and some significant seismic activity in the mine, and some rescuers were injured.
Of course, Mr. Murray has been talking about these bumps and these episodes of seismic activity all week. And, apparently, there was another episode just short time ago. And, of course, it's resulted in some injuries. Still trying to get some more information, though.
COOPER: Well, Dan, keeping on what you're talking about, we're actually showing the seismic activity on a graph right now.
Chad Myers is joining us now, a severe weather expert.
Chad, what are we looking at?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: What we're looking at is a helicorder. This is kind of a seismic recorder, but this is a digital one that they put on the Internet.
And the San Rafael Swell, about 50 miles from the mine itself, had a couple of bumps today, one about four hours ago, this one here not big enough to get bigger than a 1.0 on the magnitude. So, it didn't show up on USGS. But, when we got digging down into the helicorders we found one about four hours ago. And that one right there, that bump, was about 6:39 p.m. local time, Utah time, so 8:39 Eastern time.
And that was the biggest and the last bump that was around that mountain and around that helicorder. So, this is the one that we're assuming they're talking about. And it's a fairly large bump. Lasted about a minute. Every line that you see here is one minute. So, the -- the biggest shake, Anderson, was about 20 seconds, and then it just rumbled for another 40 seconds. But that's the one that -- that caused this bump.
COOPER: Chad, what is the black bump that is above that?
MYERS: Same thing. This is four hours ago.
And what they do, Anderson -- I will come across here -- this is 15:00, 16:00. This is local time. So, we're talking about this black line is the first 15 minutes of that hour. The red line is the next 15 minutes of that hour. The blue line is the 30 minutes.
So, this is 30, 35, all the way over to about 45 minutes. And then the black line is the hour, right on the hour itself. So, the reason why that one is black and that one is blue is only because of what 15-minute period it fell in during the hour. That's all.
COOPER: So, this was at 6:39 Utah time, you're saying?
MYERS: Yes, it was.
COOPER: OK. That corresponds to -- the hospital who we just talked said they got -- their helicopters were dispatched around 7:00 p.m., so it would seem to -- to correlate that the helicopters were dispatched some about 20, 21 minutes after this -- the seismic bump.
And, in terms of -- I mean, how -- you know, looking at that chart, can you tell what would that feel like?
MYERS: No, you couldn't -- you couldn't tell whatsoever.
Both of these are probably just rock bursts, little mine collapses. And, so, the whole mountain kind of shakes a little bit, nothing -- nothing seismic when -- when you're talking about two plates sliding against each other. You have so much pressure, from 1,500 feet of sandstone above this mine.
And then you -- all you have are these -- these coal columns. Now, they're pretty big. But, as they're compressing, you're breaking coal out from the middle. And that coal is shooting out. And it's obviously caused some damage and injured some men there today.
COOPER: you know, Gary Tuchman was down in this mine a couple days ago. And our crew was down there with him, and actually experienced one of those bumps. MYERS: Yes.
COOPER: We're going to try to get that taped queued up.
Sean (ph), if you could, just try to queue that up, just to show the viewers at home what a bump feels like, what it sounds like when you're actually inside the mine.
Dennis O'Dell is also with us on the phone. He's with the United Mine Workers of America, the safety and health director.
How common are these bumps? I mean, is it just specific to this kind of a mine? Or is this in all mines?
O'DELL: Well, it's not in all mines, but it's common, especially in this area.
Anderson, when I looked at the mine map that had been submitted to the Mine Safety and Health Administration for approval on this plan that they use, you look at the areas surrounding, the area where they were pillar mining and retreat mining, you look at that, and you can see that this was going to happen.
It actually happened in one of the sections that they had mined out and pulled out before. They actually had to stop, and they abandoned that area. And they moved down to where they're mining now. It's obvious that this was going to happen.
In Utah, this will happen, especially when you move, remove the large pillars that were put in place to support the rock and keep this from happening. You've taken that away now. And every time they pillar out or they remove some of these smaller blocks, you're taking away the rest of the support that was put in there in the first place from keeping these coal bursts from occurring, these mountain bumps, from occurring.
Every piece that's removed your increasing the chance that this will be occurring. And that's what we're seeing now.
COOPER: And is there anything you can do about these bumps? I mean, if you're down in the mine and it happens, do you just pull out? What do you do?
O'DELL: It's unfortunate, because you don't know that it's going to occur. The only thing do you know as experienced miners, is that anybody that has any experience about mining at all in this area, knows that the more coal you remove, the more pillars, the yield pillars, what we call large blocks of coal, the more you remove, the more susceptible that mine is to this occurring, because that large sandstone above you is going to be -- there's going to be pressure. And that pressure has to come out somewhere.
It comes up through the bottom and it causes the coal in the ribs, it's just like the gentleman had said before. It's a coal burst, and that rock will just come out, and the bottom of the floor will actually heave up and then squeeze. And that's what happened to relieve that pressure.
COOPER: Dan -- Dan Simon is also standing by. Dan, you're talking about this digging. I mean, the progress of it has been, as Bob Murray, the mine owner, has admitted himself, agonizingly slow.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been very slow, Anderson. You know, this mission has been two-fold. It's been to drill holes into the mountain, and that's to get a sense if, in fact, these miners are still alive.
Second, rescuers around the clock, more than 100 rescuers, have been sort of digging this horizontal path to where they believe the miners are. So far, they've gone about 850 feet, and along the way, they've been trying to shore up the mine by using wood and steel beams.
And that's why really it's been -- been so arduous, is because it's so difficult to actually install the wood and the steel and to put up this fencing and, at the same time, make sure that these rescuers are safe.
And that's what Mr. Murray has really been stressing all week long, last week and this week, that he didn't want to push it. He wanted to make sure that the miners are safe. And apparently, at least the information that we're getting, is that there was one of these seismic bumps, and obviously, you have some injuries.
COOPER: So again, what we know -- we've seen the actual -- the seismic charts. Chad Myers showed us that at 6:30 Eastern Time, Utah time. There was seismic activity, what they call, I guess, a mountain bump inside the mine. That at 7 p.m.
About 20 minutes later, two air-med helicopters are dispatched per request of local paramedics on the scene. Both those helicopters should be on the scene now. If they -- we do not have any information whether either of the helicopters has been able to land. Whether they actually are transporting anyone.
They could take a maximum of three patients to the trauma center at the University of Utah hospital. We anticipate the local hospital also to be holding a press conference, probably about 20 minutes or so from now.
We, of course, are going to bring you any information out of that. We're going to bring that to you live, as well. What we have seen, our own personnel have seen, we're being very careful about what we are reporting, given what we all know happened at the Sago Mine incident.
It is very important in these situations that the information be verified and checked and double-checked as much as possible. It is so easy in these situations for a game of telephone basically to be played and the wrong information get out.
But our own personnel, CNN personnel, have seen six ambulances on the scene, going to the mine. Dan Simon, if you're still there, have you seen the ambulances leave, as well? Or those six ambulances, were they all just going to the mine?
SIMON: I've seen at least two of these ambulances leave. And I saw both of them that people were being worked on. I couldn't really tell what was happening, but according to a couple of CNN employees, at least in one of those ambulances it appeared as if paramedics were doing chest compressions on a victim.
Obviously, what has happened is significant. Again, we don't know exactly what occurred, other than what we're being told by officials. And at least one official is telling me that there was a seismic bump inside of the mine. Perhaps a collapse. But that is unconfirmed. And you have at least a few victims here. We don't know the precise amount, Anderson.
COOPER: And we do should say, in this situation, of course, you try to go to the source as much as possible to verify. We have called mine representatives, representatives for Bob Murray. Tried to get Mr. Murray himself. They have said that they're in an emergency situation, want to keep the lines open. They are not making any comments at this point.
We anticipate, obviously, they will at some point make some sort of statement tonight. We're going to continue to cover this.
We're joined by Dan Simon, who's on the scene about two miles away from the mine, who has been seeing these ambulances, six ambulances going there. At least he personally witnessed two ambulances leaving the mine.
CNN personnel witnessing one person in each of those ambulances -- at least one person in each of those ambulances being worked on; what looked like, according to one CNN employee, chest compressions being done on somebody.
Again, we anticipate a press conference from the local hospital where those ambulances would have gone to. And also two air-med helicopters were on the scene. We don't know if they have started to transport anyone back to University of Utah, which is a big trauma center in that area.
Dennis O'Dell, I'm going to play for our viewers what Gary Tuchman actually experienced when he was down in the mine, just a short -- the bump that they experienced. We're going to listen to it. And then I just want to talk about mountain bumps.
Let's play that.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We enter the Crandall Canyon mine through the same tunnel the six trapped workers went through, a three-mile journey in a small truck that would take about a half hour in utter darkness. We pass rescue workers in their vehicles on the way to our ultimate destination.
MURRAY: Right there is where the rescue effort is going on.
TUCHMAN: This is as far as we could go. This is where the mine collapsed. The six trapped miners are believed to be tantalizingly close, but with tons of coal separating them from us. This was an unusual opportunity to see how much work rescue workers still have.
You're looking at the effort to drill into the coal and rock to rescue the six men. The machine is called a continuing mining vehicle. It has a spinning drum in the front of it with blades. It cuts into the coal, rock and other debris that is mixed in from the mine collapse and then deposits it on the back of what's known as a shuttle car, which can transport 12 tons of coal at a time.
The coal is sent on a conveyor belt outside the mine, and the process continues over and over and over again.
COOPER: We're going to interrupt. We have a live picture right now, some ambulances leaving the scene, just left. Let's try to rerack that and show what we were able to see.
Trying to monitor the situation as closely as possible. We saw six ambulances going to the mine. Two ambulances have already left, witnessed by CNN personnel.
Dan Simon's on the scene.
Dan, what did you just see?
SIMON: I actually just saw another ambulance leave the scene, and in the corner of my eye, I could see what appeared to be another paramedic working on possibly a victim. It was tough to see, but it looked like there was a lot of activity in that ambulance, and that squares with what we're hearing on the ground, that there are multiple victims here. Don't know the precise amount.
But clearly, something significant has happened inside that mine. Still trying to get some more information, Anderson.
COOPER: So now, we're reracking the footage. Three ambulances that we know of have now left the mine, correct?
SIMON: At least three. That's correct.
COOPER: And in each of those, you or other CNN personnel have witnessed people being worked on in each ambulance?
SIMON: That is correct, Anderson, yes. We've seen three -- at least three ambulances come back from the mine. And in each of those ambulances there were some victims. COOPER: OK. This is the video that we just saw. This happened just seconds ago. Clearly, there's somebody in that ambulance. This ambulance just passing by Dan Simon's location a short time ago.
Dan, how far again is it from your location, the location where this ambulance was to the mine entrance?
SIMON: The mine entrance is just about two miles away from where we are. And we are at a media staging location where, by the sheriff's command post. There's a road that leads to the mine directly behind me.
And, again, that's where these ambulances obviously have been going. Obviously, seen a number of private vehicles, as well, racing to the scene.
We are told that the only people allowed in the mine area right now are ambulances and workers with Mine Safety and Health Administration. And also some rescuers who apparently were at home when this happened. People who are not on shift, they apparently at least, seems like they were called.
And we've seen a lot of those people come to the scene. At least that's what we're hearing on the grounds, is that some rescuers have actually responded.
COOPER: Dennis O'Dell with the United Mine Workers of America, safety and health director. In a situation where there is a rescue operation going on, and there has been some sort of seismic activity, clearly injury to some people. What happens? Other miners come, other rescuers come? What is -- is there a procedure?
O'DELL: Yes, anytime you're in for a mine rescue happening like this, you always have backup teams and teams on call.
COOPER: I'm sorry, Dennis, just to interrupt. I'm sorry. I thought this was a live picture. It is not. I'm sorry, continue, Dennis. Anytime that there is something like this -- go on.
O'DELL: Anytime, you always -- you have to have mine rescue teams as a backup on the property, as well as mine rescue teams on call and backup that can be brought to the property in case they're needed.
And I think that's probably what you're seeing right now, is that there's a need to bring other mine rescue teams, other maybe Mine Safety and Health Administration officials in. And that's what they're doing at this point, as backup. You always have to have backup people in place.
COOPER: You know, Dennis, I just got an e-mail from a viewer who said, "In this age of communication, how is it possible that all miners do not have mandatory tracking devices on their person? We can track persons in outer space, for goodness sakes." This is from Carla in Claremont, California.
That's still is not -- that still is the situation: miners don't have these personal tracking devices. Is that correct?
O'DELL: That's true, and it's very unfortunate, because that's one of the things we pushed forward under the legislation for the miner act. There are tracking devices that are used in other countries, and -- and we can use those today. Some of those things are being tested. Some of the things that have been approved under the emergency response plan that the Mine Safety and Health Administration has put into play, isn't real-time tracking devices. What we wanted to put in place.
What they've put in place is a zone locator. And unfortunately, in those zone locaters like zone A, B, C. They divide the mine up into different sections. They can tell what zone the miner is, but they can't tell the exact location.
There are tracking devices out there that can tell where miners are. And that's what we push for, and that's what we need to see put in place today. We've talked about that for years.
COOPER: It is remarkable. It doesn't seem to have happened. I actually just got an e-mail from Regina in Inez, Kentucky, who says, "My husband is an underground coal miner in eastern Kentucky. At the beginning of the year they put tracking devices in their mining hats. I was under the assumption that after Sago, this was something that was mandatory for every miner. Clearly, that is not the situation in every case."
Chad Myers is standing by.
Chad, you just saw there was another seismic activity. Is that correct?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: About ten minutes ago, Anderson. We've been looking at this now for most of the night here. The one that happened about four hours ago, that was a pretty big bump there. But the one that we know did some shaking very close to 6:39 p.m. This is the blue one here just a few minutes ago.
Don't worry about the colors of the lines that just -- what had happened during the hour. And then a very small little shake. So another small bump there in the mine just a little bit ago. A very volatile mine. It has been that way since the initial 3.9 shake that it had, Anderson.
COOPER: Also standing by, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is on the line. He's been watching these ambulances, as well, and also hearing about the air-med helicopters.
Sanjay, what do you make of what you're seeing just in these glimpses, from ambulances going by?
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's only one -- the one ambulance there on the video, but obviously, it looked like there were several people working on a patient in there.
I don't know that I saw actual active chest compressions going on there. You can sort of see. It looks like they're setting up some lines. And it's hard to tell whether the patient is conscious or unconscious.
There's lots of different scenarios that could -- that could lead to something like this. Whether it's some sort of injuries, some sort of physical injuries, whether it was some sort of problem where someone was in a low oxygen situation and needed to be -- to be resuscitated in some way. It is hard to say exactly from what we're seeing there.
But I don't actually see, in this particular ambulance, anyway, active chest compressions going on.
COOPER: Yes, that was from one -- one of the CNN employees had saw in a previous ambulance -- apparently, had seen some form of compressions going on. But we don't have pictures of that, you're right.
GUPTA: Yes, and you know, I mean, when you see the chest compressions, that's part of a standard sort of triage, where you see someone actually -- you check someone there to make sure they have an airway. They check their breathing to see if they're breathing. And then you start to try to deliver hest compressions to try and make sure you're getting enough blood flow to the rest of the body.
But that-- that usually is indicative that the heart has failed for some reason. And you know, that could be because of an injury -- it could be because of a low oxygen situation, but it's just very hard to say at that point.
COOPER: Now, we know that the University of Utah has sent two helicopters. I believe I heard Dan Simon report that one of the helicopters has actually now returned and left the scene. Whether that's the helicopter that can fit one person or two people, I don't know.
Clearly, a local hospital that doesn't have an advanced trauma center, they would call out an air-med helicopter from a nearby bigger hospital, correct?
GUPTA: Yes. You know, when you're saying air-med helicopter, obviously, speed is of concern here in getting someone back to a big trauma center. It was also of concern. That would seem to indicate that this is more likely an injury, a physical injury, as opposed to someone walking into a pocket of methane or carbon monoxide or a low oxygen situation or something like that.
They try to get the people back to a hospital very quickly. The chopper (ph) systems are sort of based on what's called a scoop and run philosophy, Anderson. That means they want to basically get the person.
They want to stabilize as much as they can en route, get that person into a trauma center and treat it as quickly as possible. You know, they try and do this as quickly as possible. Obviously, time is of the essence, which is why a helicopter may have been dispatched as opposed to an ambulance.
COOPER: It's also important to -- you know, at this point, we don't want to go down a road of speculation. Obviously, there are families of these miners, no doubt, watching, friends of these miners, people in this community, trying to report on this and at the same time being respectful of people's privacy.
The last thing we want is people to find out information about a loved one or a friend from the television. But at this point, there is very little information that we know about on the condition of these miners.
There is going to be a press conference from the local hospital, which I believe is Castleview Hospital, not the trauma center at the University of Utah, but for the local hospital where these ambulances that we have been watching come and go, have been dispatched from, not too far from the Crandall Canyon Mine. And we, of course will bring that press conference to you as it happens.
We anticipate at least hearing some information about numbers of people involved in the incident. At this point, we know six ambulances were dispatched. Whether that means six people were involved or not, there's no way to tell. Also two air-med helicopters were also involved.
Chad Myers has shown us now seismic activity at 6:39. The helicopters were dispatched about 20 minutes later. Clearly, this was a very fast, very fluid, developing situation.
We're been trying to get some confirmation. Given what we experienced at the Sago Mine, we're trying to get information from the only people who really at this point have direct knowledge of what has gone on, which is the mine owners, the people at the site.
They are not talking. They're saying it's an emergency situation. They are dealing with that. And then, of course, they will later tell the press.
Dennis O'Dell is on the line with us, safety and health director for the United Mine Workers of America. In a situation like this, Dennis, how -- obviously, there is concern for, obviously, the miners involved, but also for their families, who are waiting for word. Is there a place they go?
I mean, in Sago, people went to the local church, which was, you know, thankfully camera-free, and they could just be together. In a situation like this, is there a central meeting place for families?
O'DELL: Well, one of the things that came about as a result of Sago is that the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the law has put a family liaison in place in the event that something like this occurs, that somebody from the agency would actually get a hold, you know, in touch with the family members and tell them where they need to go, where to meet. And they have direct contact with them and communicate with them and tell them exactly what's going on. That's one thing that good thing that came out of the miner act, is if somebody's loved one was hurt, the agency has a responsibility now to take care of those individuals and make sure that they've told the truth. They're taken some place and the communication is open with them.
COOPER: How -- how close-knit a community is a mining community. I mean, these are men who are taking their lives into their hand, every time they step out the front door of their homes.
And every time they say good-bye to their loved ones in the morning and kiss them good-bye and go down into that mine, it's got to be a very tight-knit community?
O'DELL: It is very tight. You know, I was a coal miner for 20 years prior to becoming an administrator. And I can tell you that I still have close relationships with my brother miners and sister miners that I work with. We're all family members. Anytime something happens to one or the other, it's like -- it's like something happening to a family member.
I mean, there's a closeness, a camaraderie that can't even been explained because you work in conditions that you constantly are looking out for each other, you're watching out for each other. And you become close. I mean, that's just the way it is.
COOPER: We should point out to our viewers, we're just showing you a picture of one of the helicopters. Again, not sure if that is going to the mine or from the mine. I talked to the public relations person from the hospital who sent those helicopters, the University of Utah. They had been sent at 7 p.m. local time. It took some 35 or 40 minutes to get there.
So those helicopters have been on the scene for quite a while. I would imagine that helicopters are going back to Utah but do not have any confirmation on that. That is -- it's simply information that we don't have at this point.
Dan Simon is standing by on the scene for us.
Dan, at this point, how many -- it's hard to try to keep track of all this. We have seen -- you've seen and our people have seen six helicopters going to the mine. How many at this point -- excuse me, not helicopters -- ambulances. How many ambulances have actually now left?
SIMON: It's really hard to say. We have seen at least three of those ambulances leave. Perhaps more have left. But in terms of what we've witnessed, we have just seen three of them left.
As a matter of fact, we just saw another air ambulance, a helicopter just leave the area and presumably is headed back to the hospital. But still trying to get more information. Details still a bit sketchy at this point, Anderson.
COOPER: Is Sanjay still on the line with us? Sanjay, if you can hear us, is it possible for more than one person to be in an ambulance at any one time? I'm getting several e- mail from viewers who are saying they've seen this footage that we're showing and that they see another person in one of these ambulances?
Obviously, do not have Sanjay on the line. We'll try to get -- try and get him.
I'm told this press conference now at the local hospital is going to be taking place in three minutes. We're going to bring you information on that when we get it.
This is just one of the pictures we have gotten in the last several minutes, of an ambulance going -- making the arduous road -- taking the arduous road back down from the mine, heading toward the local hospital where this news conference is going to take place.
Dennis, at this point, I mean, what is your gut? What are you -- what are you looking for? What are you waiting to hear? What are you expecting?
O'DELL: Well, anytime we're involved in rescue activity like this of any nature, it's always so very important to make sure that the rescue workers themselves, that their health and safety is put first. And I mean, it's kind of premature to even -- I mean, obviously, something happened.
And so, you know, I as an investigator would want to know, first of all, the conditions of the men, to see if they're OK, make sure that all of the men are accounted for that were in the area that the accident occurred.
And then I'd want to know what happened, what caused this, to keep this -- to prevent it from happening again.
There's a lot of questions that have to be answered at this point. It's so important that the rescue workers, their welfare is looked out for. Anytime -- you know, we talked about -- there's a lot of question at Sago, how come we didn't send the rescue workers in sooner than we did? Well, you have to make sure the conditions are right, that we don't jeopardize them.
And I don't know what happened here, but if the rescue workers got hurt, then something failed. We obviously may not have been taken every precaution that we needed to.
COOPER: I've just been told the name of one of miners who has been taken to the hospital. This information came from the hospital. This is one of the rescue workers.
Before I say the name, though, I just want to confirm with our producers, and I want them to just double check that this information was intentionally released by the hospital, this was not just something overheard. Because I'm not about to say someone's name if their family hasn't been notified.
So I just want people at CNN here who are listening just to make sure this information is supposed to be released.
Fine. It came from a producer on the ground at the hospital. But I just want to double check -- I just want to double check that it's not just an overheard conversation. So I'm just going to err on the side of caution on that. I'm just going to wait on that.
But we are anticipating a press conference from this hospital, literally, in the next two or three minutes. And I hope you at home at least appreciate the caution I'm trying to take, because I just don't want some family hearing the name of their loved one read out correctly, or incorrectly, even worse.
OK, it hasn't been officially released from the hospital. And it came from a hospital worker. I'm just going to err on the side of caution and not -- not announce this person's name. Clearly, there is at least one person now at this hospital. We don't -- we don't know this person's condition, but we do know the name of this person. But I'm not going to release it until it's official from the hospital, just out of respect for the family.
We are, again, anticipating this -- this hospital news conference, where I assume they will release the names if the families have been informed. We'll leave it up to them to do that.
At this point, there is a lot we don't know. We know six ambulances have left.
Gary Tuchman is standing by on the line for us.
Gary, you have been covering this story, really, from the beginning. What do you make of what you are seeing?
TUCHMAN: Well, Anderson, you know, last Wednesday night, we were allowed to go into the mine, four other journalists and myself. And while we were in the mine, we had one of those mountain bumps, a tremor. It was very frightening. The lights started shaking. There was a loud concussion pop.
I looked at the other miners. They looked scared. And this is one of many that has occurred since this all began.
Before we went into the mine, Anderson, we had to take a safety course. It was a one-hour safety course. And the teacher was very blunt. He said, "It's a dangerous place; it's collapsed already. We're having these mountain bumps. Here's what you have to learn: how to use the oxygen, how to find the exits, how to get out quick if it happens again."
The people in this mine were very aware of the potential problems, and every day, Bob Murray would come out and talk about how concerned we are about the rescuers. We don't want to have any more victims.
So I can tell you that what's amazing, more than anything, was just when we felt this mountain bump, just seeing the frightened look on these experienced miners' faces. And certainly, it made us quite scared for a few minutes, because we thought the place was going to collapse while we were in there.
COOPER: And Gary -- and we're looking at the video that you shot and your crew shot inside the mine. What were the conditions like? I mean, the temperature, what -- what was it -- what did it feel like?
TUCHMAN: Or it's 58 degrees but very windy. They've been talking a lot about this. There's very good ventilation in the mine. So it made me very cold. And we were in a mine truck going through the mine for three miles, 2,000 feet down. So the wind chill was much lower than 58. It's very cold.
It's cold. It's windy. It feels claustrophobic. If you are a claustrophobic, there's no way you could survive in there, even in the best of conditions.
It was a very scary place to be, knowing the search was going on for these six men and that there were shakes and tremors and so much work to do. And I feel for the men who have been working inside of there. It's very dangerous, treacherous, trying to save the lives of their fellow miners, since they feel consumed by guilt if they don't participate. And some of them have stopped doing it because of the psychological factor, because of the safety factor. It's very tough and demanding work.
COOPER: Gary, I should point out, according to Associated Press, the Mine Safety and Health Administration says at least nine rescue workers have been injured in an accident at the Crandall Canyon mine in Utah. At least nine have been injured. That is certainly very disconcerting.
We saw six ambulances going and two air-med helicopters. Both air-med helicopters combined can fit a total of three people. Two people in one of the helicopters, one in another. So if there's one individual in each of the six ambulances and three in the helicopters.
OK. There is a press conference just about to start. We're trying to get some audio of that. We have people also at the press conference if we can't get the audio, we will -- well, we'll play a game of telephone. We'll have one of our producers tell what this person has just said. So until we can bring that audio to you, we'll just continue covering.
Gary, how does this mine compare to other mines you have been? I mean, the fact that it is cold makes the working conditions, I guess, somewhat easier?
TUCHMAN: Right, I mean, that's one of the things that Bob Murray has been talking about as being a benefit for the six miners who are missing. The temperature is not hot, so that's good. And it's not too cold. The fact that they're wearing mining uniforms, that even though it's 58, it seems cold to us, it's still perfect conditions to survive if you have the water and if you have the ventilation, which they're thought to have.
However, for us, now this is people in this mine -- this is important to point out, Anderson, that as far as we know, television news crews have never been allowed in a mine during a disaster. Bob Murray made the decision to let us in because it's frankly impossible to cover mine stories without seeing it first-hand and know what's going on there.
I will tell you, though...
COOPER: OK. Gary, got to interrupt. Let's take this news conference.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the state (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
COOPER: Obviously, a very short news conference. We'll try to find from a producer if there was anything important said.
This announcement has been made by the -- a couple things I should just quickly update you on. The Mine Safety and Health Administration says at least nine rescue workers have been injured in an accident at the mine.
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