Camera May Reveal Utah Miners' Fate

A nine-inch drill reaches the spot in a Utah mountain where six miners are believed to be trapped. A video camera lowered through the hole may reveal the miners' fate. So far, there are no signs they are alive.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Rescue crews of the collapsed coal mine in Utah have successfully drilled into an area where six miners are believed to be trapped. The men have not been heard from in five days. Workers are lowering a camera and microphone down the third of the mile-long hole hoping to find signs of life.

NPR's Jeff Brady has been following developments of the Crandall Canyon mine. He joins us from nearby Huntington, Utah.

Jeff, thanks for being with us.

JEFF BRADY: My pleasure.

SIMON: And when will rescuers have any idea if the trapped men down there are alive?

BRADY: It's possible that they already know. They finished digging the hole about 3 o'clock in the morning - Mountain Time. And then it was going to take a couple of hours for them to pull that drill all the way back up that third of a mile. And then pull in another hour or so to send that camera down the hole, the microphone down the hole and some time to look around down there.

So they may already know, but we're not going to know until later this morning because they want to talk to the family members first and let them know what they found out.

SIMON: Yeah. This is the second hole. What happened with the first one?

BRADY: Well, that was a smaller hole and there was a lot of hope placed on that two-and-a-half-inch hole. They drilled that one also because it - they could drill it so quickly. And, of course, they want to get to these guys as soon as possible. The problem was that a drill that small and that hard of rock can really stray.

And when - by the time it got down to where these miners, where these miners are believed to be, it was 87 feet off course, so it didn't really help much.

SIMON: How did they know for sure where the miners are? Do they know that for sure?

BRADY: Well, they do have a very good idea where they were working last. And this seismic event that took place last Monday was pretty quick. So - and they couldn't have gotten far from that area. So they have an idea of the general cavern that they were in. And that's where they're aiming toward.

SIMON: And this camera that's being lowered down, do you know much about it?

BRADY: And, yeah, there are actually three cameras and that's what it's really going to take to be able to look all the way around this cavern. Each individual camera has its own abilities that can look in certain places. But with the three of them, they should get a pretty good picture of that cavern. Of course, it's, who knows what they're going to find down there, but hope that they will be able they see something.

SIMON: And rescue crews reportedly have been testing oxygen levels in different sections of the mine. Do you anything about those results?

BRADY: Yeah. And this is a little bit confusing because when they first went down that two-and-a-half-inch hole, they found that there was about twenty-and-a-half percent oxygen in the air. And that's what most of us breathe. So that's just fine. But it turns out they were probably just testing the air in the hole.

Once they actually got those probes down into the mine, they were finding levels more like 7 percent and that's just not enough to support life. So they've been testing around different areas of the mine finding different levels. They just can't say for sure where the miners are, if there's enough oxygen for them.

SIMON: NPR's Jeff Brady in Huntington, Utah, who is following the case of the developments there at the Crandall Canyon mine. Thanks very much for being with us, Jeff.

BRADY: Thank you.

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