ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
After a week-and-a-half of digging, efforts to rescue six Utah miners are now indefinitely on hold. That's a response to last night's deadly cave-in at the Crandall Canyon Mine when three rescuers were killed and six others were injured.
Governor JON HUNTSMAN (Republican, Utah): Yesterday, we went from a tragedy to a catastrophe.
SIEGEL: That's Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. He called the dead rescue workers heroes and said he prays the community will stay strong and unified.
NPR's Jeff Brady reports from near Huntington, Utah.
JEFF BRADY: Those leading this rescue for the past 11 days have said over and over that the safety of workers trying to free the trapped miners was paramount. Richard Stickler is the assistant secretary of labor for Mine Safety and Health, and he heads the rescue effort.
Mr. RICHARD STICKLER (Assistant Secretary of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration): We all agreed and there was consensus that the plan that we were - had developed and implemented provided the maximum safety for the workers that we knew to be available. Obviously, it was not adequate.
BRADY: Stickler says a strong mountain bump dislodged coal along a 30-foot wall with such power that it blasted across the mine, killing the three people. Two were miners working as rescuers and one was an employee of Stickler's agency, the Mine Safety and Health Administration or MSHA.
For the past 11 days, Stickler says he's been consulting with a team of ground control experts over the phone.
Mr. STICKLER: It's time that we bring some up on one side here where we can sit down face to face and ask ourselves, is there any possible way that we can continue this underground operation and provide the safety for the rescue workers. At this point, we don't have an answer to that question.
BRADY: Utah Governor Jon Huntsman said his state will do everything it can to help MSHA complete its work.
Gov. HUNTSMAN: On behalf of all Utahns, let me just say that whatever happens as we move forward with this rescue operation, let us ensure that we have no more injuries. We have suffered enough as a state.
BRADY: Huntsman says Utah residents have questions about the rescue. Answers likely will come later once an investigation is finished. The town of Huntington is closest to the collapsed mine and the most directly affected.
Scott Gordon echoed the comments of many in town that the trapped miners - dead or alive - must be brought out.
Mr. SCOTT GORDON: That would be - that'd be scary, but you wouldn't want to leave, you know, your co-workers up in there and, you know, because they're all like brothers up there.
BRADY: MSHA head, Richard Stickler, says work on top of the mountain continues. Crews are drilling an eight-and-a-half-inch hole into a new section of the mine where sound waves were detected. He says if the trapped miners are there, they can be kept alive with water and food sent down the hole. If it's not safe for crews to go in the mine again, Stickler says a larger hole will be drilled and the miners will be brought up through it.
Absent at today's news conference was Bob Murray, the operator of the mine. He's been very visible throughout the rescue, but a written statement from his company said that now all media requests should go through his vice president and his public relations people.
Jeff Brady, NPR News, at the Crandall Canyon Mine, in Utah.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.