Utah Mine Rescue Tests Hope Rescuers at work for a week since six miners were trapped in a coal mine collapse in Utah still don't know the location or condition of the men. That is challenging the sense of hope in Huntington, Utah. They are set to drill a third hole into the mine.
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Utah Mine Rescue Tests Hope

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Utah Mine Rescue Tests Hope

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Okay. Now let's go to that mine collapse in Utah.

Rescuers still do not know the location or the condition of six trapped men. They drilled two small holes into the mine, dropping a microphone into one and a video camera into the other, but detected no signs of life.

And that's challenging the sense of hope in Huntington, Utah, as NPR's Howard Berkes reports.

HOWARD BERKES: Here at the Canyon View School, where the families of the missing miners gather, hope is a word spelled out in yellow plastic cups jammed into the links of a fence. It's also a raw if elusive emotion these days, especially in the wake of discouraging news.

Jose Sandoval Sanchez's cousin Manuel is one of the missing miners. And he described the family's reaction to the latest news.

Mr. JOSE SANDOVAL SANCHEZ (Relative of a Trapped Miner): Ups and downs, grief and loss, patience, frustrated, but there's so many of us together as a family that, you know, we're doing okay.

BERKES: Sanchez spoke after officials describe their second failed attempt to find any signs of the miners. They revealed a third effort: another hole to be drilled hundreds of feet down from the surface into a mineshaft along a possible escape route. That will take three to six days to finish. Mine rescue teams are also trying to tunnel through the collapsed shaft where the trapped miners were working. They've been doing that a week and are only a third of the distance to the men. It would seem that hope would be fading.

(Soundbite of church service)

BERKES: Hope seemed distant in the faces of the families of two of the missing miners who sat in the front row Sunday at a Catholic Mass. They held heads in their hands before the service began. And they were addressed by Father Hope - Father Donald Hope - who spoke about them later.

Father DONALD HOPE (Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish): Sometimes now, you know, you have a good day and a bad day. But as news comes out, their ability to remain upbeat, it's harder because there has been so little good news.

BERKES: None of the family members spoke with reporters at the church, but Filomena Lee(ph) did. She comes from a family of miners, knows one of the trapped men, and describes what she sees in the faces of the family.

Ms. FILOMENA LEE: They are so devastated. You know, they want to think that they're alive, but every day just that passes just seems a little bit worse.

BERKES: At the rescue effort's command post, as trucks loaded with rescue equipment drove up, federal and mining company officials brief reporters. They interchangeably call their mission a rescue and a recovery. The living are rescued, the dead are recovered.

Richard Stickler is the chief of mine safety for the federal government.

Mr. RICHARD STICKLER (Mine Safety and Health Administration): We always have to have hope. And it would be a terrible mistake to ever give up hope until you know for sure.

BERKES: And here's Robert Murray, the owner of the Crandall Canyon mine.

Mr. ROBERT MURRAY (CEO, Murray Energy Corporation): This is a rescue mission and we're proceeding as if the men are alive. And we will continue to do that until we have absolute proof as to their condition.

BERKES: Back here at the Canyon View School, the grown children of missing miner Kerry Allred express hope in a sacrificial way. They've been spending their nights sleeping on the floor of the school so they would experience some of the discomfort they believe their father must feel.

Howard Berkes, NPR News, Huntington, Utah.

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