RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Families of the six men trapped in a mine in central Utah are speaking out. They're angry about the latest statement from mine officials. Yesterday, a vice president of the mine said it's likely the six miners will never be found.
Sonny Olsen is a spokesman for the families.
Mr. SONNY OLSEN (Spokesman for Utah Miners' Families): We feel that they've given up, and that they're just waiting for the six miners to expire.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Jeff Brady has been following this story, and he joins us now. Good morning.
JEFF BRADY: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Jeff, it's been two weeks since the cave-in that trapped those six miners. Give us a sense of the latest in the rescue attempts.
BRADY: Well, on Sunday, we really got a sense that the mood had turned. Just a day before, Vice President Rob Moore with Murray Energy Corporation had said emphatically that this was still a rescue operation. A day later, after the fourth hole was drilled into that mine and they found out that there wasn't any good air in there that could support a human life, and then they also put a camera down and saw a mine that was mostly collapsed around that hole, their tone changed. And that's when he said that he wasn't sure that these miners would ever be found.
MONTAGNE: And, of course, all of this against the backdrop of three rescuers being killed trying to get to these miners and save them. Tell us about this mine, because it has a physical makeup that makes it very hard to get these men out - very dangerous, even.
BRADY: Right. This is tough terrain. You'd have a hard time climbing up these mountains. They're so steep. And then to get in there and to perform a rescue, that's even more difficult.
Some of the family members have been critical of those leading the rescue, saying that, well, in western Pennsylvania in 2002 at this Que Creek Mine where there was a - it was a flooded mine, and there was a rescue there. They drilled a big hole in the ground and then plucked the miners out through that hole in these special capsules. But in that mine, it was on a dairy farm, so it was pretty flat. And it was only 230 feet underground.
We're talking depths up to 2,000 feet through solid rock. If they were going to drill a big hole like that, it could take up to three weeks to do that, so it's a lot more difficult in this location.
MONTAGNE: And we've just heard criticism from a spokesperson for the families. What are families of the trapped miners saying and doing now?
BRADY: It's really been a rollercoaster. One minute, you're to have hope that these men are alive, there are places where they could survive in this mine. And then the next minute, there's no hope. And now we're kind of at this point where even those leading the rescue are saying it don't look like we're going to find these miners.
And that could mean that if these miners are no longer alive, they'll remain in this mountain forever. And that's not acceptable to the families. They say even if they're dead, we want the bodies removed so that we can bury them properly.
MONTAGNE: There are a lot of questions to be answered ahead, starting with how the mine collapsed in the first place. How are officials hoping to get answers?
BRADY: There's going to be an investigative panel that MSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, will appoint. And they'll spend a couple of months looking very thoroughly at all the information. And hopefully then, some time in the middle of the fall, we're going to have a big report that's going to answer a lot of those questions. And I know quite a few people are going to be waiting anxiously for that report, because, like you said, there are a lot of unanswered questions.
MONTAGNE: Jeff, thanks very much.
BRADY: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Jeff Brady, speaking about the six men trapped for two weeks in a mine in central Utah.
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