Two women and a man remain trapped underground

WHITESVILLE — Mine rescue teams spent most of Monday night and Tuesday morning searching part of an idled underground coal mine in Raleigh County for three individuals believed to be lost inside.

Two men and two women entered the Elk Run Coal Company’s Rock House Powellton Mine near Clear Creek back on Saturday, according to Raleigh County Sheriff Scott Van Meter. An ATV belonging to one of the individuals was found near an entrance to the mine. One of the men managed to find his way out Monday night and is working with law enforcement and the state office of Miners’ Health, Safety, and Training to locate the remaining three individuals underground.

Governor Jim Justice visited Whitesville where several of the relatives of the missing individuals have gathered and then the mine site late Monday night and Tuesday morning.. With confirmation of the three people inside, work to find them intensified on the Governor’s authorization. The mine has been inactive for two years.

The two four-man teams searched all areas of the mine they could safely reach in the area where the group entered the sprawling underground series of entries and cuts.  The teams emerged around daybreak without any luck. The rescue teams will reenter the main mine entrance, which was flooded when they attempted access on Monday, and will pump out the water. The plans call for the mine to be ventilated as well so teams can safely access the underground area.

It’s unclear how long the process might take, but Governor Justice has ordered all resources put into place with the Office of Miners’ Health, Safety, and Training to expedite the process as quickly as possible.

By Chris Lawrence