CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Their faces covered with black soot, three adults safely rescued after a few days inactive in a West Virginia coal mine were attacked by loved ones in a teary reunion, she thanked the crew that they are.
The three walked into an ambulance at a fire hall in Whitesville to the screams of family members for a brief reunion Wednesday night before being taken to a hospital.
Cody Beverly told the news outlets the four-day experience in Each Run the Coal’s Rock House Powellton mine near Clear Creek “was terrible.”
“I’m with my family now. I’m fine, ” he said.
Beverly later told NBC News, “Everybody who was involved in the search for us, I want to thank you with everything in me,” he said. “This is the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned in my life. This is a life-changing experience for me.”
“We appreciate each of you,” said Steve Williams, who is also among those who will be saved.
Williams father, Randall Williams, said she was in the mine, looking for copper.
The people in the region do “whatever they can do to earn money if she is not even a job,” Randall Williams told CBS News .
Raleigh County Prosecutor Kristen Keller said Thursday the sheriff’s office is conducting a criminal investigation into the latest incident. She said that the two offices began discussing potential costs of the search started Sunday.
Sheriff Scott Of the Meter not immediately return a text message seeking comment on the investigation.
Reports of people that have been inactive mines in the search of copper to sell are not uncommon.
At the end of last month, the crew abandoned their search for a West Virginia me for a missing man suspected of stealing copper. Two other men who were arrested indicated the third man was in a mine, but the search was called off after a team experienced unsafe conditions.
And earlier this month two men were arrested on charges that they broke into another mine in Boone County. The researchers said they also were looking for a buyer.
“It is a disturbing trend with people living in abandoned mines to steal copper wire,” said Boone County Chief Deputy Chad Barker. “I can’t stress enough how dangerous this idea is and it is only a matter of time before we will see a less desirable end.”
Coal mines contain toxic levels of gas, collapsing roofs, flooding, and other hazards can exist.
“When activities cease and a mine is closed, conditions can deteriorate very quickly,” said Eugene White, director of the West Virginia Office of Miner’s Health, Safety and Training.
The latest search effort was prompted Gov. Jim Justice to provide a means for people to stay away from non-working mines.
According to the mine safety office, coal is not mined at the Rock House Powellton me for two years. It is one of approximately 120 mines to “approved inactive” status, which means that they can be activated at a certain point, the Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Jake Glance said in an e-mail.
Non-active mines are not permanently sealed, but the operators are obliged to secure the portals to prevent that, ” he said.
“So in order for people to get in the mines that they have to trespass, and then in one or other way vandalize the existing barrier to access,” he said.
Mines that stopped operating prior to August 1977, be considered as abandoned. There is no requirement for operators to seal the mines, since in many cases the companies no longer exist. A state Abandoned Mine Land program, which is funded by fees on coal production to pay for projects such as the sealing of abandoned mine portals.
The sheriff’s office had identified that rescued Wednesday as Beverly, 21, of Dorothy; Steve Williams, 25, of Artie; and Erica Treadway, 31, of Pax. She had been missing since Saturday. A fourth person Eddie Williams, 43, Artie, walked out of the mine Monday. An abandoned ATV the four were believed to drive away, was found near the mine entrance.
Williams’ aunt, Sandra Scarbro of Clear Creek, told The Register-Herald of Beckley, “We have our Christmas miracle. All we really know is she’s alive, and we are so grateful that they are and that they are there. We appreciate everyone in the community, the governor and the workers, everything everyone has done.”
The crew had used fans to move fresh air into the mine, while the pumps turned off some stagnant water in the mine, but the water level remained too high and that complicates the search effort.
“My shoes were soaked, and I couldn’t get my feet warm,” Treadway said she was placed on an ambulance stretcher.