(CLEAR CREEK, W.Va.) — Rescue teams were exploring an underground West Virginia coal mine on Tuesday in search of two women and a man, after the fourth person in the group emerged on Monday night to report the location of the remaining three, according to mining and state officials.
The two women and two men — local officials initially described the group as four men — were reported missing late Saturday near the Rock House Powellton mine in Clear Creek, West Virginia, according to the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training (MHS&T), which dispatched mining rescue teams along with other state and local resources.
The three remaining people inside the mine include Kayla Williams, 25 Erica Treadway, 31, and Cody Beverly, 21, according to the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office Lt. M.A. McCray.
Eddie Williams, 43, emerged from the mine alone and reported the location of the missing trio to authorities, the sheriff’s office spokesperson said.
MHS&T officials activated the mine rescue team early Sunday morning after an abandoned ATV the group was believed to be riding was found near the mine entrance, officials said.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said he and other state and local officials are doing everything they can to reach the men.
“From the beginning I’ve said we needed to use all the resources available to us,” Justice said, according to a state press release.
“Many prayers were answered when the one individual exited the mine with information about where the others were located,” he continued in the statement.
“We are praying they can be found quickly and brought out to safety.”
MHS&T rescue personnel are working with the West Virginia National Guard, the West Virginia State Police, the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office and the Boone County Sheriff’s Office to coordinate the rescue mission, officials said.
McCray said the entry point to the mine was sealed at one point with a concrete wall and a fence across it, but had been since been torn down. McCray did not know whether the group now missing removed the barriers.
The individuals did not enter at the main entrance, McCray said, but rather used what’s called a “punch out hole” – a small shaft either accidentally punched out of the side of a mountain or created for ventilation.
McCray also said that a criminal investigation is pending, but is currently secondary to the rescue effort. It remained unclear on Tuesday what prompted the investigation.
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